The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class compact sedan isn't much like the other cars that wear the three-pointed star badge.

In contrast to most Mercedes models sold in the U.S., the CLA is small, based on a front-wheel drive platform, and powered exclusively by four-cylinder engines.

Customers seem to like those differences--or the idea of a theoretically affordable Mercedes-Benz--because demand for the CLA is strong all over the world.

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Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Mercedes parent company Daimler, told industry trade journal Automotive News (subscription required) that the German automaker could sell twice as many cars as it does right now--if it were able to.

The biggest constraint on CLA sales so far has been production capacity, so Mercedes will allocate more volume to the compact sedan, and send more of those cars to the U.S.

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250, test drive in Oregon, July 2014

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250, test drive in Oregon, July 2014

On sale since last year, the CLA saw its U.S. sales peak in October 2013 at 4,895 units.

Sales dipped to 1,214 units in May due to supply constraints, convincing Mercedes to add a third shift at the Kecskement, Hungary, plant that builds the CLA.

Two versions of the CLA-Class are currently available.

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The CLA 250 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, that produces 208 horsepower and is EPA-rated at 30 mpg combined (26 mpg city, 38 mpg highway) with front-wheel drive.

That falls to 27 mpg combined (24 mpg city, 32 mpg highway) when fitted with optional all-wheel drive.

There's also a performance-oriented CLA45 AMG, with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 355 hp, making it the most powerful four-cylinder currently in mass production.

With an EPA rating of 26 mpg combined (23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway), the all-wheel-drive CLA45 sacrifices relatively little efficiency (on paper, at least) for its performance gains.

Mercedes also recently launched the mechanically-similar GLA-Class crossover in the U.S.


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