The Car Connection Mercedes-Benz GLA Class Overview
The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class subcompact crossover SUV is the smallest and most affordable Mercedes-Benz SUV. Redesigned for 2021, the small crossover grew in size to better accommodate rear-seat passengers and stow more gear.
With the GLA-Class, Mercedes filled out its lineup below the GLB-Class that was added for 2020. Competitors include a small but robust segment of small luxury crossovers such as the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40, and many others.
First launched for 2015, the 2021 redesign comes with a more potent and efficient turbo-4, more standard features, updated technology, and plenty of space in the back for the first time since ever.
MORE: Read our 2022 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class review
The new Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
More than an inch wider, 3.6 inches taller, and with a longer wheelbase that pushes the 18-inch wheels to the corners, the 2021 GLA250 grows up as an SUV with aspirations to flight. The tri-star stamped on the grille sports wings that spread out over the mesh grille, and the roofline tucks handsomely into an integrated rear roof spoiler. Classic Mercedes-Benz' turbine vents fill the dash, and synthetic leather surfaces contrast metallic tones.
An uprated 221-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 shoots to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds in all-wheel drive. Front-wheel drive is standard, as is an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that helps the GLA improve by 1 mpg combined to 28 mpg with front-wheel drive. MacPherson struts up front and an independent rear suspension combine for a ride that isn't as harsh as the outgoing model, even on available 20-inch wheels. The taller ride height and higher center of gravity due to the raised ground clearance lead to more lean in corners, however. The performance arm of Mercedes returns with two options, a 302-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the GLA35, or the same engine tuned to 382 hp in the GLA45.
Overall space increases but the 4.5 inches more leg room in back comes at the expense of an inch up front. Those rear seats can slide forward and back, as well as recline or fold flat for more cargo volume at 15.4 cubic feet. That's barely good enough for a trunk in a mid-size sedan, but for the subcompact crossover class it's average.
Standard features include a side-by-side pair of 7.0-inch screens, so the eye can travel seamlessly from the instrument cluster to the touchscreen. It has all the features you'd expect, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, synthetic leather power front seats, and automatic emergency braking. But the extensive and expensive options list enable you to indulge in the luxury promise. The screens can be upgraded to 10.3 inches, safety features including adaptive cruise control can be bundled in the Driver Assistance package, and 64-way ambient lighting can illuminate a night on the town.
The GLA has not been crash tested yet.
Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class history
The GLA arrived in the U.S. for the 2015 model year as the GLA250, with a 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 208 hp 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 GLA250 debuted in all-wheel drive form—dubbed 4Matic—but a front-wheel-drive GLA250 is also available.
AMG offers its own version of the little crossover, the GLA45. It uses the same turbocharged 2.0-liter that is found in the CLA45 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 GLA45 and CLA45 holds the title of highest specific output from any production engine at 187.5 hp per liter.) AMG's GLA45 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.
A bigger 8.0-inch screen replaced the 5.8-inch screen on the dash for the 2017 model year.
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.
For 2020, Mercedes dropped the AMG GLA45.