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Mercedes CLA 250e review

Mercedes CLA 250e review

In a distant past, I used to work for Mercedes as a Product Genius. Having driven nearly every Mercedes model, including the CLA, let's see how the newer generation compares to the old one.


Understanding the CLA

The CLA was introduced way back in 2013. From the launch, the CLA was a real head-turner. It was the first time Mercedes tried to appeal to a younger, more dynamic audience, a big step for a brand well-known for its luxury senior cars.

The first generation was a clear tryout from Mercedes. With the A-class already being a popular vehicle, the CLA was meant to fill the gap between a small hatch and the larger (and more expensive) C-class.

But sadly, the first-generation CLA wasn't a great car. Although it was bigger than the A-class, comfort and practicality were by all means down. Not only that, but just like the A-class, you would end up with a Renault diesel engine. The lower entry-level options would not combine well with the optional automatic transmission either.

None of those downsides have halted the car's rise in fame though. Ever since 2013, the CLA has been a popular car for both youngsters and middle-aged people. The CLA got a big overhaul in 2019 with an upgraded interior and more stylish looks. The improvements in aerodynamics, ride comfort, and practicality have made it a considerable option for many.

And so is the car I'm testing: a 2023 Mercedes CLA 250e!

Good things about the 2023 Mercedes CLA 250e

It's obvious that Mercedes is taking the CLA to a higher standard. I would say it's a nicer overall car than the A-class. It feels different and leans more toward the C-class than the A-class (as the name should suggest). It still shares the same platform as the A, GLA, and B-class, though.


The CLA is a car that stands out and looks fantastic. For a car positioned under a C-class, there are plenty of resemblances, especially if you opt for the shooting brake version. And, although the CLA might be considered an entry-level car, it surely holds up when lined up against its closer competitors like the BMW 1 or 2 series or the Audi A3.



Compared to the first-generation CLAs, the overall balance and ride quality of the C118 is considerably better. It no longer feels like a basic car; it's well put together and dynamic. The hatchback legacy is transferred in the agility and firm body of the CLA. That makes it fun to drive and engaging.

The ride quality itself is firm but not so that it becomes uncomfortable over long distances. You just feel the road and its imperfections clearly. If you suffer from back pains, the C-class would be a better alternative. The CLA has a sporty edge to it, which might not suit everybody's comfort needs. But on the flip side of that coin is a car that allows you to push it through bends, and it will gladly give you plenty of feedback and feel.

The 163 hp from the 1.3 L petrol engine is enough fun to keep you engaged, especially when combined with the 109 hp from the electric motor. And, although 109hp doesn't seem like an astronomical figure, the CLA 250e doesn't feel like a complete slough in EV-only mode. It's great for driving around town or to the shop and back. 

Infotainment and interior

The MBUX infotainment system in the CLA is on par with some of the best software out there. The interior and its quality are surely one of the biggest upsides of the CLA. Not only is the MBUX a very capable software, it's easy to use and equipped with basically every functionality you need on a daily basis. But make sure you upgrade to the 10.25-inch screen for the full experience. It'll be worth every penny as it enhances the experience and makes the car feel a lot more premium.

That's a word that sums up the interior: premium. Yes, lower down there's more scratchy materials, and the center console moves if you push it too hard. But for your daily commute, it's a comfy, enjoyable place to be.


Bad things about the Mercedes CLA 250e


A surprising disappointment, I must say. I won't bore you with the details of why I'm not a fan of PHEVs, but the overall battery capacity of the CLA is fine. The roughly 70 km on a full charge is enough for most to get back home from work (given you charge it daily). But the average range on this test car is just 500 km in real life. Admittedly, the driver has a slight sporty edge to his driving style. But even on longer trips, the CLA doesn't go much further, and that's a slight disappointment. Because after all, isn't that one of the big upsides to PHEVs?

Going on about range is the part where you run out of battery. The 1.3 L petrol is good enough and feels surprisingly spikey for such a small displacement. But the consumption is far from ideal, which likely results in the low range figures



Worth mentioning is that the comfort level of the seats is below expectations. Pretty much every passenger complained about it, and some even suffered from lower back pain. The seats are just plain hard and offer little support. Be sure to spec the comfort seats to avoid this in case you do longer trips.


The CLA is by no means a large car. And that is noticeable in its practicality. The boot size isn't great, with just 440L for the PHEV. And the loading area is impractical too, meaning carrying larger items is a struggle. The non-PHEV doesn't need to hide a load of batteries and will give you a pleasent 505L of boot capacity. 

The impracticalities transfer to the backseats too. Mainly because it's easy to forget that the CLA is still based on the A-class. You'll find that legroom at the back is limited, and so is headroom. If you plan on carrying three adults in the back, get ready for a storm of complaints.


In my opinion, the CLA 250e is a good option to consider. Because of its pricing, it's a good company car or private purchase. But I can't help but feel you're better off with a lower-specced C-class for more comfort and practicality. Admittedly, if it's a PHEV you're looking for, then a C-class is taken out of the equation as that will set you back an extra 10k. 

To me, the CLA 250e seems like a car that will fit perfectly for those that do short distances on average and want a sporty feel to their daily steed. 

But hey, that's for you to decide. I'm convinced you won't regret choosing the CLA 250e. It's a fun, driver-friendly car that will offer you plenty of enjoyment with a great interior and an even greater exterior!

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