Honda Accord VS Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class
- Slick design
- Brilliant packaging
- Single well-specified variant
- Ride hardly luxurious
- Engines are so-so
- Quick pace
- Engaging dynamics
- Premium interior
- Harsh ride
- Limited rear-seat room
- Divisive styling
It’s honestly a wonder we’re seeing Honda’s new Accord at all, given it enters the least favourable market conditions for sedans that Australia has ever seen.
Honda even knows it, which is why the company is bringing this new 10th-generation Accord to our market in conservatively low numbers to begin with.
In fact, the only reason we’re getting this Accord is because the Japanese brand acknowledges the sedan is part of Honda’s DNA, and that there’s a dedicated fanbase of Accord owners who won’t buy anything else.
If you’re one of those fans – pat yourself on the back – this car is just for you. So, what’s it like? We went to its Australian launch to find out.
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
Mercedes has long been the leader in niche filling, and we’d argue that no other model encapsulates that more than the CLA four-door coupe.
Now in its second-generation form, the CLA is based on Mercedes’ MFA2 small car platform that also underpins the A-Class small car range, B-Class tallboy hatchback and GLA crossover, but is actually dimensionally longer than the one-size up C-Class.
However, while the C-Class might offer more conventional styling, Mercedes says the CLA is targeted towards a younger demographic that puts more weight on design and aesthetics.
The previous generation CLA was topped by a hardcore 45 version, which makes a return here, but new this time around is the less-potent, but still AMG-badged, 35 variant to plug the gap between mainstream grades and the range-topper.
After living with the car for a week, here are our thoughts on the new baby AMG CLA.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Honda’s new Accord is a miracle in that it was brought here seemingly simply for fan service.
I think those fans will mostly be pleased. The 10th-generation car is high-tech, sensibly specified, safe, and certainly Honda-like behind the wheel. Just don’t expect it to be as luxurious as Japanese flagship sedans of days past.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
Is the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 the perfect choice in the sleek sedan’s line-up?
Well, if you are after outright performance, then the answer still clearly lies with the CLA 45. But for those that just want a little more pep compared to the standard CLA range, the 35 is undoubtedly the one to get.
It’s not without its flaws, though, commanding a $15,000 price premium over the CLA 250 and a tougher-than-we’d-like ride, but if you value a more engaging drive and a brisk 0-100km/h time, the CLA 35 should definitely be on your shopping list.
The Accord looks swish! It carries so much of Honda’s up-to-date design language through its entire body.
This majorly includes the chrome strip across the front, up-to-date LED headlights, and swoopy coupe roofline.
These are offset by a curvy line running down the rear half of the car’s profile, accented by a chrome strip. As mentioned, those wheels look bigger than they are, and add to the Accords presence by sticking way out to the edges of the chassis.
It’s referential to other vehicles in Honda’s range, like the Civic and even S660 kei-sized sports car. Fans will be happy to know the overall package is more restrained than something like the zany Civic hatch.
The cabin is almost exactly what you’d expect from a luxury Japanese sedan. This means throne-style plush leather trimmed seats (that are genuinely nice to sit in) a wide symmetrical dash look and familiar Honda touchpoints throughout.
It’s all well built and ergonomic, so there’s no complains on that front, but there are some areas where the Accord is showing its age in the design department already.
There’s a shift knob that sits too far out of the centre console (hardly a ‘high-end’ look), an odd retracting panel in the dash like its 2004, and the ‘wood trim’ that runs across the dash appears to be a plastic fill – it has no texture!
The rear seats are just as - if not more - comfortable than the fronts, and there are no complaints when it comes to packaging – the Accord's cabin is mostly a great place to be.
From the front, the CLA 35 exterior oozes style and luxury.
Up front, the sleek and slender headlights emphasise the width of the fascia, while the large Mercedes logo sits proudly front and centre of the CLA’s nose.
There are subtle hints to the CLA 35’s sportiness too, with a slightly bulging bonnet and chiselled lower chin.
The grille is also unique on the 35, with a dual-horizontal slat design instead of the non-AMG CLA’s diamond pattern or the CLA 45’s Panamericana grille.
To my eye, the front of the CLA 35 is actually a bit too tame in styling for an AMG model. I prefer the in-your-face aggression of the CLA 45’s widened track and front grille, while the CLA 35 opts for more subtle styling cues. To each their own, though.
The silver paintwork of our test car probably doesn’t help, and if it was my choice I'd pick 'Sun Yellow' or 'Denim Blue' to stand out a bit more from the sea of black, grey and white German cars out there.
Move to the rear of the car though, and a large rear diffuser, big dual-exhaust outlets and a bootlid spoiler are much more befitting an AMG model.
Step inside the CLA and you will see it adopts the same dashboard design as all new-generation Mercedes vehicles built on the MFA2 platform, with the 'MBUX' dual-screen layout, large air-vents and central touchpad.
Our car was specced out with red-leather interior, which is a bit too loud for my tastes, but a two-tone black leather/titanium grey combo can also be had at no extra cost.
Sitting inside the CLA 35, you can tell it’s a modern car thanks to the clean layout of all the controls, while the screen-heavy dashboard definitely makes it feel tech-focused.
Speaking of packaging – it’s consistently a Honda strong point, and that’s no different in the new Accord. As already mentioned, front and rear passengers get heaps of room for their arms and legs, and there’s decent storage areas throughout.
That means two smallish cupholders and trenches in the doors, a large caddy in front of the shift-lever with that odd retracting door, and large cupholders in the centre console.
Like almost every Honda, the centre console box is colossal and hosts a single extra USB 2.0 port.
The back seat has leagues of legroom – almost limo-sized for rear passengers, although headroom is compromised a bit by the descending coupe-like roofline. The thick and low C-pillars also make getting in and out a little harder than it perhaps should be – but this is a common trait shared with other coupe-styled sedans in the class like the Peugeot 508.
Touchpoints everywhere are nice and plush, and there are only a few nasty plastics which are well hidden.
Rear seat occupants can make use of adjustable air vents, dual USB ports and a plush trimmed drop-down arm rest with two cupholders.
The arm-rest also reveals a ski port – an increasingly rare feature in today’s cars – which leads us to the boot. It’s massive at 570 litres (VDA) – that’s significantly larger than both the Camry and Liberty and the best part – it doesn’t matter whether you pick the petrol or hybrid, the boot space is the same.
Honda tells us that this is because it has managed to reduce the hybrid battery pack significantly in size – so that it can be placed under the passenger seats instead. Brilliant.
Every Accord has a space-saver spare under the boot floor.
Measuring 4695mm long, 1834mm wide, 1399mm tall and with a 2729mm wheelbase, the CLA 35 is definitely a sizeable sedan in the metal.
This actually makes the CLA 35 slightly longer and wider than a non-AMG C-Class sedan that measures 4686 and 1810mm respectively, but don’t expect the same level of practical interior space.
With a heavily sloped roofline, rear-seat comfort takes a hit. My 183cm (6.0ft) frame could not sit upright behind my driving position without tilting my head, while legroom was also slightly lacking.
With such large C-pillars and a small rear window, the second-row can actually feel a little claustrophobic for full-sized adults, but will seat children quite comfortably.
Second-row amenities include air-vents, two USB-C ports, back-of-seat storage nets, bottle holders in the doors, and two cupholders in the fold-down arm rest.
Just like at a music concert though, the best seats in the CLA 35 are up front, with plenty of room for heads, shoulders and legs.
The cabin is also much more light-filled up front, making for a more pleasant experience.
The front seats are electronically adjustable, as is the steering column, but the headrests are fixed.
Storage options include sizeable door bins, a centre console cubby, glove box, two cupholders and a wireless smartphone charger.
Boot space is 460 litres, but can expand with the rear split-fold 40/20/40 rear seats stowed.
Though the boot looks small and shallow on the outside, the aperture is actually quite large, and can easily accommodate a large suitcase with plenty of room to spare.
Price and features
Honda has chosen to bring the Accord in surprisingly limited numbers – just 150 units a year to begin with – and so there is just one specification level.
It’s the highest it goes though, a VTi-LX. Honda tells us there’s no chance of lesser variants, even if consumers are asking for it, so don’t hold out for an entry-spec car.
The single variant is split into two engine options. A familiar 1.5-litre petrol turbo, and a new-generation 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine with hybrid drive.
Naturally, as a high-grade car, the price is quite high. Honda is asking $47,990 for the turbo and $50,490 for the hybrid.
This is more expensive than highly specified traditional opponents, like the segment-dominating Toyota Camry SL hybrid ($41,090) and Subaru Liberty 2.5i Premium ($37,940). You could also consider cross shopping it against something like Peugeot’s new 508 GT ($53,990) – but if you’re an Accord fan there’s a good chance none of those alternatives matter.
Standard spec is great. The Accord sports the best of Honda’s catalogue and then some. Standard are flashy 18-inch alloys that look big in the Accord’s wheel arches, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as marginally better software suite than the rest of Honda’s range (typically a sore point for Honda). Unlike pretty much every other Honda though, the Accord scores a 6.0-inch head-up display and one of its dual dials in the dash is digital, and configurable to several layouts including navigation.
You’ll also be getting a wireless phone charging bay, but no USB-C. At least it gets Apple CarPlay and Android auto from the get-go, unlike the current Camry which will need to have it retrofitted if you bought one prior to it being rolled out.
The Accord has an electronic parking brake, auto parking function and active cruise control to sweeten the deal, too. More on safety features later in this review.
Priced at $85,500 before on-road costs, the CLA 35 sits $15,300 upstream of the CLA 250 but is $25,700 cheaper than the $111,200 CLA 45.
Standard equipment includes leather interior, dual-zone climate control, electronically adjustable front seats with heating and memory function, keyless entry and push-button start, 64-colour ambient lighting, and a wireless smartphone charger.
AMG specific appointments include 19-inch wheels, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, sports exhaust, high-performance brakes with silver-painted calipers, blacked-out exterior highlights, sports suspension, a racy bodykit and speed-sensitive steering.
Instrumentation is displayed on a 10.25-inch screen, which can be customised and features AMG readouts.
The multimedia system, which includes satellite navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, is also outputted to a 10.25-inch screen, with inputs including touch, voice commands, centre touch pad or steering wheel controls.
Our test car also came with a ‘Mojave Silver Metallic’ paint finish and 'Vision Package', adding $1190 and $990 to the bottom line each.
The Vision Package adds LED headlights with adaptive high beams, a panoramic glass sunroof and surround-view monitor.
Though the CLA 35 features a long list of equipment, it is still a sizeable chunk of coin, costing more than the C300 sedan and Volvo S60 T8 PHEV, the latter boasting higher engine outputs.
Engine & trans
The Accord will only get two engine options – the first is a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which will be familiar from other Hondas where the same engine lives. Honda says it’s put a new head on for the Accord and tightened up the engine’s response. The result is the same 140kW power output, but an increase in torque to 260Nm. This engine is mated exclusively to a stepped-ratio continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The other option is a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder with hybrid drive. Combined system output is 158kW/315Nm, so it is the more powerful of the two choices.
It also has a different transmission which Honda refers to as the e-CVT – but it proved to behave quite differently as explained in the driving section of this review.
All Accords are front-wheel drive.
Powered by a 2.0-litre, turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, the CLA 35 punches out 225kW/400Nm.
Drive is sent through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions to the road via Mercedes’ '4Matic' all-wheel-drive system, enabling a 0-100km/h sprint in the 1603kg sedan in just 4.7 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.
Though I didn’t get a chance to test the latter, the former certainly feels accurate when taking off from a freeway on ramp, however, there is some hesitation from the turbo in getting on boost.
Peak power comes in at 5800rpm, while maximum torque is available from 3000-4000rpm.
The Accord has brave claimed/combined fuel usage figures of 6.5L/100km for the petrol-turbo and 4.3L/100km for the hybrid. If real-world tests can even come within a litre or two it will prove to be fantastic for the segment – but you’ll have to wait until we get one for a week-long road test for a fair real-world figure.
Honda says its engines are tuned to run on 91RON unleaded petrol, and the Accord has a 56-litre fuel tank in the turbo or 48.5L in the hybrid.
Officially, the CLA 35 sips 7.5 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but we managed a 9.9L/100km figure in our week with the car.
The majority of our driving was done in inner-city environments, with the two trips down the freeway to seek out twisty country rounds.
Minimum fuel grade in the CLA 35 is 98 RON.
The Accord doesn’t quite drive like you might expect. It betrays its luxurious look and plush interior with a firm ride.
Honda says this is because it has imbued the “spirit of Accord Euro” into the development process for this new Accord – suggesting that it can appeal as much to fans of the sporty Accords of days past as much as it does for its Japanese luxury car fans.
I think they’ve gone overboard, though. The chassis and dampers are stiff. Too stiff. This car feels abrupt and crashy over larger bumps, and unsettled over smaller ones.
The flip side of that, of course, is that it is a blast to throw into corners. With the wheels way out to the edges of the chassis (the Accord is wider than ever) it simply refused to understeer, giving it handling prowess that eludes most front-drive sedans this size.
In some ways its like driving a giant Civic, and for those who enjoy driving, that will be a very good thing.
Both engine options don’t quite keep up with the abilities of the chassis. While the 1.5-litre petrol punches above its weight when it comes to power, it’s just not an athletic performer, especially when you’re demanding straight-line acceleration.
Its weak link is largely the transmission which tries to emulate a torque converter by stepping its way through 'ratios'. It has some typically negative characteristics of limiting the feedback, and changing the ratio at seemingly random times.
The hybrid is better, both on power and in terms of its transmission, which locks up when needed. It’s still no true performer though.
Neither option seems to be capable of spinning the front wheels, either through lack of power or design, so if nothing else, it’s predictable and feels safe.
Handling proved to be good, with Honda’s direct and fast steering being on-point, and the signature chunky leather-bound wheel offering a satisfying way to interact with the car. The steering does have a slight artificial tinge to it, especially with the seemingly computer-weighted ‘Sport’ mode, but Honda has also reduced the turns lock-to-lock, making it fast to park in city scenarios.
I was surprised to find that road noise in both variants wasn’t great. It’s better than in the Civic, but Honda claims it has gone to lengths to deaden it, so I had hoped it would be quieter inside. The engine noise is better – relegated to a distant hum unless you’re really wringing it.
Overall, it’s a good – if a little firm – driving experience. It just doesn’t quite live up to the luxury promise set out.
The CLA 35 might not offer the outright thrills or breadth of capability of the CLA 45, but don’t think the cut-price AMG offers up a cut-rate driving experience.
From the driver’s seat, one of the cool things about the CLA 35 is that it doesn’t actually look any different from its more expensive sibling.
The drive-mode selector that is now embedded on the steering wheel is fantastic, a feature first seen on the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door, and makes changing the driving dynamics on the fly an absolute breeze.
In fact, we think all cars where you can select drive modes should have a selector on the steering wheel like this, which lets you quickly and easily dial it up or down while keeping your hands on the wheel.
'Comfort', 'Sport', 'Sport+' and 'Individual' modes are available, while the transmission can also be put into manual mode independently for those that prefer to use the flappy paddles.
Suspension settings can also be tweaked regardless of which drive mode you are in, and it’s this level of customisability that we appreciate.
You want loud exhaust pops and the engine in full attack with manual shifting and the softest suspension? Sure, that’s doable here in the CLA 35. And toning it down to its most comfortable settings is just a flick of the wrist away.
The steering feels a little numb on centre and at slower speeds, though feedback picks right up with speed and is communicative enough when the road starts to get twisty.
Fitted with wide and sticky Michelin rubber, as well as the aforementioned all-wheel drive system, the CLA 35 is certainly not lacking in grip.
The suspension does an okay job of absorbing bumps, but uneven surfaces, like Melbourne’s tram tracks, can send uncomfortable jolts into the cabin if travelling quickly.
In fact, we think the ride comfort of the CLA 35 is probably its weakest aspect, offering not enough variability in its Comfort and Sport settings, and instead settling somewhere in between, regardless of drive mode.
The CLA 35 is ultimately still a fun and engaging sports sedan, though there are some sacrifices made to get it there.
The Accord impresses with a fairly comprehensive standard safety suite, helped along by the fact that the brand only needs to bring one variant to market.
On the active safety front, it gets auto emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian detection), lane departure warning with lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, driver attention alert, and Honda’s strange Lane Watch camera suite in place of blind-spot monitoring.
It also gets an expanded suite of cameras with a wide angle top-view to assist with parking.
On the expected front, the Accord gets the standard suite of stability, brake, and traction controls as well as front and side curtain airbags which have ‘safety vents’ to prevent airbag injury and ‘roll-over sensors’ which can keep the airbags deployed for longer in the case of a prolonged rollover scenario.
The Accord has not yet been rated by ANCAP.
The CLA 35 has not been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but the standard CLA range was awarded a five-star rating in September 2019.
Standard safety equipment in the CLA 35 includes autonomous emergency braking, automatic high beams, nine airbags, drive attention alert, blind-spot monitoring with exit warning, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and tyre pressure monitoring.
The standard CLA also comes with these features, and was awarded 96 and 92 per cent respectively in ANCAP adult occupant and child occupant protection tests.
For the vulnerable road user and safety assist examinations, the standard CLA scored 91 and 76 per cent respectively.
ANCAP says the AEB system works from seven-200km/h.
Of note, adaptive cruise control is not standard in the CLA 35 like it is in the CLA 45. Instead, buyers will have to tick the 'Driving Assistance Package' box for the feature, which also comes bundled with cross-traffic alert and lane change assist.
Honda covers the new Accord with its five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty promise – which is competitive against both the Camry and the Liberty as well as other mainstream brands.
The Accord requires servicing once every 12 months or 10,000km whichever occurs first or when the engine computer tells you.
While you might be at the mercy of the computer, services are capped all the way out to 10 years/100,000km at just $312 a visit. That’s mega cheap.
There are a few things not covered under the “base service price” but they shouldn’t throw up too many red flags. The most expensive is the ‘HCF – 2 fluid’ every three years at a cost of $172, or the spark plugs every 100,000km at a cost of $289.
As with all new Mercedes-Benz models, the CLA 35 comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is one of the best assurance periods offered by a premium carmaker.
It also comes with five years of roadside assist.
Scheduled service intervals are every 25,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
A three-year service plan is available for $2150 for new CLA 35 buyers, saving $500 when priced individually.
Four- and five-year plans are also available, and are priced at $4200 and $4950 respectively.