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Guide To The Mercedes CLA – Is This Entry-level Luxury Car A Better Value Than Camry And Accord?

During the last months of 2016, Mercedes-Benz was loudly and rapidly in the process of catching up to other luxury competitors including BMW and Audi. They had the newly redesigned C-series CLA250 partially to thank for these increases in sales. In fact, Mercedes surpassed BMW and Lexus as the country’s top-selling luxury car for the first time in a decade.

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2017 Mercedes Benz CLA

In late November of last year, a popular automotive sales analyst clarified another angle on the impressive numbers that led Mercedes to revise sales estimates from 30,000 to 50,000 for its budget-minded CLA; a “conquest rate” of 70% owing in large part to taking buyers from the Toyota Camry and Honda accord.

Mercedes CLA price and overview

The idea of the CLA may seem complex at first. Touted as being very budget at $29,990, the most common price is actually closer to $35,000 for a popularly equipped version, but the sub-$30,000 base model is an option. It’s a modified version of the C-class, which was the smallest option in the Mercedes family for over two decades. It’s “smaller” because it has less interior room despite having a larger and longer body. It’s a luxury-made vehicle without some of the same luxury amenities available on fully equipped Accords and Camrys. And it rides like a mid-ranged Audi but with the unique handling that comes from front-wheel drive, something never before available on a German car in the United States.

Entrance into affordable market segment

But this initial complexity hides what is actually a relatively simple distinction. Mercedes wanted to increase its appeal in a more affordable market segment and they hoped the revamped C-series would enable them to do this by providing the Mercedes-Benzs name and image of luxury, many of its performance perks, and a wide range of options to help buyers put together the package they want in terms of price and luxury feel. They hoped it would help them steal buyers from other luxury competitors for a year or two until they could catch up – and it has – but it has also proven popular with older car buyers who want performance and style at a great price.

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Mercedes-Benz CLA 200 AMG Line, License Creative Commons, Owner M 93

CLA vs Accord and Camry

So if you’re trying to evaluate the Mercedes-Benz CLA here’s what you need to know. Coming from a newer Camry or Accord at similar price point to what you want to spend on the CLA, you’ll notice less room inside, fewer luxury features like leather interior and dashboard navigation with app integration at the entry-level package for example. In exchange, you’ll enjoy a more zippy ride that responds like a precision, German-engineered Benz is supposed to.

On the other hand, buyers coming down from the older C-Class sedan or other more expensive makes from luxury brands will notice elegant styling and a fun exterior design that belies its lower cost and more Spartan interior. The big bonus will be maintaining the same level of luxury imaging and style on the surface but at a much lower price point. On top of that, they will appreciate the pairing of a 208-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that offers 258 lb-ft of torque with a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Plus paddle shifters to make the driving experience even more fun.

Sales numbers

The sales numbers on the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 tell the story. Sales from its release in September 2016 through the new year show a new vehicle taking the segment by storm, stealing buyers from Accord and Camry, as well as competing Lexus and BMW makes, and even from the larger Benz C-Series sedans still on the market. If you want affordability, style, a luxury name, and performance, the CLA should be on your short list.

Alex Gabriel

Alex Gabriel

Alex Gabriel is a writer at Reply! with several years of digital marketing and copywriting experience. A native of Portland and graduate of the University of Oregon, Alex has a passion for writing about new cars. To learn more about cars with the best tech features, see his price guide for new vehicles.

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