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The Optima has standard Active Headrests, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Headrests system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The CLA doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.
To help make backing safer, the Optima’s 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 Optima and the CLA have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, 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 and driver alert monitors.
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, with its optional front crash prevention system, and its headlight’s “Good” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Optima 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.
The Optima comes with a full 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The CLA’s 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 10,000 miles sooner.
Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Optima 6 years and 50,000 miles longer than Mercedes covers the CLA. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the CLA ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.
There are over 2 times as many Kia dealers as there are Mercedes dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Optima’s warranty.
A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Optima’s reliability 20 points higher than the CLA.
J.D. Power and Associates rated the Optima third among midsize cars in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The CLA isn’t in the top three in its category.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 24 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 12th, below the industry average.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia 10th in reliability, above the industry average. With 8 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 13th.
From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia 12 places higher in reliability than Mercedes.
The Optima SX’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 37 more horsepower (245 vs. 208) and 2 lbs.-ft. more torque (260 vs. 258) than the CLA’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.
On the EPA test cycle the Optima EX gets better fuel mileage than the CLA FWD SMG (27 city/37 hwy vs. 24 city/37 hwy).
To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Kia Optima uses regular unleaded gasoline. The CLA requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.
The Optima has 3.7 gallons more fuel capacity than the CLA (18.5 vs. 14.8 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.
For better traction, the Optima S/SX’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CLA (235/45R18 vs. 225/45R17).
The Optima SX 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.
For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Optima’s wheelbase is 4.1 inches longer than on the CLA (110.4 inches vs. 106.3 inches).
For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Optima is 2.3 inches wider in the front and 2.7 inches wider in the rear than the track on the CLA.
Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Optima a Large car, while the CLA is rated a Subcompact.
The Optima has 26.8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CLA (104.8 vs. 78).
The Optima has 1.6 inches more front headroom, 5.3 inches more front legroom, 2.1 inches more front shoulder room, 2.4 inches more rear headroom, 8.5 inches more rear legroom and 3.2 inches more rear shoulder room than the CLA.
The Optima has a much larger trunk than the CLA (15.9 vs. 13.1 cubic feet).
The Optima 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 Optima’s optional easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The CLA doesn’t offer an easy entry system.
The Optima’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 Optima’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 standard on the Optima 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 Optima SX has standard 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 Optima has standard extendable sun visors. The CLA doesn’t offer extendable visors.
Standard air-conditioned seats in the Optima EX Premium/SX keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The CLA doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.
On extremely cold winter days, the Optima EX Premium/SX’s standard 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.
Insurance will cost less for the Optima owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Optima will cost $1725 to $4680 less than the CLA over a five-year period.
According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Optima is less expensive to operate than the CLA because it costs $409 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Optima than the CLA, including $222 less for a water pump, $309 less for a muffler, $775 less for a starter, $371 less for fuel injection, $374 less for a fuel pump, $85 less for front struts and $389 less for a power steering pump.
IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Kia Optima will be $6446 to $11478 less than for the Mercedes CLA.
Consumer Reports® recommends the Kia Optima, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Mercedes CLA isn't recommended.
The Kia Optima outsold the Mercedes CLA by almost five to one during 2018.
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