In a world where SUV sales volume continues to increase, every manufacturer is capitalising on the trend and leaning on their platforms to achieve as much from the single research and development investment as possible.
It’s a similar story this time around with the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, which borrows from the same formula but offers more room inside, along with more luxury and a greater focus on refinement.
If you want all of the bells and whistles, plus a little bit of performance without breaking into the AMG price bracket, the Mercedes-Benz GLA250 sits in the sweet spot.
The entire Mercedes-Benz GLA range kicks off from $55,100 before on-road costs for the GLA200, with the entire range capping off with the hot-hatch Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S variant, which carries a price tag of $107,035 before on-roads.
The variant tested here is the Mercedes-Benz GLA250, which is priced from $66,500 before on-roads.
There are eight colours to choose from, with all but the solid black costing $500 and upwards depending on the shade you land on.
The base Mercedes-Benz GLA250 is fairly well equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels and run-flat tyres, LED headlights, tail lights, and daytime running lights, proximity key entry and start, cruise control, an electric tailgate, front and rear parking sensors, a sunroof, and brushed aluminium roof rails.
Inside the cabin you’ll find artificial leather upholstery, a nine-speaker sound system, dual 10.25-inch screens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (wired), integrated satellite navigation, electric seat adjustment with memory (first row), heated seats (first row), automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, and dual-zone climate control.
There are a number of options and option packs available. We’ve gone through the finer details of these in our 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA pricing and specifications story.
Our car as tested here had just over $12,700 of options fitted, including a designo paint finish ($1531), the Vision Package ($915), Sports Package ($1915), Driving Assistance Package ($1531), Communications Package ($1915), AMG Exclusive Package ($2838), and rear seat fore/aft adjustment ($607).
Some of the features included in the above packages include surround cameras, headlights with adaptive high-beam and cornering function, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot assist, heated and ventilated front seats, and adaptive dampers.
The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLA hasn’t been crash tested yet.
While it’s only an indication, it’s worth noting that the latest A-Class scored a five-star ANCAP rating, scoring 96 per cent for adult occupant protection, 91 per cent for child occupant protection, 92 per cent for vulnerable road user protection and a 73 per cent safety assist score.
The GLA comes standard with low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB), front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist along with a full suite of head, side and knee airbags.
Cars are often sold to a buyer within the first few seconds of sitting inside. Make an impression there and it’s arguably much easier to win a buyer over.
That’s why Mercedes-Benz has put a big focus on wowing people the moment they get into the car with dual 10.25-inch screens, brushed aluminium highlights on the steering wheel, centre console and door trims, along with a number of interior styling options.
MBUX comes fitted with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although it's a wired system in a letterbox format.
It immediately wows and, following on from the rest of the brand’s models, the interior of each GLA variant looks about the same. That means even if you buy the entry GLA200, you still get the impressive array of screens and technology that comes with them.
In terms of the styling, a leather-look dashboard complete with stitching features inset air vents that rotate and feature LED elements within them. Minimal switchgear is featured beneath the central air vents, with a touchpad controller and shortcut buttons on the centre console used to control the MBUX system.
MBUX is the latest Mercedes-Benz infotainment system featuring LTE connectivity and an ability to interact with the ‘cloud’ for things like optimised voice recognition and smart traffic routing.
It’s easy to use with the left-hand screen offering touchscreen interactivity. It can also be controlled using the left touchpad on the steering wheel, while the screen ahead of the driver can be driven by the right-hand touchpad.
In terms of smartphone connectivity, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported by a wired connection. It doesn’t take up the full screen though, instead it’s contained within a small space in the centre of the screen.
The front seats hug you in nicely with seat controls located on the door. The front base of the seat can be manually extended, while the bolsters can be adjusted using controls on the seat base.
The driving position is great, with all controls within easy reach. The steering wheel sits nicely in the hands and feels premium thanks to the perforated middle section and metallic paddle shifters located behind the wheel.
Leg and headroom in the second row is surprisingly good, even with the front row of seats pushed back. Second-row occupants will find air vents along with USB outlets for charging devices.
The entire cabin now comes with USB-C standard connections. If you don’t have modern devices capable of accepting this format, you can purchase a converter from Mercedes-Benz to allow compatibility with USB-A devices.
Cargo space comes in at 435 litres with the second row in place and expands to 1430 litres with the second row folded.
The cargo space comes with a light, storage nets and storage hooks off to the side. There’s no spare tyre beneath the cargo floor.
Standard equipment includes run-flat tyres, while the larger wheel package deletes run-flat tyres and adds a tyre repair kit instead.
Powering the Mercedes-Benz GLA250 is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 165kW of power and 350Nm of torque, mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Official fuel economy comes in at 7.5 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. We averaged around 10-11L/100km during testing with the majority of our testing taking place in and around the city.
Mercedes-Benz says the GLA250 takes 6.7 seconds to move from 0-100km/h, which makes it pretty brisk.
It’s worth noting that it runs on a minimum 95RON premium unleaded petrol. With a 51-litre fuel tank, it has an estimated maximum driving range of 680km per tank of fuel based on the official fuel consumption figure.
One of the things we love about the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine fitted to vehicles in the Mercedes-Benz range is how smooth it is.
There are no sudden rushes of torque and movement through the rev band feels controlled and subdued.
It does feel slightly let down by the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission in terms of low-speed drivability, but once the vehicle is moving it’s fuss-free. Low-speed complaints surround a slight jerkiness as the vehicle moves away from a standing start, which is exacerbated if you’re on a hill.
At driving speeds the suspension is extremely comfortable, despite the big 20-inch alloy wheels fitted to our test car. It copes well with potholes and corrugations, along with things like speed humps and transitions between road surfaces.
There is a noticeable amount of tyre tyre noise on coarse chip country roads at highway speeds, a trait we also noticed with the Mercedes-AMG A35 and A45 S models. We’re not sure whether this is linked to the low-profile tyres or the chassis in general.
There’s also a tendency for the body to float if you hit consecutive dips in the road at highway speeds. We only noticed this on our country road loop, which isn’t indicative of the regular road surfaces you’ll find in and around the city.
With 350Nm of torque available down low, the GLA250 feels punchy right through to the mid-range. It’s eager to accelerate if you get stuck into it and matches that eagerness with a sharp snarl from the exhaust, which is great for a non-AMG model.
Several drive modes are available ranging from an Economy mode through to a Sport mode. On models with optional adaptive damping (like this one), the Sport mode increases suspension firmness to keep the body flatter through corners.
Feel through the steering wheel is great with steering weight increased as you progress through to the sportier drive modes.
From a standing start, you can expect to hit 100km/h in 6.7 seconds, which is pretty brisk for a vehicle this size.
The all-wheel drive system can send up to 50 per cent of torque to the rear axle in some situations. For the most part you won’t notice any wheel slip with this kind of torque, but on tighter stretches of road it can be fun to drive with the all-wheel drive system seamlessly using the rear axle when the front end has limited traction.
While it’s not built for off-road driving, there’s 213mm of ground clearance which will help clear basic obstacles. It means you’ll be able to navigate gravel roads and basic stretches of track to a camping site.
Mercedes-Benz sells the GLA-Class with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Mercedes-Benz also offers capped-price servicing under a prepaid model. Pre-paying for the first three services comes out to $2050, with options to pay for all five services for $3500.
That comes out to an average of $683 per service when prepaying three years or an average of $700 over five years. Servicing occurs every 12 months or 25,000km, whichever occurs first.
The all-new Mercedes-Benz GLA is a big step forward over the previous generation.
It has matured with a high quality, nicely presented interior that matches its new price tag.
But, it is slightly let down in terms of ride and handling. The appearance of 20-inch alloy wheels with adaptive dampers brings with it the side effect of a floaty ride and a high level of cabin noise, especially on coarse-chip roads.
If we were buying we’d stick with the standard 19-inch alloy wheel in the chase of better ride quality and less cabin noise.
Outside of that it offers a good balance between hatchback and SUV and still looks classy enough to turn heads.