The current demand for crossovers seems insatiable, and automakers all over the world are creating vehicle platforms that can be adapted for utility vehicles and cars alike. The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is one such crossover, based on the same underpinnings as Mercedes' budget-friendly CLA sedan. And though the GLA might seem like the perfect car (who doesn't like the idea of an affordable Mercedes crossover SUV?), several significant flaws might keep it off your shopping list.
First, the good news: Both the GLA250 and AMG GLA 45 boast powerful engines that achieve good real-world fuel economy given their levels of performance. Whereas most compact luxury crossovers don't like to be hustled around tight turns, the GLA remains composed with little body roll, and that helps make it quite fun to drive, even on narrow mountain passes. The GLA also enjoys a long list of safety and luxury features, including standard automatic emergency braking and a power liftgate.
Unfortunately, the GLA's weaknesses are plentiful. The ride is much rougher than you'd expect from a Mercedes, there's not much headroom or legroom anywhere, and the interior materials aren’t particularly impressive. There’s not much room behind the backseats either; imagine a Volkswagen Golf cargo area and lop off one-third. Then there's the transmission, which is unforgivably slow to respond to driver inputs. The low seating position means you also won't experience the commanding all-around visibility that SUV buyers typically enjoy.
Another of the GLA's faults is in its relatively high cost. Most rivals offer a greater level of refinement for the same price or less. BMW's X1 delivers similarly sporty performance but with a more luxurious cabin and a roomier back seat. The Audi Q3 also has top-shelf interior materials and greater cargo capacity. The Infiniti QX30 is actually based on the GLA, but we like its softer suspension and more refined transmission tuning. Other compact crossovers, such as the Lexus NX and Acura RDX, are also worth considering. The strength of the competition and the GLA’s glaring flaws make it difficult to recommend without an extensive test drive.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes with automatic drying, front knee airbags, front side airbags and side curtain airbags (rear side airbags are optional). Standard technology features include Active Brake Assist, which uses radar to identify potential front-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 location, 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, blind-spot monitoring and the Driver Assistance package, which adds adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.
At the Edmunds test track, a GLA250 4Matic came to a stop from 60 mph in an astounding 105 feet, just a foot longer than a GLA 45. This is undoubtedly due to our tester's summer tires; a vehicle with all-season tires should stop about 10 feet longer.
trim levels & features
The 2017 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, foglights, automatic wipers, a power liftgate, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 14-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar), a 10-way manual passenger seat with a fold-flat feature, driver memory settings, a driver information display, selectable driving modes, MB-Tex premium vinyl upholstery, ambient interior lighting, 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, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player, HD radio, an SD card reader and two USB ports. Certain features of Mercedes' Mbrace telematics system (including a Wi-Fi hot spot and concierge services) are available on a subscription basis.
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 a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, keyless entry and ignition, heated front seats and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system with satellite radio. The Multimedia package adds a larger 8-inch screen, a navigation system, voice controls and smartphone integration via Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
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, upgraded ambient interior lighting and MB-Tex dash trim. The Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. Lastly, the Convenience package adds auto-dimming mirrors and a garage door opener.
Standalone options include a few of the packaged items above plus xenon headlights and LED taillights, a panoramic sunroof, parking sensors combined with an automated parking system and a 14-way power passenger seat with memory.
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. Also standard are xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, the power passenger seat, MB-Tex/simulated-suede upholstery, and styling tweaks that include a more aggressive front fascia, flared wheel arches and quad tailpipes.
Options largely mirror those of the GLA250 but also include 20-inch wheels, Recaro sport seats, an upgraded steering wheel, a large rear spoiler and a performance exhaust. The GLA 45 can be ordered with any of the above packages, except for Sport or Night. The GLA 45's unique Dynamic Plus package adds adaptive suspension dampers, a limited-slip front differential, a Race driving mode and a higher top speed. A carbon-fiber exterior trim package, Aerodynamics package and AMG Dinamica package add performance and aesthetic appeal.
The 2017 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, dual-clutch automatic transmission (with steering wheel-mounted 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 pumps out an outstanding 375 hp and 350 lb-ft from the same 2.0-liter engine. 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. Fuel economy figures are quite good: the front-wheel-drive GLA250 achieves 27 mpg combined (24 city/33 highway), while the GLA250 4Matic earns 26 mpg combined (23 city/31 highway). The high-octane AMG GLA 45 isn’t much worse at 25 mpg combined (22 city/28 highway).
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic's on-road character more closely resembles that of a conventional hatchback than a typical go-anywhere SUV. Around turns, the GLA250 will impress you with its agility and secure handling. The GLA's relatively tight turning circle of 36 feet proves well-suited to the cut and thrust of urban driving as well.
Unfortunately, the GLA suffers from an overly firm and occasionally harsh ride quality, especially when you opt for bigger wheel sizes. The transmission is also frustrating — it is slow to engage a gear from a standstill and stutters with indecision in stop-and-go traffic. That's a shame because 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 because 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 looks like a traditional Mercedes inside. 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 not only compared to more expensive Mercedes siblings but also rivals such as the Lexus NX and BMW X1.
The optional navigation system's display looks like an aftermarket addition given its location perched high on the dash. On the upside, the screen is easy to read and fairly large. Although it takes a little getting used to, the column-mounted gear selector quickly becomes second nature and 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.
A modestly 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 front row, the rear quarters are less accommodating and space is distinctly lacking compared with rivals such as the BMW X1 and Acura RDX. For example, the GLA has 27.1 inches of rear legroom and 53.2 inches of rear shoulder room, compared to the X1’s 37 inches/55.2 inches and the RDX’s 38.3 inches/57.2 inches. Fortunately, there's enough headroom for adult passengers as long as you don't order the sunroof.
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.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.