Driven: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Review
  • Car Review

Driven: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Review

By Chris Teague | July 27, 2021

Pros:

  • Smooth styling
  • Lively powertrains
  • Upscale interiors

Cons:

  • Gets expensive
  • Many features cost more
  • Infotainment is not the easiest to use

Vehicle Type: The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a subcompact premium SUV with seating for up to five people.

Price Range: The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class ranges in price from $37,280 to $55,550, including destination, but before options or taxes.

Powertrain: The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is offered with three powertrain choices, depending on the model.

The GLA 250 and GLA 250 4MATIC come with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

It is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front or all-wheel-drive.

The AMG GLA 35 4MATIC also gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, but here it produces 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque and is good for a 0-60 mph time of 5.1 seconds.

The AMG GLA 45 comes with a 382-hp turbo-four that also has 354 lb-ft of torque.

It’s good for acceleration from 0-60 mph of 4.3 seconds.

Both AMG models also get an eight-speed automatic gearbox.


More Photos:

See more 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Photos.


Overview:

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The GLA is Mercedes-Benz’s entry-level crossover, though many will consider it more of a slightly lifted hatchback than anything resembling a utility vehicle. Still, the GLA is a refined, fun-to-drive vehicle with upscale styling. The 2021 model year brings a complete redesign for the vehicle, with higher quality materials inside and more upscale styling outside than the outgoing model.

Mercedes offers the 2021 GLA in both standard and AMG-tuned formats. Standard models include the GLA 250 and GLA 250 4MATIC, while the AMG-tuned models come in GLA 35 and GLA 45 formats, both of which feature an AMG-enhanced four-cylinder engine. The GLA is aimed at new car buyers that want a small upscale crossover with decent space. It competes with the Volvo XC40, BMW X1, BMW X2, Lexus UX, and Audi Q3. It slots into the Mercedes lineup beneath the GLB 250 SUV.

When equipped with either AMG-tuned four-cylinder engine, the GLA becomes a true pocket-rocket, and offers surprising acceleration. Both models get standard AMG-massaged all-wheel-drive systems that let the driver dial in just the right amount of understeer to have fun while keeping the car safely on the road. Both models also feature the most aggressive and attractive styling.


Overall Score: 7.4/10

Safety Features: 8/10

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Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has had a chance to test the brand-new GLA at this time.

Standard safety equipment includes active brake assist, a driver attention assist system, LED daytime running lights, LED headlights, LED fog lights, blind-spot monitoring, a rearview camera, crosswind assist, rain-sensing wipers, and an anti-theft alarm system.

Available features include active LED headlights, adaptive high beam assist, a parking distance control system, active steering assist, evasive steering assist, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alerts, active lane change assist, a surround-view camera system, and more.


Value: 6/10

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The GLA’s base price lands well below $40,000, but the best and most desirable features are held back in added-cost options that can drive the vehicle’s price tag skyward in a hurry. Relatively mundane features such as navigation are bundled into expensive packages that add thousands to the bottom line.

Mercedes does include a few niceties with the GLA’s base price, such as dual-zone automatic climate controls, remote start via the Mercedes App, and more.

For the money, the AMG-tuned versions of the GLA present a better value, as they are surprisingly powerful and capable.


Tech Features: 7/10

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The GLA comes standard with a seven-inch digital gauge cluster, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, four USB-C ports, Bluetooth, HD radio, and voice controls. The latest MBUX infotainment software is more intuitive and easy to use than in years past.

Optional features include a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster, a 10.25-inch touchscreen, navigation, a Burmester sound system, Wi-Fi, augmented video for navigation, a head-up display, sport mode, SiriusXM radio with a six-month trial, and wireless device charging.

To the uninitiated, Mercedes’ habit of charging extra for almost everything can be a surprise, but it is common across the automaker’s model line. This is especially true in the tech department, where the basics are fine, but most will want to at least upgrade the touchscreen and audio system for a better experience with the MBUX infotainment system.


Practicality: 8/10

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Mercedes addressed one of buyers’ and critics’ biggest complaints with the GLA with the 2021 overhaul. Prior model year vehicles came with a small-ish interior that felt cramped and restrictive, but the new design feels more open and airier. The back seat picked up several inches of legroom and the seat is now more comfortable for adults in general. The vehicle also manages plenty of headroom in both rows.

The GLA’s rear seat folds down to open up space for larger cargo, but the vehicle lacks small-item storage in general. The center console is small and the door pockets are too narrow to fit anything larger than a small clutch or box of tissues.

Under its rear hatch, the GLA manages up to 50.5 cubic feet of cargo space, which should be plenty for a small family’s road trip. The vehicle’s sloping roof shape does cut off some of the ability to carry taller items, but most will find the area to be spacious enough.


Styling & Design: 9/10

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The GLA is curvy, sleek, and looks to be far more expensive than it actually is. The 2021 redesign moved it closer to a crossover in styling, but the vehicle remains more hatchback-like than anything else, which is appropriate for its size. The grille is still a traditional shape for a Mercedes vehicle.

The GLA’s interior is well crafted and feels solid. Without the optional screens, the dash feels somewhat barren and could use more “stuff” to fill the gaps. With the optional screens, the cockpit feels super high-tech, and the displays’ high position on the dash makes them easy to use and view while the vehicle is in motion. Aviation-inspired air vents are a nice touch and the optional ambient lighting makes the cabin feel like a nightclub at times.

AMG-tuned GLA models feature a racy interior with Alcantara and other premium-feel materials, which are appropriate for the added cost.

Mercedes jams many key functions and controls onto the steering wheel, which can be overwhelming at first. Over time, however, they become second nature and offer an easy way to interact with the vehicle without a huge distraction.


Driving Experience: 8/10

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The GLA 250’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 221 horsepower, which is an improvement of 13 ponies from the prior model year. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive by default, but all-wheel drive can be optioned in. The larger GLA is now a bit slower than its predecessor, but the vehicle still feels lively and ready to go at a moment’s notice. The vehicle's short wheelbase gives it a spritely feel and makes it a responsive handler.

AMG-tuned GLA models, especially the GLA 45, truly feel rowdy. Their compact size and powerful engines, paired with all-wheel drive make them pocket rockets, and while their rides are stiff, handling is spot-on in tight corners and on curvy roads. Though it's classified as an SUV and offers AWD, the GLA is not practical for use off-road.

The GLA’s eight-speed automatic transmission is responsive and quick-shifting, and even performs well when shifted manually. Of course, this is more true in AMG models, but even the base GLA 250 offers responsive shifts and an engaging drive.


Fuel Efficiency: 6/10

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The base GLA 250 with front-wheel drive returns 25/34/28 mpg city/hwy/combined. All-wheel drive changes those numbers, just slightly, to 25/34/28 mpg. These aren’t terrible fuel economy numbers, but they are much closer to larger SUVs than they are to frugal hatchbacks.

The AMG GLA 35 4MATIC is rated at 23/29/25 mpg city/hwy/combined.

The AMG GLA 45 4MATIC returns EPA-estimated fuel economy numbers of 20/27/23 mpg city/hwy/combined


What’s it Going to Cost Me?

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The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 has a starting MSRP of $37,280, which includes a $1,050 destination charge. It comes standard with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, front-wheel drive, start/stop tech, blind-spot monitoring, driver attention assist, LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, Led fog lights, crosswind assist, a rearview camera, seven airbags, brake assist, adaptive braking tech, rain-sensing wipers, an anti-theft alarm, power front seats, dual-zone climate controls, remote start via the Mercedes app, MB-Tex synthetic leather upholstery, a touchpad controller, keyless entry and push-button start, heated side mirrors, cruise control, an outside temperature display, voice controls, a seven-inch digital gauge cluster, a seven-inch touchscreen, four USB-C ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, and HD radio.

Stepping up to the GLA 250 4MATIC bumps pricing by $2,000.

The AMG GLA 35 has a starting price of $48,600 and comes with an AMG-enhanced 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, an AMG eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, AMG 4MATIC AWD, a panoramic sunroof, 19-inch AMG wheels, AMG floor mats, aluminum roof rails, sport seats, a power liftgate, and dual 10.25-inch digital displays.

The $55,550 AMG GLA 45 gets a 382-horsepower AMG-tuned four-cylinder engine, race mode, and 64-color ambient LED lighting.

Mercedes offers several upgrades for the GLA, including a Premium Package, a Driver Assistance Package, all-weather equipment, and more.

If we were shopping for a 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA today, our money would be on the range-topping AMG GLA 45. Looking at the GLA 250 models and the amount of money it takes to equip them with most of the desirably available features, the price tag climbs to an amount that almost does not seem worth it. Either AMG model, but especially the 45, will offer a sincerely powerful engine, sport-tuned all-wheel-drive for great traction, incredible and aggressive sporty styling, and an interior that lives up to the price point.


More Photos:

See more 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Photos.