New & Used Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class: In Depth
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLAEnlarge Photo
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The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class slots below the GLK utility vehicle in the Mercedes lineup—and with the BMW X1, Buick Encore, and Audi Q3 in its sights— has the parking footprint of a subcompact car, at just 174 inches long. The GLA trades the CLA's sexy sedan body for a hatchback/wagon shape that provides its own interpretation of a contemporary crossover vehicle.
The GLA-Class is based, like the CLA-Class, on the A-Class hatch that's not available in the U.S. If you need all-wheel drive and you’re a fan of the upright, classy styling and luxuriousness of Mercedes' SUVs—such as the GL-Class, GLE-Class, and G-Class—but prefer something smaller and more agile than the GLK, the GLA is for you.
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 rear-vision camera has a 180-degree field of view. Otherwise, status quo.
MORE: Read our 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class preview
Rather than simply scaling down the proportions of its larger utility vehicles, Mercedes-Benz wisely chose new ones, resulting in an exterior profile that looks part tall wagon, part sporty hatchback, part rugged crossover. Dramatically sculpted side sheetmetal 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 arrives 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 lb-ft of torque. With the help of a seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox, the GLA 250 will be 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 4Matic (permanent all-wheel drive) form, 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 355-horsepower version of the turbocharged 2.0-liter that is found in the CLA 45 AMG, and like that car it comes with standard all-wheel drive. 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 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class offers seating for five, although the back seat is relatively tight, even within its class; cargo space is ample, however, with 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 mbrace2 telematics system in the GLA-Class, as well as the brand's COMAND interface. Safety technology is plentiful, including Attention Assist drowsy-driver detection, Blind Spot and Lane Keeping Assist, and a new Collision Prevention Assist Plus 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.