The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class lands in one of the areas of ‘rapid expansion’ for the vehicle market. It's a relatively small yet luxurious crossover wagon that doesn’t profess to any level of rock crawling but offers at least a little bit more utility and versatility—and, of course, a higher seating position.
Shoppers are going to be attracted to the GLA lineup for many different ways. It’s lean and smart-looking; it performs well and economically; the interior wows with details, trims, and finishes; and it offers just about all the options you might want. And that’s even before considering the image-boost of the Mercedes three-pointed star. It all adds up to quite the value—and a Best Car To Buy nominee for 2015.
From the outside, the GLA can impress either as a five-door hatchback version of the CLA, or as a mashup between CLA and the GLK, which is more of a utility vehicle. Our editors are split on whether the GLA is more successful from a design and styling standpoint than the CLA, but that doesn’t stop us from pronouncing it a success, and we do note that the car carries a lot more presence than you might expect for its size. Inside, it’s familiar territory if you’ve been in a CLA, and in the right color and trim combinations it’s enough to quite stunning compared to other vehicles that match (or come close to matching) the GLA 250’s $31,300 price tag.
With its 208-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and seven-speed direct-shift gearbox, and a choice (soon) between front- and all-wheel drive, the GLA250 offers a great compromise between perky performance and relaxed cruising. The GLA250 handles essentially like a car, and it holds the road well, with really balanced cornering, but it’s taller than its CLA sibling. Although the GLA45 AMG promises to be a fun one, with its 355-hp engine and far sportier tuning, it’s really a different car completely, with a ride height that’s a full three inches lower—and one we haven’t driven yet.
We have a few reservations about how space is divvied up inside. Just as in the CLA, back-seat space clearly takes second fiddle to the fashionable, airy feel that Mercedes-Benz appears to have been so determined to instill on those in front. Legroom is very limited, and the GLA is one of the more confining compact crossovers—especially compared to its GLK big brother, which is just five inches longer.
Our reaction to the GLA, unsurprisingly, is thus far following our initial take on the CLA sedan—so it's worth checking in on how we felt about the CLA beyond first looks. As we summed last year, after 30 days with a CLA 250, we found that entry model to be a little lacking in the powertrain smoothness we’ve come to expect from Mercedes-Benz; and we saw its infotainment system as frustrating at times and unnecessarily complex. But in all, having a $36k car that was repeatedly complemented and guessed to cost $60k is quite the achievement.
And the latter observation touches on an what's perhaps the important point about value: Image is a big part of luxury-vehicle ownership. Yes, you can load a CLA 250 up past the $50k level if you’re not careful, but a carefully spec’ed CLA weighs in at quite the value—more image-conscious value than you might venture to find for the dollar.This year there are 11 nominees ranging from family sedans, crossovers, a pickup truck, and even ... in The Car Connection Polls on LockerDome