2020 BMW 3 Series Sedan vs. 2019 Mercedes CLA

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/07/06

The 3 Series 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.

The 3 Series Sedan has standard Active Head Restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Head Restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The CLA doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

The 3 Series Sedan has standard PostCrash iBrake, which automatically apply 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.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The 3 Series Sedan offers optional Active Park Distance Control that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The CLA doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The 3 Series Sedan offers an optional Surround View to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The CLA only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

To help make backing safer, the 3 Series 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 3 Series 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 seatbelt pretensioners, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, driver alert monitors, available all-wheel drive and blind spot warning systems.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver and passenger-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, roof strength and head restraint tests, its standard vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention system, its standard vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention system, and its available headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the 3 Series Sedan the rating of “Top Pick” for 2020, a rating granted to only 30 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The CLA does not qualify as a “Top Pick.”

Warranty

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The 3 Series Sedan’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the CLA’s (12 vs. 5 years).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the 3 Series Sedan for 3 years and 36,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Mercedes doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the CLA.

Reliability

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The battery on the 3 Series Sedan is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures that can degrade battery life. By keeping the 3 Series Sedan’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The CLA’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 7th in reliability, above the industry average. With 12 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 13th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks BMW 4 places higher in reliability than Mercedes.

Engine

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The 330i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder produces 47 more horsepower (255 vs. 208) and 37 lbs.-ft. more torque (295 vs. 258) than the CLA’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder. The M340i’s standard 3.0 turbo 6-cylinder produces 174 more horsepower (382 vs. 208) and 111 lbs.-ft. more torque (369 vs. 258) than the CLA’s 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder.

As tested in Car and Driver the BMW 3 Series Sedan is faster than the Mercedes CLA:

330i

M340i

CLA

Zero to 30 MPH

1.8 sec

n/a

2.4 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5.1 sec

3.8 sec

6.3 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

13.8 sec

9.4 sec

16.7 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

6.5 sec

4.7 sec

7 sec

Passing 30 to 50 MPH

3.2 sec

n/a

3.8 sec

Passing 50 to 70 MPH

3.9 sec

n/a

4.7 sec

Quarter Mile

13.8 sec

12.3 sec

14.9 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

100 MPH

114 MPH

95 MPH

Top Speed

155 MPH

n/a

133 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/07/06

On the EPA test cycle the 3 Series Sedan gets better fuel mileage than the CLA:

3 Series Sedan

CLA

2WD

2.0 turbo 4 cyl./8-spd. Auto

26 city/36 hwy

24 city/37 hwy

2.0 turbo 4 cyl./Auto

AWD

2.0 turbo 4 cyl./8-spd. Auto

25 city/34 hwy

24 city/32 hwy

2.0 turbo 4 cyl./Auto

Regenerative brakes improve the 3 Series Sedan’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The CLA doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

Transmission

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An eight-speed automatic is standard on the BMW 3 Series Sedan, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a seven-speed automatic is available for the CLA.

Brakes and Stopping

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For better stopping power the 3 Series Sedan’s brake rotors are larger than those on the CLA:

330i

M340i

CLA

Front Rotors

13 inches

13.7 inches

12.6 inches

Rear Rotors

13 inches

13.6 inches

11.6 inches

The 3 Series Sedan’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the CLA are solid, not vented.

The 3 Series Sedan stops much shorter than the CLA:

3 Series Sedan

CLA

70 to 0 MPH

151 feet

160 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

103 feet

114 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

135 feet

137 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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The 3 Series Sedan’s optional 225/35R20 front and 255/30R20 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 series front and 30 series rear 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 330i has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the CLA. The 3 Series Sedan’s optional 20-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch wheels optional on the CLA.

Suspension and Handling

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For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the 3 Series Sedan’s wheelbase is 5.9 inches longer than on the CLA (112.2 inches vs. 106.3 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the 3 Series Sedan is 1.4 inches wider in the front and 2.1 inches wider in the rear than on the CLA.

The 3 Series Sedan’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (51.5% to 48.5%) than the CLA’s (61% to 39%). This gives the 3 Series Sedan more stable handling and braking.

The 330i handles at .99 G’s, while the CLA 250 pulls only .90 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The M340i executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.4 seconds quicker than the CLA 250 (25 seconds @ .77 average G’s vs. 26.4 seconds @ .69 average G’s).

Chassis

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The design of the BMW 3 Series Sedan amounts to more than styling. The 3 Series Sedan has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .26 Cd. That is lower than the CLA (.28) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the 3 Series Sedan get better fuel mileage.

The front grille of the 3 Series Sedan uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The CLA doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the 330i is quieter than the CLA 250:

3 Series Sedan

CLA

At idle

38 dB

43 dB

Full-Throttle

74 dB

76 dB

70 MPH Cruising

69 dB

70 dB

Passenger Space

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/07/06

The 3 Series Sedan has .5 inches more front headroom, 1.8 inches more front legroom, 2.2 inches more rear headroom, 8.1 inches more rear legroom and 1.4 inches more rear shoulder room than the CLA.

Cargo Capacity

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With its sedan body style, valet key, locking rear seatbacks and remote trunk release lockout, the 3 Series offers cargo security. The CLA’s non-lockable folding seat and non-lockable remote release defeat cargo security.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the 3 Series Sedan offers an optional power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button, or optionally by just kicking your foot under the back bumper, completely leaving your hands free. The CLA doesn’t offer a power trunk, so its trunk has to be closed manually.

Servicing Ease

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The 3 Series 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.

The engine in the 3 Series Sedan is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the CLA. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

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The 3 Series Sedan offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The CLA doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The 3 Series Sedan’s power window, power lock, power mirror and cruise control switches are lit from behind, making them plainly visible and easier to operate at night. The CLA’s cruise control switches are unlit, making them difficult to find at night and operate safely.

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 3 Series Sedan’s available headlights were rated “Good” by the IIHS, while the CLA’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the 3 Series Sedan detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The CLA doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the 3 Series Sedan offers optional cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The CLA doesn’t offer cornering lights. The 3 Series Sedan also offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the 3 Series Sedan has standard extendable sun visors. The CLA doesn’t offer extendable visors.

On extremely cold winter days, the 3 Series Sedan’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The CLA doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The 3 Series Sedan’s optional Parking Assistant Plus can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The CLA’s automatic parking system requires operating the brakes and transmission to safely park.

Model Availability

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The BMW 3 Series comes in sedan, four-door hatchback and station wagon bodystyles; the Mercedes CLA isn’t available as a four-door hatchback or station wagon.

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

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