At the start of October, Mercedes-Benz launched two new sedans in South Africa. Both cars were launched simultaneously and do they offer impressive packages in own right. The CLA, now in its second-generation, has ample to go for it and is to a large degree both a revolution and evolution of the outgoing model. The A-Class sedan, or A-Sedan as it’s referred to in some circles, is the four-door version of the A-Class which, coincidentally, is also the 2019 South African Car of the Year.
In the A-Class’ case, the car first made its appearance in 1998 and has, over the next 21 years, sold more than three million units to date. And a few years ago, when the new A-Class, as well as CLA and GLA, came to market, the trio sold in access of six million units, globally.
For 2019, Mercedes-Benz decided to not only bring the CLA to market but also the A-Sedan. At first glance, both vehicles may appear to be the same, but their purpose and positioning in the market tell a different story.
Differences, in short
The most striking difference between the two cars has to be the exterior designs. While the A-Sedan takes on a more conservative approach, the CLA is aimed at pleasing the aesthetics. The A-Sedan offers more interior room than the CLA, given the latter’s swooping roof, but the CLA has a larger boot to work with: 460L vs. 420L.
Regarding the dimensions, the CLA is slightly wider at 1999mm (+7mm over the A-Sedan), but 7mm (at 1439mm) lower than its sibling. The CLA is also sitting lower to the ground than the A-Sedan. Both vehicles share the same wheelbase, but the bigger CLA is longer than the A-Sedan.
Each vehicle has its own role to play in Mercedes’ line-up. One can be forgiven for thinking that they are essentially the same vehicle, but they’re not. And the differences are further accentuated on the inside.
Both sedans adopt impressive technologies from the big daddy in Mercedes-Benz’s range, the S-Class. These technologies are especially focused on the driving side of things. The A-Sedan and CLA adopt semi-autonomous technology, Active Distance Assist Distronic that predictively adjust the speed when approaching changes in the road, Active Brake Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, and Pre-Safe Plus that predicts an imminent collision.
Perhaps the biggest attribution to both cars is MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience). This advanced system comes complete with two tablet-like screens that display information regarding the vehicle, the trip you’re undertaking, as well as the multimedia systems in play. MBUX also allows for users to prompt a command by saying “Hey Mercedes”, which will activate the system and allow users to say a command. The system will then execute the said command.
The cars in both ranges are equipped with two engine choices, with more said to join the respective ranges at a later stage. All engines are fitted to a seven-speed automatic gearbox.
In the A-Class sedan’s case, the A200 is powered by a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol engine that delivers 120kW and 250Nm. This engine also does duty in the CLA 200. The A250 is driven by a 165kW/350Nm 2.0-litre engine that’s also turbocharged. In the CLA’s case, the other engine in its range is a turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine. This motor is good for 140kW and 400Nm, but this car’s gearbox is an eight-speed unit.
In terms of fuel economy, both the A-Sedan and CLA are fitted with a 43L fuel tank and does the automaker claim, in the CLA 220d’s case, a fuel return of 4.4 L/100km.
On the road
At launch, the entry-level models from both ranges were available for sampling. Though both share the same 1.3-litre engine, the differences in drive couldn’t be more different. Thanks to its increased width, the CLA has a much more composed on-road presence and does it give the driver a greater sense of confidence from behind the wheel. The A-Sedan does not fall short in any regard, but given its positioning and design, it does have a much different feel to the CLA.
Lay on the throttle and both cars react with an immediateness. The gearbox, too, cogs over decisively and is there never the feeling that either car is having problems relaying their power to the road. What is noticeable was that the sound insulation in the CLA was superior to that in the A-Sedan.
Available on both cars as an optional extra is the adjustable suspension. Fitted to the CLA, the car felt more composed on the road and did it handle undulations in the road in a much more superior manner. This optional extra should be on any potential buyer’s list, as it will undoubtedly add to the overall driving experience.
In a time where SUVs, crossovers, bakkies, and electric vehicles have become the main focus, it’s interesting to note that Mercedes-Benz is adding sedans to their portfolio. A commendable feat, because the automaker aims to serve all spheres of the market and to cater to the needs of all markets. The CLA is not unfamiliar to local buyers and it’s only right that the new generation is added. But the A-Class sedan is a different story.
Why? Because it’s a new market that’s being opened up and Merc believes that this is something that consumers will look into. Young, prospective buyers looking for their first array into Mercedes-Benz’s saloon portfolio will now have the chance to get their foot in the door with this model. It slots in below the formidable C-Class and, as a premium offering, should find favour among many.
- Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan: From R533 906
- Mercedes-Benz CLA: From R571 006