The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is an urban-inspired compact SUV that’s ideal for toting you and your passengers around town. With a starting price just north of $30,000, Mercedes-Benz’s entry-level crossover is sure to attract millennial shoppers in the car company’s quest to acquire lifelong customers who remain loyal to the brand. The 2015 GLA250 is a quirky SUV in that it’s more hatchback than sport utility, but its ease of entry, comfort in the driver’s seat and smooth, sporty ride make it a worthwhile consideration in this segment.
Mercedes offers the 2015 GLA-Class in GLA250, GLA250 4Matic and GLA45 AMG trims. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine, seven-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT) and front-wheel drive are standard on the GLA 250. All-wheel drive comes with GLA250 4Matic and GLA45 AMG models. As is often the case with German vehicles, upgrades are a la carte, allowing a customer to pick and choose most of the features they want, but be forewarned that those little add-ons add up quickly.
Mercedes introduced the GLA-Class in 2014 as a 2015 model, making this a relatively new SUV on the scene. While its exterior design is new, the GLA shares a platform with the popular CLA-Class sedan, which is the company’s smallest four-door model.
The 2015 Mercedes GLA250 certainly has a unique design, and in a sea of compact crossovers that’s not a bad thing. The exterior can be best described as masculine, with an aggressive stance that almost makes you forget the GLA is a petite people machine.
With the emphasis on an athletic yet sophisticated external appearance, opinions may not be as split between the guys and ladies as your average crossover. Standing next to the vehicle it becomes obvious just how low-slung the roofline is, giving the GLA more of a station wagon feel than that of an off-the-ground utility vehicle.
Our test GLA250 4Matic received a few exterior upgrades such as a panoramic sunroof and bi-xenon headlights. The Sport package added 19-inch AMG wheels with all-season tires, perforated front brake discs and AMG body styling (these AMG-inspired looks are thankfully available without the AMG sticker shock at just $2,200).
The GLA looks great when it’s headed your direction, but upon exiting your view the perspective can make the car appear awkward and disproportionate. The GLA250’s funky aesthetic may be a breath of fresh air among its competitors, but we’d prefer a more cohesive overall exterior look.
High-quality fit and finish on the inside comes as no surprise to the Mercedes-Benz aficionado. The 2015 GLA-Class certainly doesn’t disappoint in this area, although its interior is understandably less luxurious than your typical Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The GLA’s cockpit is well-positioned for both driver and front passenger, with air vents, the infotainment center and navigation screen all easily accessible.
Mercedes keeps it fairly simple inside the GLA250, with a reasonable blend of hard plastics, soft surfaces, aluminum accents and leather. The interior can best be described as comfortably simple. It’s no show-stopper, but it is in line with what we’ve come to expect from the German automaker.
While it technically seats five, we wouldn’t put more than four adults inside the GLA250, at least not for a long trip. Seating, while comfortable, is roomy in the front and tighter for passengers seated in the rear. The low-slung roof is, as you might imagine, prohibitive for exceptionally tall passengers yet airy enough for the average human.
Cargo space is impressive for this hatchback-style crossover. There’s 17.2 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 43.6 cubic feet with them folded down. We had no trouble loading up the rear cargo area with half-a-dozen tall grocery bags. Behind the rear seats you can expect to fit a couple of suitcases, overnight bags and other needs for a weekend trip. If you need more room and aren’t carrying any additional passengers, the 60-40 split-folding rear seats will come in handy, giving you the needed room for larger cargo such as a dog crate or small piece of furniture.
Mercedes has stocked its GLA250 with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine boasting 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
Fuel economy checks in at 25/35 mpg city/highway, which is a respectable fuel economy figure for the small crossover segment. A seven-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT) helps you swiftly switch through the gears, and a set of paddle shifters gets you there without removing your hands from the steering wheel.
If you’re willing to drop another 17 grand for the GLA45 AMG, then you’ll get the same engine tuned to output 355 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. As expected, fuel economy takes a slight hit with the higher performance engine, garnering 23/29 mpg city/highway.
Thanks to the sedanlike platform, Mercedes’ GLA250 performs like a sporty sedan, maintaining its athleticism through corners and in urban driving settings. Steering is quite responsive and as nimble as its CLA counterpart. Maneuvering in city traffic is just as comfortable as twisting through mountain backroads, and the GLA’s perforated front disc brakes provide excellent stopping power.
Technology inside the GLA250 is on par with its competitors offer, including a central control knob, hands-free Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, HD Radio, a USB port compatible with Apple products and a 5.8-inch center display (not a touchscreen) as standard equipment. Other conveniences include Mercedes’ Smart Key with a removable valet key and an automatic power liftgate.
Upgrade to one of several packages offered by Mercedes-Benz and you can get SiriusXM satellite radio, navigation and a Harman Kardon stereo system.
The Premium package will get you most of these options, but if you’re looking for an even more tailored experience inside the GLA, Mercedes provides plenty of other add-ons from which to choose.
For its class, we find the GLA to be competitive in the technology department, but with affordable brands like Kia and Mazda offering a very similar experience for a much lower price, we’re not sure technology is the area where a buyer is going to get that high-end feel in this vehicle. Of course, spending the extra money for premium tech features will make the GLA250 feel more akin to a more expensive Mercedes-Benz, but we believe that this crossover should be more about practicality and affordability than showy bells and whistles.
One area Mercedes-Benz doesn’t avoid is safety and safety technology. The GLA250 is teeming with life-saving features, and we should mention that almost all of them come standard, including 10-way air bag protection.
That said, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have had an opportunity to test and rate this vehicle for the 2015 model year, at least not at the time of this review.
The GLA’s standard Collision Prevention Assist system uses radar-based technology to detect the threat of a front-end collision, and it goes one step further in braking to help prevent a crash in the appropriate conditions. High- and ultrahigh-strength steel are used strategically to shore up the frame of the GLA250 and make it more energy-absorbent in the case of a severe accident.
Optional equipment in the safety category includes a rearview camera, blind spot assist, lane keeping assist, parking sensors, parallel park assist and adaptive cruise control.
With a base price of $31,300, the 2015 GLA250 from Mercedes-Benz is an attractive buy in the small luxury crossover segment. You’ll be hard-pressed to keep it at that price, however. We think that the best value is in purchasing the most basic GLA model with standard equipment and only minimal optional upgrades. Otherwise, it may be worth considering either what other German brands or non-luxury brands have to offer.
Our tester was pushing GLA45 AMG territory thanks to its plentiful options and packages.
The Premium, Multimedia and Sport packages added a whopping $6,980 to our GLA250 4Matic’s $33,300 base price, and that’s not including the extra $2,880 for blind spot monitoring, a panoramic sunroof and bi-xenon headlamps. All that, plus a $925 destination charge, brings the model we tested to $44,955, pushing this entry-level crossover more into the ‘luxury’ category than the ‘affordable’ one.
While the GLA250 comes stocked with enough standard features for the average person, its a la carte menu of packages adds up quickly and can become cumbersome in getting what you actually want without acquiring features you weren’t originally seeking.
If you’re looking for an entry-level, affordable Mercedes because you like the brand and the positive reputation it has in the luxury market, the 2015 GLA250 is likely a great starting point. Be careful with the plethora of available options, however, as they can quickly bring this from an affordable Benz to a pricey luxury compact.
We enjoyed the unique look of the GLA250, which we feel differentiates it nicely from others in this segment. Driving and handling are in line with what we’ve come to expect from Mercedes-Benz, as is the interior fit and finish.
Safety features abound on this vehicle, and they are probably one aspect that makes the price tag a very reasonable one. Standard technology equipment is on par with what others offer in this segment, but for those really interested in having the latest and greatest, it’s going to cost a good bit extra.
The GLA250 largely provides its ideal buyer exactly what they want: practicality, functionality, a fun-to-drive experience and luxe styling. Overall, we’d recommend the GLA250 to a specific demographic of young singles living in urban areas where salaries are higher and nimble driving capabilities are required.