out of 10
Mercedes-Benz has a reputation for luxury and comfort, but rarely does one think of a Mercedes as being affordable. The brand hopes to change that--somewhat--with the new CLA Class.

The brand's smallest car in America, the CLA Class is a four-door coupe that puts style at the forefront. Priced to start around $30,000, the CLA also offers a strong value proposition. Style plus value? It's an intriguing mix.

Fortunately, the CLA also promises decent performance, with the base CLA 250 rated at 208 horsepower and 6.7 seconds to 60 mph thanks to a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels (or optionally, all four wheels). Gas mileage isn't officially rated yet, but it should be good--we expect at least 30 mpg on the highway.

For the more performance-oriented, an AMG version is also in the works. Due in late 2013, the 2014 CLA45 AMG will start under $50,000, get to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds, and send 360 horsepower through all four wheels. The extra power still comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, but it's an AMG-built and tuned version that offers much greater performance.

While we haven't yet driven the CLA45 AMG (it doesn't technically exist yet), we have spent some time behind the wheel of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250. Ride quality and handling are taut. Steering is direct and quick, but lacks feedback. On the whole, the CLA 250 feels sporty and capable, though we'd like to see multiple engine/transmission/suspension modes for sportier--or more laid-back--driving. Dynamically, the all-wheel-drive version has a slight edge, if only due to its better handling of power.

On the comfort and quality front, the 2014 CLA 250 is quite accommodating--as long as you're in the front seats. Materials are good, with a mix of cloth and MB-Tex faux leather standard and full leather optional. Control layouts are logical and easy to use, and there's lots of room in the trunk. The back seat, however, pays a penalty in both leg and head room, thanks to the CLA's compact dimensions and coupe-like roof. Small rear doors also make entry and exit difficult. Road and wind noise are muted and well-controlled.

For the full detals on the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class, including safety, features, and more, read the full review at The Car Connection.

UPDATEMercedes-Benz CLA250 Gets Sport Package Plus

Mercedes-Benz adds more options to the 2014 CLA250. Read Update

UPDATE2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: Best Car To Buy 2014 Nominee

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is up for Motor Authority's Best Car To Buy 2014 award. Read Update

UPDATE30 Days Of The Mercedes-Benz CLA: The Car Connection Goes In-Depth

Check out The Car Connection's in-depth coverage of the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class as a month's worth of detail and analysis unfolds. Read Update

UPDATEMercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG & A45 AMG Attack Bilster Berg: Video

Join the CLA45 AMG and its Euro-twin, the A45 AMG, on track at one of Europe's best new circuits, Bilster Berg Drive Resort. Read Update

UPDATECLA45 AMG's Euro Twin Fights Alien Abduction: Video

Can the European A45 AMG outrun the aliens? Read Update

UPDATEMercedes-Benz CLA Class Shooting Brake On The Way?

The CLA Class may get a shooting brake variant in the near future, but will it come to the U.S.? Read Update

UPDATE2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: New York Auto Show Live Photos

The flagship of the new CLA range, the CLA45 AMG, made its debut at the 2013 New York Auto Show. Read Update

UPDATE2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: 355 HP, 0-60 In 4.5, And A $48,375 Price

The high-performance variant of the new CLA Class has finally made its debut. Read Update

UPDATE2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG: The Sound & The Fury (Of Four Cylinders)

Hear the sound of the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG for the first time--and compare it to its European cousin, the A45 AMG. Read Update

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