2019 Audi A3 Sedan vs. 2019 Mercedes CLA

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The A3 Sedan’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The CLA doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Audi A3 Sedan are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Mercedes CLA has only front height-adjustable seat belts.

The A3 Sedan has a standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The CLA doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

To help make backing safer, the A3 Sedan’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The CLA doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

Both the A3 Sedan and the CLA have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and rear parking sensors.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, its standard front crash prevention system, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the A3 Sedan the rating of “Top Pick” for 2018, a rating granted to only 85 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The CLA has not been fully tested, yet.

Warranty

The A3 Sedan’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the CLA’s (12 vs. 5 years).

Reliability

The Audi A3 Sedan’s engines use a cast iron block for durability, while the CLA’s engine uses an aluminum block. Aluminum engine blocks are much more prone to warp and crack at high temperatures than cast iron.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Audi vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Audi 13th in reliability, above the industry average. With 6 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 15th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Audi vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Audi 10 places higher in reliability than Mercedes.

Engine

The A3 Sedan 45 TSFI’s optional 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 20 more horsepower (228 vs. 208) than the CLA’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Road and Track the A3 Sedan 45 TSFI is faster than the Mercedes CLA 250:

 

A3 Sedan

CLA

Zero to 60 MPH

5.5 sec

6.5 sec

Quarter Mile

14.2 sec

14.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

97.8 MPH

96.4 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi A3 Sedan uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended on A3 Sedan 45 TSFI for maximum performance). The CLA requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Audi A3 Sedan higher (7 out of 10) than the Mercedes CLA (5 to 7). This means the A3 Sedan produces up to 8 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the CLA every 15,000 miles.

Brakes and Stopping

The A3 Sedan stops shorter than the CLA:

 

A3 Sedan

CLA

 

70 to 0 MPH

156 feet

160 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

108 feet

114 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the A3 Sedan Premium Plus/Prestige’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CLA (235/35R19 vs. 225/45R17).

The A3 Sedan Premium Plus/Prestige’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the CLA’s optional 40 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the A3 Sedan Premium Plus/Prestige offers optional 19-inch wheels. The CLA’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.

The A3 Sedan has a standard space-saver spare tire so you can replace a flat tire and drive to have the flat repaired or replaced. A spare tire isn’t available on the CLA; it requires you to depend on its run-flat tires, which limits mileage and speed before they are repaired. If a run-flat is damaged beyond repair by a road hazard your vehicle will have to be towed.

Suspension and Handling

The A3 Sedan’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (58.1% to 41.9%) than the CLA’s (61% to 39%). This gives the A3 Sedan more stable handling and braking.

The A3 Sedan Premium Quattro handles at .94 G’s, while the CLA 250 pulls only .90 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The A3 Sedan Premium Quattro executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the CLA 250 (25.6 seconds @ .71 average G’s vs. 26.4 seconds @ .69 average G’s).

Chassis

The A3 Sedan is 6.8 inches shorter than the CLA, making the A3 Sedan easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the A3 Sedan Premium Quattro is quieter than the CLA 250:

 

A3 Sedan

CLA

At idle

41 dB

43 dB

Full-Throttle

73 dB

76 dB

70 MPH Cruising

67 dB

70 dB

Passenger Space

The A3 Sedan has 8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CLA (86 vs. 78).

The A3 Sedan has 1 inch more front legroom, .7 inches more rear headroom and 8 inches more rear legroom than the CLA.

Servicing Ease

The A3 Sedan uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The CLA uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Audi service is better than Mercedes. J.D. Power ranks Audi third in service department satisfaction. With a 3% lower rating, Mercedes is ranked 6th.

Ergonomics

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the A3 Sedan to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The CLA doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The A3 Sedan’s available headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the CLA’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The A3 Sedan offers available headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The CLA doesn’t offer headlight washers.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the A3 Sedan Prestige detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The CLA doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the A3 Sedan has standard extendable sun visors. The CLA doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Model Availability

The Audi A3 comes in convertible, sedan and station wagon bodystyles; the Mercedes CLA isn’t available as a convertible or station wagon.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the A3 Sedan owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the A3 Sedan will cost $50 to $4200 less than the CLA over a five-year period.

The A3 Sedan will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the A3 Sedan will retain 47% to 47.42% of its original price after five years, while the CLA only retains 46.37% to 46.78%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the A3 Sedan is less expensive to operate than the CLA because typical repairs cost much less on the A3 Sedan than the CLA, including $15 less for a muffler, $405 less for a starter, $255 less for fuel injection and $314 less for a fuel pump.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends the Audi A3 Sedan, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Mercedes CLA isn't recommended.

Car and Driver performed a comparison test in its June 2014 issue and they ranked the Audi A3 Sedan Premium Quattro first. They ranked the Mercedes CLA 250 4MATIC third.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the A3 Sedan first among small premium cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The CLA isn’t in the top three.

The Audi A3/S3 outsold the Mercedes CLA by 14% during 2017.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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