Hyundai Genesis VS Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class
- Spec list
- No V8 option
- No diesel option
- Quick pace
- Engaging dynamics
- Premium interior
- Harsh ride
- Limited rear-seat room
- Divisive styling
Anybody who doubts that Hyundai is gunning for the number one in the world has rocks in their head. Big heavy ones. Korean companies do not settle for anything less than number one. The second-generation Genesis (our first taste here in the Antipodes as the gen-one had its steering wheel on the wrong side) is proof.
What's different about Hyundai's unstoppable rise is the way they're going about it. They've always done their own thing in Korea, reinventing themselves time and again when they strayed off the beaten path.
The Genesis is a gamble for a Korean company in foreign markets whose default setting for luxury is marked, Britain or Germany. If Hyundai gets the Genesis wrong there will be howls of derision, or at best patronising pats on the back - "Nice try, you'll get there one day". But if they get it right...
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
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|
The Genesis is not quite a match for cars twice its price but it makes you think what's possible. It doesn't have the dynamic brilliance of a BMW or the self-assured faultless execution of a Mercedes. Lexus ought to be worried, though - why would you have an LS when you could have this? The only answer is 'badge'.
The Genesis is an epoch-making car for the Korean manufacturer. As the company has got better, there are fewer excuses for overlooking it. While the Genesis is pitched into a shrinking market, it's not really meant for the average i30 buyer to buy, but to see.
It's bristling with tech and is not only a halo car but a shot across the bows of both Lexus and the Germans. Attached to that shot is a note: "We're coming for you." In other words, Hyundai got it right.
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 Genesis is like no other Hyundai. For a start, it's gigantic - it looks easily as big as a BMW 7 Series (it isn't) with the road presence to match. There's a lot of BMW from most directions, but with a sharper approach to the creasing and character of the sheet metal.
Towards the rear it's more BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe and is all the better for it. The style is understated and technocratic.
The big wheels from the Ultimate pack help make it look lower and sleeker, too.
Inside is also very Germanic, but with a bit more of a Lexus feel. Our car had the lighter leather which meant that the wood and the metal materials didn't necessarily work well together.
The interior is expertly put together and feels like it will last forever.
On Australian-delivered cars there is just one Hyundai badge, sitting proudly on the boot - you get the feeling this was debated long and hard and when the decision was made to go for it, a big one was chosen.
However, the winged Genesis branding takes pride of place everywhere else. When you approach the car at night and the puddle lamps come on, the Genesis logo is projected on to the ground, crisp and clear.
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.
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
The only way to describe the Genesis' pricing is aggressive - kicking off at $60,000, it's the most expensive Hyundai money can buy, but with a spec list like this, you won't feel at all short-changed.
Your sixty large buys you a huge cabin with a seventeen speaker stereo, auto headlights and wipers, LED ambient lighting inside and out, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, powered front seats which are heated and cooled, satnav, front and rear parking sensors, and plenty of other bits and pieces.
Our car had the $22,000 Ultimate package, adding 19-inch alloys, blind spot sensor, front and side cameras, around-view display, real leather, more adjustments for the driver's seat, ventilated seats in the front, heated rear seats, panoramic glass sunroof, acoustic glass, heads-up display, powered bootlid and LED foglamps.
You can have a lot of the more useful features in the $11,000 Sensory Pack. It's a good middle ground that, for example, features the excellent heads-up display.
The 9.2-inch screen splits the asymmetric air-conditioning vents. The software is unique to the Genesis and a huge leap forward over the rest of the Hyundai range - classy, smooth graphics, a good responsive screen.
You control the seventeen speaker stereo from here, which kicks out a rich sound and an impressive Bluetooth performance - rear seat passengers can also run the stereo from their armrest. The satnav is detailed and chatty, while the excellent heads-up display shows a configurable information set in strong, clear graphics.
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 Genesis is powered by Hyundai's own 3.8-litre V6 developing 232kW and 397Nm, mated to Hyundai's eight-speed automatic transmission.
Despite weighing just under two tonnes, the Genesis completes the dash to 100km/h in 6.5 seconds.
It has a claimed 11.2L/100km on the combined cycle. In what must be a first, we got below that, averaging 10.8L/100km over two weeks. And that's without stop-start fuel-saving to blunt the effect of lot of city driving.
We'd still like to try the V8 - only available in left-hand drive markets - though.
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.
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.
At five metres long, with a ride firmly pitched in the luxury camp, the Genesis is not going to tempt you into a track day, even with rear wheel drive.
Sitting in the back of the Genesis, it's easily as good as the German and luxury Japanese competition. The seats are hugely comfortable, there's ample head, leg and shoulder room and it feels lot nicer than anything within a bull's roar of its price.
No matter where you sit, it's an incredibly quiet car. The engine is a distant whoosh, the tyre noise muted and there's almost no wind or ambient noise. It's supremely comfortable and the excellent stereo will wash away what little noise does invade.
It certainly feels its weight from the driver's seat, with a competent, soft turn-in, but if you're wanting sudden movements, this isn't the car for you.
On fast flowing roads you can have some fun, but things will get floaty and that will quickly kill that fun. The ride and isolation from the rest of the world is completely worth it.
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.
Nine airbags, traction and stability control, lane departure warning, forward collision control, ABS, brake force assist and distribution and traction and stability control bring the ANCAP count to five stars.
The Sensory and Ultimate packs add blind spot sensors and around view cameras.
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.
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.