2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 - 2014 Automobile of the Year Finalist

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 - Automobile of the Year - Contender-2

Mercedes-Benz’s swoopy new CLA-Class is sure to be a success, with a sporty design and sharp lines that will attract young urbanites looking to gain access to the brand. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 lives up to the distinction that its big three-pointed star promises, and despite a few concerns with interior comfort we were quite impressed with this new baby Merc.

With starting price just a hair north of $30K with destination fees, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 208 hp and 258-lb ft of torque. Using a traditional economy car-like setup with a transversely mounted engine powering the front wheels, the CLA offers plenty of torque while suffering from only minor turbo lag.

We love the transmission, as well. “The 7-speed automatic is really the secret sauce here,” says Michael Jordan, our West Coast editor. “It underscores the fact that the personality of cars in the future will be determined by their transmission programming, not engine output.” Mercedes-Benz’s electrically-assisted power steering results in communicative handling, and its independent sport suspension feels taut and grounded.

Once inside the tight cabin, the 2014 CLA starts to really feel like a compact.  Its sloping roof, while attractive to look at, allows for noticeably less rear-seat space than the C-Class sedan. A high beltline and narrow windows reduce visibility, as well. Despite its size, the interior is redolent of classic Mercedes-Benz in terms of look and feel — contributor Preston Lerner regards it as “an object-lesson in how to cut costs without coarsening the product.”  A recognizable design and dashboard layout make the CLA feel like true Benz.  Some might find details such as the quintuple air vents and prominent aluminum panel on the dash lacking in elegance and restraint, but we think it really works.

We are somewhat troubled though, by how few standard options come with that oh-so-seductive $29,900 starting pricetag, which does not include $925 for destination charges. Our test car carried $12,500 in upgrades, which is more than 40 percent higher than the $29,900 starting price.

The CLA will likely prove to be a big hit for Mercedes-Benz, which seems to have finally found the right formula for entry-level luxury in the U.S. As the first stab at this segment, this sporty four-door coupe succeeds with sculpted looks that stand out among the pack. Furthermore, its “baby CLS” shape and 300SL-like grille evoke the brand identity and prestige that constitute the CLA’s biggest selling point.

In Mercedes-Benz's campaign to become the top luxury automaker, the 2014 CLA250 should turn out to be a major sales contributor as the brand expands into a younger consumer market. But, is it good enough to be crowned Automobile of the Year?

Photos by Patrick Hoey.

We will be releasing our 10 Finalists for the 2014 Automobile of the Year throughout the week leading up to the announcement of the winner on Saturday, November 16. See our other finalists here:

2014 BMW 435i

2014 Cadillac CTS

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

2014 Chevrolet Impala

2014 Jaguar F-Type

2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2014 Lexus IS

2014 Mazda 3

Robert Kutner
I personally own a new 2014 CLA250 and I think it's a great car!!! You'll have my vote for 2014 AOTY!!!

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