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, with 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 in the U.S.
With the GLA-Class, Mercedes trades the CLA's sexy sedan body for a hatchback/wagon shape, creating a 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 2016, its second year on the market, Mercedes has tweaked a handful of options but otherwise carried the car over substantially unchanged. Its infotainment system now has a 7-inch color touchscreen, up from the 5.8-inch unit used in 2015, and the optional rearview camera has a 180-degree field of view. The raucous GLA45 AMG gets a power boost, too.
MORE: Read our 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class review
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 tall wagon, part sporty hatchback, part rugged crossover. Dramatically sculpted side sheet metal gives the look some punch; so do the rakish nose, upright front end, and wide-set tail lamps. Meanwhile some rugged details in the lower body, like a prominent front skid-plate area and sill extensions help signal that this vehicle is tough and dynamic.
The GLA arrived in the U.S. for the 2015 model year as the GLA 250, with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. With the help of a seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox, the GLA 250 is able to sprint to 60 mph in just 6.4 seconds, and up to a speed of 145 mph. Steering uses an electromechanical system, while the suspension has a multi-link setup in back and MacPherson struts in front. 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. This year, power climbs from 355 hp to 375 hp. 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. (Fun trivia: 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.)
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. A tablet-like screen 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.
You'll find the latest Mercedes telematics system in the GLA-Class, as well as the automaker's infotainment interface. Safety technology is plentiful, including drowsy-driver detection, blind-spot monitoring and lane keep assist, and a new 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.
While Mercedes is renaming most of its crossover and SUV lineup to better align with its sedan offerings, the GLA escapes this fate as it is already named for the A-Class models to which it's related. The rest of the crossovers will 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 will keep its one-letter prefix, however.