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For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Mercedes CLA have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Volkswagen GTI doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.
The CLA offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The GTI doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.
The CLA offers an optional Surround View System to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The GTI 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.
The CLA’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The GTI doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.
Both the CLA and the GTI have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front-wheel drive, 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 cross-path warning.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Mercedes vehicles are better in initial quality than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes 12th in initial quality. With 19 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 25th.
On the EPA test cycle the CLA 250 FWD Auto gets better fuel mileage than the GTI Auto (25 city/35 hwy vs. 24 city/32 hwy).
The Mercedes CLA comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the GTI.
For better ride, handling and brake cooling the CLA offers optional 19-inch wheels. The GTI’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.
Changing a flat tire near traffic can be dangerous and inconvenient. The run-flat tires available on the CLA can be driven up to 50 miles without any air pressure, allowing you to drive to a service station for a repair. The GTI doesn’t offer run-flat tires.
The CLA’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 GTI doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.
For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the CLA’s wheelbase is 3.8 inches longer than on the GTI (107.4 inches vs. 103.6 inches).
For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the CLA is 2.9 inches wider in the front and 3.4 inches wider in the rear than on the GTI.
The CLA has .1 inches more front headroom, .6 inches more front legroom and .1 inches more rear shoulder room than the GTI.
J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Mercedes service is better than Volkswagen. J.D. Power ranks Mercedes fifth in service department satisfaction. With a 39% lower rating, Volkswagen is ranked 18th.
The CLA has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The GTI doesn’t offer a remote starting system.
When three different drivers share the CLA, the memory seats and mirrors make it convenient for all three. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver and front passenger’s seat positions and outside mirror angle. The GTI doesn’t offer a memory system.
The CLA offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and navigation instruction readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The GTI doesn’t offer a heads-up display.
The CLA’s power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The GTI has a lever-type parking brake that has to be strenuously raised to engage properly. It has to be lifted up more and a button depressed to release it.
The CLA offers optional automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The GTI offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.
Optional air-conditioned seats in the CLA keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The GTI doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.
On extremely cold winter days, the CLA’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The GTI doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.
The CLA has a standard dual zone air-conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air-conditioning is only available on the GTI Autobahn.
To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Mercedes CLA offers an optional wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The GTI doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.
The CLA’s optional Active Parking Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The GTI Autobahn’s automatic parking system requires operating the brakes and transmission to safely park.
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