The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is proof that even Mercedes isn't immune to temptation. With the market for compact-crossover SUVs exploding, and the thirst for prestige brands growing as well, Mercedes needed an entry in the compact-crossover niche. And that's the GLA.
The "A" in GLA indicates that this is a member of Mercedes' smallest size class. And it hints (accurately) that much of the GLA's engineering is shared with the smallest four-door the company sells in the United States, the CLA. So this crossover is based on a front-drive platform that's closer in structure to, say, a Hyundai Sonata than it is a Mercedes C-, E- or S-Class.
Budget-friendliness may be an odd concept for American Mercedes buyers, but the company has long contended in many smaller vehicle classes for decades in Europe and elsewhere. The GLA still carries hints of Mercedes overengineering even if it doesn't show up on the bottom line of the window sticker. Well, at least before options.
Shaped something like a well-worn Converse Chuck Taylor, the GLA-Class possesses all the familiar Mercedes styling cues, including a giant three-pointed star in the middle of its grille. Unfortunately those floppy-shoe stylings cover a relatively tiny passenger compartment. Headroom, legroom and shoulder room are all tightly limited. And cargo room is down there between not-very-much and negligible.
Yes, the standard interior is upholstered in "MB-Tex" which a synthetic leather. Leather is however a zero-dollar option as long as you don't count the required Premium and Interior packages that accompany it and add $4,600 to the bottom line.
There are two distinct GLA-Class models. The one that's advertised with a low, Honda-like starting price is the GLA250 powered by a transversely mounted 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at a modest 208 horsepower that drives the front wheels through an automated seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. A version of Mercedes 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is also available.
Well above the GLA250 is the GLA45 AMG that comes from Mercedes in-house tuning shop, AMG. Using the same basic engine, but with the turbo wick turned to "insane," the 2.0-liter four slams out an astonishing 355 hp. It's enough, claims Mercedes, to rocket the all-wheel-drive GLA45 AMG to 60 mph in just 4.8 seconds. It's louder and ruder than the GLA250, and the suspension can be punishingly stiff, but if having the quickest small crossover around matters, here it is.
Both GLAs handle well and ride pretty firmly. The refinement expected in a Mercedes simply isn't there, but the fuel economy is pretty good. The basic GLA250 is EPA-rated at 27 mpg combined (24 city/33 highway). The GLA45 AMG knocks out 25 mpg combined (22 city/28 highway).
Making sense of the compact-crossover market is tough, but you can count on Edmunds to clear things up for you and get you a great deal.