2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC Review

Goodbye wagon, hello crossover


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Zippy performance and handling, comfortable and upscale interior, attractive infotainment system.
Negatives: Slower than the last GLA 250, infotainment is overly complex to operate, seriously pricey when optioned out.
Bottom Line: The GLA 250 is a fun little crossover that's more practical and more entertaining than it looks. Really its only issue is the interior technology, not to mention the shocking price climb with options.
The GLA has changed tremendously from the first-generation vehicle that looked more like a hatchback than a crossover. The second-gen arrived in 2019, and it's certainly more focused on the American market with its crossover styling and taller ride height. The GLA 250 is priced to compete with the likes of the BMW X2 and the Audi Q3, and it's powered by a turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine that delivers a decent 221 horsepower. Upgrade to the GLA 350 AMG, and you get a whopping 375 horses. We drove the GLA 250 4MATIC (all-wheel drive) for a week. Read our detailed review below.
 

Driving Experience

8

 

Although it's not as entertaining as its AMG brother, the GLA 150 is fun to toss around and manages to provide sporty driving dynamics in a compact luxury crossover.

Ride Quality: The ride quality is on the firm side, but the GLA 250 still manages pavement gaps and imperfections well.

Acceleration: Acceleration is spritely, hitting 60 mph from a dead stop in a little more than six seconds. Throttle response is good, and there's not much turbo lag.

Braking: The GLA 250's brakes work well, providing progressive pedal feel and good stopping distances. We didn't notice any mushiness or dead spots in pedal travel.

Steering: The steering is precise and actually provides a modicum of feedback.

Handling: The GLA 250's handling is one of its best aspects. Body roll is controlled, and the car feels balanced.

Technology

7

 

The GLA 250's infotainment system looks fancy and sophisticated, just like it does in the rest of the Merc lineup. The problem is its complex operation that requires a lot of swipes and redundant physical and on-screen controls. It's just not that easy to use, and that's not a good then when you're driving.

Infotainment System: The screen is beautiful and truly high-resolution, but navigating menus is too cumbersome and requires entire swipes from left to right, versus a one-screen menu. While it looks fantastic, it's just not practical.

Controls: Infotainment controls include on-screen, steering wheel buttons, and a touchpad. They all work fine, but there's too much redundancy, making things confusing. The physical HVAC controls are, at least, very good and pretty straightforward. We hate the steering column-mounted shifter that always confuses us. We keep shifting into neutral when we think it's the wiper stalk.

Styling

7.6

 

Although we didn't think the last GLA was a great car, we at least loved its wagon/hatchback look. While the 2nd-gen GLA has clean lines and a more conventional shape, it's a tad boring to us in a sea of similar compact crossovers. The right elements are there: nice wheels, black trim bits, good proportions, but the sum of its parts are less than the individual styling elements.

Front: The big Merc grille has a dotted mesh pattern and two bisecting perforated bars. It's a little bit busy for our liking. The lower fascia looks like it's mad.

Rear: We're fans of the tail section with the tapering taillights, the ovular tailpipes, and the simple crease that decreases the visual height.

Profile: We love the absence of chrome, the black wheels, and the simple body crease. The short overhangs also give it muscular proportions.

Cabin: It's a much more refined interior than its predecessors. The materials quality is excellent, and the round HVAC vents look truly upscale. Sporty pedals, metal finishing on the steering wheel spokes, and the blue hue of the gauge cluster and the infotainment system look great together.

Comfort

8.3

 

It's surprising how much occupant space is in this little crossover. Its exterior dimensions don't capture the solid levels of interior space and comfort.

Front Seats: The seats are firm but well cushioned and supportive. We had no trouble getting in a good seating position.

Rear Seats: The GLA 250 has a shocking 38.4 inches of rear legroom, which beats the BMW X3 and the Audi Q3.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): There's some road noise at highway speeds, but the interior build quality is very good with no squeaks or rattles of any kind.

Visibility: Overall visibility is very good all around thanks to large windows, manageable pillar width, and a great seating position.

Climate: The climate system fires up the heat very quickly, and operation is easy.

Safety

6.8

 

The GLA-class has not yet been crash tested by either the IIHS or the NHTSA. It does, however, have decent standard and optional safety features.

IIHS Rating: Not tested.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: In addition to ABS, stability control, and traction control, the GLA 250 4MATIC comes with all-wheel drive, Attention Assist, and a Rearview Camera. Too bad the standard feature set isn't more comprehensive.

Optional Tech: For an additional $1,700, you get Active Brake Assist w/ Cross-Traffic Function, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Active Steering Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Emergency Stop Assist, PRE-SAFE PLUS, and Route-Based Speed Adaptation.

Storage/Cargo

6.9

 

You won't find a ton of small storage choices in the cabin, but that's typical of this premium crossover segment. Even with the gearshift on the steering column, the center console isn't exactly capacious.

Storage Space: The front small items storage options are less than impressive. You really only have a small tray and cupholders for the open spaces (along with the door pockets), and there's a medium-sized armrest compartment.

Cargo Room: There's 15.4 cubic feet of space behind row two and 50.5 cubic feet using the seat area. That's about on par with the BMW X2 but smaller than the Genesis GV70's 28.92/56.86 cubic feet.

Fuel Economy

6.4

 

We're sure the GLA 250 would've done better with more conservative driving habits, but driving it in Sport mode gave us rather lackluster fuel efficiency numbers.

Observed: 16.3 mpg.

Distance Driven: 133 miles.

Audio

8.8

 

The excellent Burmester Surround System costs a mere $850 and can be purchased as standalone option (as opposed to a pricey package), and the sound quality is impressive. We enjoyed cranking up the tunes for great bass, clarity, and fullness. It's a great system.



Final Thoughts

We were surprised how much we enjoyed the GLA 250. It looks good, drives remarkably well, and provides a truly comfortable interior. It's too bad the infotainment system looks better than it actually operates, and the options list catapults the price by tens of thousands of dollars. It's decently quick, handles well, and it also has enough space for five. It's just too bad the price with options doesn't make for a good value.
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