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2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA

Bottom line : The Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 is well worth a look — as is its sporty sibling, the CLA 45 AMG. These are full-DNA Mercedes automobiles offered at approachable prices.

Ride, acceleration, handling : I found both cars enjoyable on long road trips. Some colleagues griped about “turbo lag” on accelerating from start. But I fault them. Turbo lag is what happens in a turbocharged car when you accelerate from stop as if you are on a racetrack. Most of us drive on regulated roads, where we accelerate from stop more gently.

Head-turning quotient : That diamond-black grille on the CLA 250 is genius. It drew attention everywhere.

Body style/layout : The CLA-Class is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive compact car of unitized-body steel construction. It has four side doors in the manner of a sedan, although Mercedes-Benz’s marketers insist on calling it a “coupe.” It has a traditional notchback trunk and eventually will be available with optional all-wheel drive.

Engine/transmission : The CLA 250 comes with a 2-liter, 16-valve, turbocharged (forced air) in-line four-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine with variable valve timing. The engine is linked to a seven-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Capacities : There are seats for five people. Rear space is a tad cramped for taller types. There is enough cargo space for a week’s worth of groceries for a family of five, of four large pieces of soft-pack luggage. The CLA 250 holds 13.2 gallons of gasoline (premium grade is required).

Mileage : I averaged 36 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Safety : Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; electronic brake-force distribution; automatic brake drying; electronic stability and traction control; a post-collision safety system; parking proximity warning (Mercedes-Benz’s “Parktronic”) system; side and head air bags; automatic air-bag deployment notification (communication with first responders); and stolen-vehicle tracking assistance.

Prices : The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 will have an initial base price of $29,900. For the CLA 45 AMG, the estimated starting price is $36,000. “Starting” means just that. Add a $925 factory-to-dealer destination fee. Options can be expensive. The average transaction price - price out the door — on the CLA 250 is expected to be $35,000.

— Warren Brown