Mercedes CLA C117, or how to turn an almost mediocre car into an almost brilliant car. Mercedes CLA C117 is the best entry-level car delivered by Mercedes Benz in it’s recent history.
I’m not afraid of a company that launches 10,000 cars once, I’m afraid of a company that launches the same car 10,000 times. The same goes for the Mercedes CLA C117, which is based on the A-Class W176. From there it spawned the CLA Shooting Brake, the Mercedes GLA, the B Class and so on.
If until now the C Class W204 was the entry-level Mercedes (the A Class and B Class were cheaper, but not quite Mercedes in the classic sense of the brand), the A-Class W176 came and took its place, and the Mercedes CLA C117 improved on the original recipe. The CLA is to the A-Class what a CLS is to the E-Class – a car built on the same platform, but better looking and sacrificing practicality. It’s known that all cars in this lineup (CLS, X6, Passat CC) have serious issues with rear seat space, but with the Mercedes CLA C117, the situation is even worse. Seriously now, the rear seats are made more for children, not adults. But that’s OK because you have a CLA so you don’t have friends anyway.
Instead, you pay 25-30,000 euros for a Mercedes which gives you a small dose of what the brand is all about. Just enough to make you happy, but little enough to make you want more and buy a C Class next time. Mercedes-Benz – the drug dealer of the automotive world. With front-wheel drive, 2-liter engines, and a tablet for infotainment, what you buy in a CLA is more about looks and the three pointed star, not necessarily the car.
Mercedes CLA C117 Engines
- 1.6 Turbo of 122, 156, and 184 horsepower – The 184 horsepower version is the only one that comes with 4Matic all-wheel drive, the rest remain front-wheel drive, like a bicycle. Nothing special about this entry-level engine for an entry-level car, even if a Mercedes is anything but entry-level. Carried over from the good ol’ W204 C CLass, this engine is reliable, however the timing chain will be a costly affair to replace.
- 2.0 Turbo of 211, 224, 360, and 381 horsepower – The 360 and 381 versions deserve a separate article for the CLA45 AMG, and there’s nothing to write about for the poor man’s versions other than the fact that the turbo gives you a heart attack when you pedal it hard and often.
- 1.5 dci of 109 horsepower – An entry-level engine for a not-so-entry-level car. If that “dci” sounds familiar, then you’re a Logan or some Megane owner. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Mercedes CLA C117 C180 cdi comes with the same engine as the Megane and almost the same as the engine in the Logan. Not that I have an issue with that engine, but on a 30,000 euro CLA C117, the car becomes a meme on wheels. “In life, it’s better to look rich than to be rich”. Occasional injector issues, but that’s it.
- 1.8 cdi of 136 horsepower – the same OM 651 that the Mercedes group has accustomed us to, only not quite the full 2143 cubic centimeter recipe. If you’re still spending 35,000 euros on a Mercedes CLA C117, don’t be cheapskat.
- 2.2 cdi of 136, 156 and 231 horsepower – The standard Mercedes 2.2 engine, mounted on everything from the Sprinter to the S Class. The early engines had issues with the Delphi piezo injectors, and later in life, it needs a new timing chain. It’s not as reliable as older engines such as those on the W211 but still remains a decent engine.
Mercedes CLA C117 General Issues
- Small infotainment which is really just a tablet placed somewhere on the dashboard, like an afterthought. It’s like the engineers didn’t bother to think about the infotainment until after they finished the dashboard design. And it’s understandable that attitude, Mercedes used to make the basic, very basic models. In the C-Class of the ’90s you had optional power steering or seats. Not and. Or. Mercedes-Benz, some habits never change.
- The interior isn’t exactly Mercedes standard, but it’s enough to give you enough of a dose that you want more and go for a C Class next time. Early models have crickets in the dash that make noise from every angle. What’s more, the leather upholstery wears prematurely at the edges, a situation known and made famous on the C Class W204.
- The Mercedes CLA C117 constantly needs the allignment done to the wheels, especially the rear wheels which fade prematurely. The 2.0 Turbo engines in particular are tire eaters, but you’ll certainly be good friends with the jolly boys at the tires shop, regardless of the engine.
- The rear differential for 4Matic versions has a habit of giving up and leaving you in the ditch when you steered abit too enthusiastically. The situation is only noticeable in cars that are driven as if they are stolen.
- The keyless entry system sometimes recognizes the car, sometimes not. Also, battery life is more limited than my prospects for a good life.
- Diesel engines don’t mix well with short and frequent trips. If you have a diesel and drive it around town a lot, people will laugh at you for choosing the wrong engine and your mechanic will support and encourage you while wearing Gucci pumps and sunglasses. Victims are the dual mass flywheel and particle filter.
- The 7G-Tronic automatic transmission has always been a slightly unfortunate episode in Mercedes’s history. Even though they claim the box requires no maintenance at all, be a man and admit that you know better than the German engineers. However, if you don’t want to buy a new gearbox every 150.000 km, do better and change the oil every 60.000 km.
Mercedes CLA C117 Verdict
A Mercedes CLA C117 remains an A Class underneath, but a mini-CLS for those who don’t have or don’t want to spend a lot of money on a proper CLS. And that’s exactly what the CLA C117 is, a CLS that gets rid of all the stuff you don’t need to keep the price down. It has front-wheel drive because rear-wheel drive means nothing to most drivers. It has up to 2-liter engines (except the 2.2-liter diesel) because most drivers don’t need 3-litre engines. It’s a light CLS, for light owners.
Which engines do you recommend? For petrol most likely the 156 horsepower 1.6 turbo petrol. For diesel, I only recommend the 156 hp 2.2 cdi, because a Mercedes should not only look fast but be fast.