2020 Lincoln MKZ vs. 2019 Mercedes CLA

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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The rear seatbelts optional on the MKZ inflate when a collision is detected, helping to spread crash forces over a much larger area of the body and limiting head and neck movement. This can help prevent spinal and internal injuries. The CLA doesn’t offer inflatable seatbelts.

To help make backing safer, the MKZ’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 MKZ 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, 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, driver alert monitors, available all wheel drive and front parking sensors.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and with its optional front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the MKZ the rating of “Top Pick” for 2017, a rating granted to only 169 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The CLA has not been fully tested, yet.

Warranty

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Lincoln’s powertrain warranty covers the MKZ 2 years and 20,000 miles longer than Mercedes covers the CLA. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 6 years or 70,000 miles. Coverage on the CLA ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.

There are over 2 times as many Lincoln dealers as there are Mercedes dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the MKZ’s warranty.

Reliability

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The MKZ has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The CLA doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the car’s engine.

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

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 MKZ’s reliability 29 points higher than the CLA.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Lincoln vehicles are better in initial quality than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lincoln fifth in initial quality, above the industry average. With 10 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 12th, below the industry average.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Lincoln vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Lincoln 6 places higher in reliability than Mercedes.

Engine

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The MKZ has more powerful engines than the CLA:

Horsepower

Torque

MKZ Hybrid 2.0 DOHC 4-cylinder

188 HP

n/a

MKZ 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder

245 HP

275 lbs.-ft.

MKZ 3.0 turbo V6

350 HP

400 lbs.-ft.

MKZ AWD 3.0 turbo V6

400 HP

400 lbs.-ft.

CLA 250 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder

208 HP

258 lbs.-ft.

Fuel Economy and Range

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On the EPA test cycle the MKZ Hybrid gets better fuel mileage than the CLA FWD (42 city/39 hwy vs. 24 city/37 hwy).

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

The MKZ AWD’s standard fuel tank has 3.2 gallons more fuel capacity than the CLA (18 vs. 14.8 gallons).

The MKZ has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The CLA doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Transmission

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The MKZ Hybrid has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The CLA doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

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The MKZ stops shorter than the CLA:

MKZ

CLA

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

133 feet

137 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the MKZ has larger tires than the CLA (245/45R18 vs. 225/45R17).

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the MKZ has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the CLA. The MKZ’s optional 19-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch wheels optional on the CLA.

The MKZ (except Hybrid) 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

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The MKZ’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The CLA doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the MKZ’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 MKZ is 1.4 inches wider in the front and 1.2 inches wider in the rear than on the CLA.

Chassis

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The front grille of the MKZ Hybrid 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.

The MKZ uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The CLA doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

As tested by Car and Driver while under full throttle, the interior of the MKZ AWD is quieter than the CLA 250 (75 vs. 76 dB).

Passenger Space

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Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the MKZ a Mid-size car, while the CLA is rated a Subcompact.

The MKZ has 18.6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the CLA (96.6 vs. 78).

The MKZ has 4.1 inches more front legroom, 1.7 inches more front shoulder room, 1.2 inches more rear headroom, 9.9 inches more rear legroom and 2.1 inches more rear shoulder room than the CLA.

Cargo Capacity

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The MKZ has a much larger trunk than the CLA (15.4 vs. 13.1 cubic feet).

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier, especially for short adults, the MKZ offers an optional power trunk, which opens and closes automatically by pressing a button. The CLA doesn’t offer a power trunk.

Towing

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The MKZ has a 1000 lbs. towing capacity. The CLA has no towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

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The MKZ 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.

Ergonomics

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The MKZ’s standard easy entry system raises the steering wheel and glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The CLA doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the MKZ’s exterior PIN entry system. The CLA doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system, and its Mercedes-Benz Emergency Call can’t unlock the doors if the vehicle doesn’t have cell phone reception or the driver can’t contact the service.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the MKZ’s exterior PIN entry system. The CLA doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system, and its Mercedes-Benz Emergency Call can’t unlock the doors if the vehicle doesn’t have cell phone reception or the driver can’t contact the service.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the MKZ 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 MKZ 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 MKZ has standard extendable sun visors. The CLA doesn’t offer extendable visors.

A power rear sunshade is standard in the MKZ Reserve to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The CLA doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

The MKZ has standard heated front seats. Heated front seats cost extra on the CLA. The MKZ Reserve also offers optional heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the CLA.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the MKZ Reserve 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 MKZ Reserve’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 MKZ Reserve offers optional massaging front seats in order to maximize comfort and eliminate fatigue on long trips. Massaging seats aren’t available in the CLA.

The MKZ offers an optional 115-volt a/c outlet on the center console, allowing you to recharge a laptop or run small household appliances without special adapters that can break or get misplaced. The CLA doesn’t offer a house-current electrical outlet.

Economic Advantages

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Insurance will cost less for the MKZ owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the MKZ will cost $2485 less than the CLA over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the MKZ is less expensive to operate than the CLA because it costs $591 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the MKZ than the CLA, including $128 less for a water pump, $726 less for a starter, $255 less for fuel injection and $216 less for a fuel pump.

Recommendations

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

The Lincoln MKZ outsold the Mercedes CLA by 36% during the 2019 model year.

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

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