2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class Review
Pros & Cons
- Sporty handling and performance from base model
- stunning performance from AMG version
- ample safety features.
- Overly firm ride quality
- abundance of road and wind noise
- slow responses from the automatic transmission
- less cargo capacity than most rivals.
Edmunds' Expert Review
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class mixes hatchback and small crossover attributes to give you a sporting drive and an elevated ride height, but its firm ride and limited practicality should give you pause.
Entering its second year of production, the compact 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class retains the same promise it offered last year. This baby Benz boasts an upscale blend of hatchback and crossover traits, also offering good performance and a wide range of features and options. The GLA shares its 106.3-inch wheelbase with the CLA-Class sedan, making it the company's smallest SUV. But it's both shorter and wider than the CLA, which gives it more aggressive proportions.
Taut suspension and precise steering give the 2016 GLA-Class impressive handling.
Being less frumpy than the CLA, however, doesn't exactly cover the GLA in glory. Under the surface, ride comfort and drivability challenges keep the GLA from reaching its full potential. The taut suspension can be jarring over even mildly uneven terrain, while potholes may have you wishing for a kidney belt. Moreover, the seven-speed transmission's low-speed indecisiveness and sometimes belabored responses take a bite out of driver confidence. Couple these downsides with a relatively small cargo area and rear seat, and making a case for the GLA becomes more difficult.
Competitors include the Audi Q3 and Lexus NX 200t, both of which ride more comfortably but suffer similar cargo and occupant constraints. The all-new 2016 BMW X1 has a roomier interior and looks to be a particularly tough rival for the Mercedes. The Mini Countryman is hardly the freshest face in this segment, but it continues to appeal with its spunky turbocharged engines and inimitable style. Although we awarded the hopped-up GLA 45 AMG model an Edmunds "B" rating due to its sizzling performance, it's the "C"-rated GLA250 that's more representative. The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class has plenty of promise, but depending on your needs, this hatchback-crossover mashup may not fully deliver.
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class models
The 2016 GLA-Class is offered in three trim levels: GLA250, GLA250 4Matic and AMG GLA 45.
The GLA250 comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, a roof rack, foglamps, a power liftgate, automatic wipers, cruise control, a 14-way power driver seat, a 10-way manual passenger seat, driver memory settings, MB-Tex vinyl upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks (with a cargo pass-through). Electronics features include a 7-inch central display with a console-mounted control knob, a media interface for digital music players, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an audio system with a CD player, HD radio and a USB audio input.
Like most Mercedes-Benz products, the GLA is endowed with an attractively simple interior that features large, clear instrumentation.
For the all-wheel-drive GLA250 4Matic, hill-descent control and an off-road status monitor for the 7-inch display (including steering angle, tilt angle and grade percentage) add sport-activity credentials.
The Premium package features auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats and a Harman Kardon audio system with satellite radio. The Multimedia package adds a larger 8-inch screen, a hard-drive-based navigation system, voice controls, a rearview camera, an in-dash SD card reader and five years of real-time traffic and weather.
The Sport package adds 19-inch wheels, upgraded brakes and more aggressive-looking exterior styling. Available only with the Sport package, the Night package adds black wheels and gloss-black exterior accents. The Interior package features leather seating, front sport seats, multi-color ambient lighting and MB-Tex dash trim. Lastly, the Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and a blind-spot monitor.
Standalone options include a few of the packaged items above plus bi-xenon headlights and LED taillights, a panoramic sunroof, parking sensors combined with an automated parking system, a power passenger seat with memory, a blind-spot monitor and aluminum interior trim.
The high-performance AMG GLA 45 comes standard with all-wheel drive and includes the GLA250's standard features plus a more powerful engine, sport exhaust, unique 19-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension and steering and upgraded brakes. Bi-xenon headlights and styling tweaks that include a more aggressive front fascia, flared wheel arches and quad tailpipes are also standard, as are the power passenger seat and ambient lighting.
Options largely mirror those of the GLA250, but also include Recaro sport seats, an upgraded steering wheel and a large rear spoiler. The Dynamic Plus package supplants last year's Driver's package and adds 20-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, a limited-slip front differential, a "Race" driving mode and a higher top speed. Multiple carbon-fiber trim packages and the Aerodynamics Package add performance and aesthetic appeal.
Performance & mpg
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque matched to a seven-speed automated manual transmission (with shift paddles). In Edmunds track testing, the GLA250 4MATIC outdid Mercedes' estimated 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds by hitting the milestone in 6.8 seconds, a good showing for this segment.
The AMG GLA 45 finds an additional 20 hp and 18 lb-ft of torque for 2016, coaxing a profound 375 hp and 350 lb-ft from the same 2.0-liter engine used in the base GLA. A quicker-shifting version of the seven-speed transmission sends power to all four wheels. The AMG GLA 45 also features a three-mode stability-control system that allows drivers to tailor the level of intervention and offers available launch control. Mercedes says the GLA 45 can rocket from zero to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds.
Both the GLA250 and the AMG GLA 45 feature an automatic stop-start function that, if engaged, turns off the engine when the car stops to save fuel. EPA-estimated fuel economy for the GLA-Class is quite good: the GLA250 is estimated by the EPA to yield 29 mpg combined (25 city/35 highway), while the GLA250 4Matic earns 27 mpg combined (24 city/32 highway). The AMG GLA 45 checks in at 25 mpg combined (22 city/29 highway).
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, front knee airbags, front side airbags and side curtain airbags (rear side airbags are optional). Standard technology features include Collision Prevention Assist, which uses radar to identify potential collision situations and intervenes with braking as necessary, and Attention Assist, which monitors the driver for signs of drowsiness or inattention. Mercedes' mbrace2 telematics system is also standard and includes automatic collision notification, an emergency response button, stolen-vehicle locator, remote car alarm notification to your phone and remote door lock/unlock.
Other safety-oriented options include a rearview camera, parking sensors bundled with an automated parking system and the Driver Assistance package, which adds adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and a blind-spot monitor.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic's on-road character more closely resembles that of a conventional hatchback than a typical go-anywhere SUV. On the open road, the GLA250 delivers convincing agility, with electric power assist steering that is engagingly direct, if a little vague on-center. And despite the added ride height, there is excellent body control with limited lean on challenging roads. The GLA's relatively tight turning circle of 36 feet proves well-suited to the cut and thrust of urban driving.
Short overhangs and a wide stance give the 2016 GLA aggressive proportions.
Unfortunately, the GLA suffers from overly firm and occasionally harsh ride quality, especially when you opt for bigger wheel sizes. The automated-manual transmission is also frustrating, as it is slow to engage a gear from a standstill and stutters with indecision in stop-and-go traffic. That's a shame, as the GLA250's turbocharged four-cylinder actually possesses solid low- and midrange grunt. This gives it a satisfying and user-friendly power delivery.
The AMG GLA 45, of course, is an entirely different animal, providing a degree of performance and handling potential that only the Porsche Macan can match among similar crossovers. It has a similar ride quality to the GLA250, but since it's a sport-tuned model, that attribute is easier to accept.
Similar to the CLA-Class sedan, with which it shares many cabin components, the GLA's interior looks like that of a traditional Mercedes. Big analog gauges, a clean center-stack design and tight fit and finish impart the same premium feel shared across the Mercedes lineup. If you get up close and personal with the materials, however, you can see where the GLA falls short relative to the GLC-Class crossover, for example.
The optional navigation system's display looks like an aftermarket addition given its location — separate and perched high on the dash. On the upside, the screen is easy to read and (in base form) bigger than it was in 2015. Although it takes a little getting used to, the column-mounted gear selector quickly becomes second nature and also frees up valuable, easily accessed storage space on the console. A variety of cabin accents — which include walnut, ash, aluminum and (GLA 45 only) carbon fiber — dresses things up.
Based on the CLA sedan, the 2016 GLA-Class is a compact SUV both inside and out.
An elevated driving position provides excellent forward visibility, but the shallow angle of the tailgate and thick roof pillars impede the view out back. Although there is a lot to like about the forward compartment of the cabin, the rear quarters are less accommodating, as space is distinctly lacking compared with larger compact luxury crossovers like the GLC and the Audi Q5. Fortunately, there's enough headroom for adult passengers.
Cargo space behind the GLA's rear seats measures 14.9 cubic feet — among the smallest in the segment. Fold the rear seats down and you have 43.6 cubic feet available, which is less than most rivals and indicative of a compact hatchback. The standard power liftgate is nice, but the liftover is set quite high, making it a chore to load heavy luggage.