While sedans aren’t as popular nowadays as they used to be, stylish four-door models with sloped rooflines and sporty exteriors are still in pretty high demand, especially if they hail from established premium automakers.
So what do you do if something like a Mercedes A-Class Sedan or an Audi A3 isn’t exciting enough for you? Well, you can either opt for Mercedes-Benz‘s all-new CLA or it’s recently-unveiled nemesis, the 2020 BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe.
The latter will be sold in North America, among other global markets, and is based on the front-wheel drive 1-Series hatchback, even though its design is very different. Is it better looking than the CLA though? Let’s start with that.
An easy decision, right?
The fact that the 2-Series Gran Coupe and the CLA are so different aesthetically should mean that buyers have a straightforward decision to make: you either like Mercedes’ design language, or BMW’s. One issue we have is that both models look like something that’s been shrunk too much, which is true in a sense.
To make matters worse, both cars are based on front-wheel drive hatchbacks and in the case of the 2-Series GC, the end result is a little bulkier than some BMW fans might have wanted. In fact, that front end looks pretty bloated and despite the fastback-like rear, the trunk lid opening is typical of a 4-door sedan – which is fine since it’s the same for the CLA; but then why give the 2 GC a fastback body?
Also, see how the front and rear doors on the CLA are roughly the same length? It’s that type of uniformity that pleases the eye. With the BMW, you have an almost ridiculously small rear door, which aside from impeding access, also looks a bit too quirky.
Is there such a thing as too compact?
The Mercedes CLA doesn’t just look more elegant than the 2 GC because of its styling. It’s actually a slightly bigger car in terms of length, width and wheelbase. The BMW is 4,526 mm (178.1 inches) long, 1,800 mm (70.8 inches) wide and its wheelbase measures 2,670 mm (105.1 inches). The CLA on the other hand is 4,688 mm (184.5 inches) long, 1,830 mm (72.0 inches) wide and has a 2,729 mm (107.4 inch) long wheelbase.
We’ll have to wait to see if the 2-Series Gran Coupe is more cramped in the back than the CLA, but on paper, it doesn’t look good.
As for the boot capacity, the BMW’s 430 liter trunk is smaller than the Merc’s 460 liters.
What about performance?
If we were to compare the very similar M235i xDrive Gran Coupe and CLA 35 4MATIC+ Coupe, we would see that they both feature 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engines, with identical power outputs – 301 HP (306 PS). The BMW has a little more torque at 332 lb-ft (450 Nm), compared to the Mercedes’ 295 lb-ft (400 Nm), but the end result is the same: 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 4.9 seconds.
Also, while both models feature all-wheel drive, the 2-Series GC utilizes an 8-speed automatic gearbox, while the Merc’s transmission is a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.
It’s a similar case with the base 228i xDrive that has a 2.0-liter turbo’d four producing 228 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque for a 0-60mph (96km/h) in 6.0 sec. The CLA 250 gets a 2.0L turbo four too, making a bit less power at 221hp but the same torque figure at 258 lb-ft (350 Nm), with a slightly worse 0-60mph time of 6.3 seconds for both the FWD and AWD 4Matic models. Top speed is limited for both at 130mph (209km/h) with all-season tires – BMW said that if you opt for summer performance tires, it rises to 150mph (241km/h).
Is there a clear winner in the tech department?
As expected, the answer is no. Whichever car you buy, it will come with a digital gauge cluster and a large (enough) infotainment display. Then there are the active safety features, where in the BMW you get standard Front Collision Warning with City Collision Mitigation, Active Blind Spot Detection and Lane Departure Warning.
Meanwhile, the CLA is equipped with many systems that originally debuted in the S-Class. It comes with Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Brake Assist and more. Then there are the UIs, where you get voice activation in both instances by saying ‘Hey BMW’ or ‘Hey Mercedes’.
In the end, while BMW has yet to announce pricing for the 2-Series Gran Coupe, we expect the entry-level 228i xDrive to hover between low and mid $30,000s. The 2020 Mercedes CLA is priced from $36,650 in FWD 250 spec and $38,650 in AWD 250 4MATIC (the BMW will only be offered with xDrive AWD in America). U.S. pricing for the AMG CLA 35 has not yet been announced.