2020 BMW 3 Series Sedan vs. 2019 Mercedes CLA

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

Your buying experience includes...

business_centerProfessional Staff
account_balanceSimple Financing
local_gas_stationFull Tank of Gas
local_car_washFree Car Wash

Safety

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 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, 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 front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the 3 Series Sedan its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2019, a rating granted to only 46 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The CLA was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

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

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 2018 Auto Issue reports that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks BMW 9 places higher in reliability than Mercedes.

Engine

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

As tested in Car and Driver the 330i is faster than the Mercedes CLA 250:

3 Series

CLA

Zero to 30 MPH

1.9 sec

2.4 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5.2 sec

6.3 sec

Zero to 80 MPH

8.6 sec

10.6 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

13.9 sec

16.7 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

6.4 sec

7 sec

Passing 30 to 50 MPH

3.2 sec

3.8 sec

Passing 50 to 70 MPH

3.9 sec

4.7 sec

Quarter Mile

13.9 sec

14.9 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

100 MPH

95 MPH

Top Speed

156 MPH

133 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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

MPG

3 Series Sedan

RWD

330i 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

26 city/36 hwy

AWD

330i 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

25 city/34 hwy

CLA

FWD

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

24 city/37 hwy

AWD

2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

24 city/32 hwy

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

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

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.

Tires and Wheels

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

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.

Chassis

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.

Passenger Space

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

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

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

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 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 see further while navigating curves, the 3 Series Sedan offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The CLA doesn’t offer cornering lights.

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.

Model Availability

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.

Recommendations

The BMW 3 Series outsold the Mercedes CLA by almost two to one during 2018.

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

How much is your car worth?

Get the best value for your car from an Asbury dealership.

Featured Videos