The Car Connection Mercedes-Benz GLA Class Overview
The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a compact hatchback that blends in some elements of crossovers and SUVs, including more ride height and available all-wheel drive. A relative of the CLA-Class, the GLA-Class is also based on the A-Class hatch that's not available to buyers in the U.S.
With the GLA-Class, Mercedes trades the CLA's sexy sedan body for a hatchback/wagon shape, creating a pint-size rival for vehicles such as the BMW X1, Buick Encore, and Audi Q3.
When all-wheel drive is in order—and a tall, classy Mercedes-Benz fits the bill—the GLA occupies a niche within the automaker's SUV line without being as big as the GL-Class, GLE-Class, or G-Class. The GLA is smaller and more agile, but still has seating for five and has the footprint of a subcompact car, with an overall length of just 174 inches.
For 2018, it's fourth model year, the GLA gets cosmetic changes inside and out, a new surround-view camera system, a hands-free tailgate, and a special edition package for the GLA45 AMG.
MORE: Read our 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class review
While Mercedes has renaming most of its crossover and SUV lineup to better align with its sedan offerings, the GLA escaped this fate as it was already named for the A-Class models to which it's related. The rest of the crossovers now have a name beginning with GL and ending in the letter of the closest size sedan, creating the GLC, GLE, and GLS in place of GLK, ML, and GL. The G-Class keeps its one-letter prefix, however.
Rather than simply scale down the proportions of its larger utility vehicles, Mercedes-Benz wisely chose new ones, which resulted in an exterior profile that looks part sporty hatchback, part rugged crossover, part tall wagon. Dramatically sculpted side sheet metal gives the look some punch; so do the rakish nose, upright front end, and wide-set taillights, which are now LEDs. Meanwhile some rugged details in the lower body, like a prominent front skid-plate area and sill extensions help signal that this vehicle has some toughness to go with its sportiness.
The GLA arrived in the U.S. for the 2015 model year as the GLA 250, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. With the help of a 7-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox, the GLA 250 is able to sprint to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds, and up to a speed of 130 mph. The suspension has a multi-link setup in back and MacPherson struts in front, and the steering is electromechanical. The GLA 250 made its debut in all-wheel drive form—dubbed 4Matic—but a front-wheel-drive GLA 250 is also available.
AMG offers its own version of the little crossover, the GLA 45. It uses the same turbocharged 2.0-liter that is found in the CLA 45 AMG, and comes with standard all-wheel drive. In 2016, the power climbed from 355 hp to 375 hp. (Fun fact: The busy little mill inside the GLA 45 and CLA 45 holds the title of highest specific output from any production engine at 187.5 hp per liter.) AMG's GLA 45 carries upgraded suspension, brakes, wheels, and tires, along with its own styling elements to differentiate it from the standard-issue crossover.
Inside, the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class offers seating for five, although the back seat is relatively tight, even within its class. Cargo space in the GLA is ample, however, it has a low, flat floor. In front, the GLA follows some of the design direction of recent Mercedes-Benz models, with a shelf-like instrument panel, complemented by round details and dramatic circular vents, as well as plenty of brightwork. Upper and lower dash areas have different materials, with some of the best, eye-catching wood and semi-metallic trims saved for the upper area.
You'll find the latest Mercedes telematics system in the GLA-Class, as well as the automaker's infotainment interface. It uses a tablet-like screen that hovers above the instrument panel in a way that doesn't disrupt the design, but should be right in the driver's line of sight.
Safety technology is plentiful, including drowsy-driver detection, blind-spot monitoring and lane keep assist, a new 360 degree camera, and a crash prevention system that can brake the vehicle autonomously at up to 124 mph to reduce crash severity. The GLA has not yet been put through safety evaluations by the NHTSA or the IIHS.
For the 2017 model year, Mercedes changed the dashboard center screen from 5.8 to 8.0 inches.
The changes for 2018 amount to a mid-cycle refresh. The exterior changes affect not only the looks but also the aerodynamics, and optional bi-xenon headlights are replaced by LED headlights. LED taillights are added, too. Notable new features include a hands-free tailgate that can be opened with the swing of a foot and the surround-view camera system. The GLA45 adds a new AMG Performance Studio package, which is known as the Yellow Night Edition in other markets. It features black and gray paint, with yellow trim inside and out.