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2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA vs Audi A3

Some may say that if you need an entry-level model in a luxury brand, maybe you should stick with standard brands. But these entry-level versions are important for attracting new buyers, especially those who might not think that they're luxury buyers.

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA and the Audi A3 are both the entryways into their luxury brands--how do they compare? Which vehicle is the best option to start with?

2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA driving fast

Styling

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA is probably looked upon by some as a luxury compact sedan. In reality, it's actually a coupe that looks a lot like a miniature version of the larger, more expensive CLS. Yes, it has four doors, but the sloping roofline produces a sleek look that makes this a standout model in its segment. The Audi A3 may have been continually updated and refreshed over time, but that doesn't hide the fact it's been around for quite a while now. That age is definitely starting to show. It's unmistakably Audi in appearance, but it's extremely conservative, especially when compared to the likes of the CLA.

2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA driving fast in the city

Interior

Despite being an entry model, only one or two tiny areas makes this apparent. The front seats are well-bolstered, comfortable, and supportive, even on long journeys, and there's a good amount of cargo space and storage features. The interior is nice and quiet, with road and wind noise kept to a minimum. The only major issue is a lack of room for rear-seat passengers due to that overtly stylish sloping roofline, a hallmark of the coupe structure. The Audi may not have the sloping roofline of the CLA, but it's still not the car for you if you're intending to carry four adults around on a regular basis. The cramped interior is just the start--road and wind noise is also an issue in here, especially if you opt for the larger wheel and tire options.

2017 Audi A3 driving through a tunnel

Features & Equipment

Even though it's an entry level luxury model, the CLA still comes pretty well equipped as standard. Even the base CLA 250 comes with Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable driver's seat, and cruise control. This is definitely where the A3 wins over the 2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA. All A3s come with standard leather upholstery, a power driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth streaming audio, HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, LED daytime running lights, rain sensing wipers and even a panoramic moonroof. That's impressive by any standards, and definitely means a win for the Audi.

2017 Mercedes-Benz CLA driving downtown

Fuel Efficiency

The standard engine in the CLA is a 2.0-liter inline-four, which helps the Mercedes to get EPA-estimated ratings of 26 mpg in the city, 38 mpg on the highway and 30 combined. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission helps play its part too. A front-wheel drive Audi A3 equipped with the new 2.0-liter four-cylinder is the fuel economy champion of the range, with ratings of 26 mpg in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined. That's not bad, but it definitely falls short of what the CLA has to offer.

With very similar price points between these two manufacturers, the Mercedes-Benz CLA is an excellent value for money. If you also want the same coupe styling of the CLA, an A3 Sportback will cost you far more than you might expect. Though the A3 does deliver an incredible amount of standard features and equipment, but in every other way the CLA offers the better option.

Learn More About the Mercedes-Benz Lineup:

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe

2016 Mercedes-Benz GL

2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class