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Monday, July 9, 2018

2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA Class Review

The Mercedes-Benz GLA merges hatchback size with crossover functionality and luxury appointments, with better-than-average results.

Mercedes-Benz shed its stodgy image as a builder of large, luxurious cars when its CLA sedan and GLA crossover SUV brought the three-pointed star to those with smaller budgets and smaller parking spaces.


The Mercedes-Benz GLA arrived in the 2015 model year and has since seen a few small refreshments, the most significant coming last model year. The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class gets some humble updates, but all models in the lineup—the front-wheel-drive GLA250, all-wheel-drive GLA250 4Matic, and rip-roaring Mercedes-AMG GLA45 should make for city-friendly crossover SUVs with a hint of luxury.

We’ve given the GLA a score of 5.6 out of 10, thanks to decent fuel economy and a bigger back seat than its sedan sibling, but a stiff ride sours things for what is otherwise a decently luxurious experience at a friendly price. 

Updates for the 2019 GLA lineup include two new paint colors, Iridium Silver and Denim Blue, and revisions to the GLA45’s Premium Package and Convenience Package. Twenty-inch multi-spoke wheels are now standard on the AMG version, too. Otherwise, not much has changed on the GLA, which carries over styling and powertrains from last year.

The GLA250 models use a 2.0-liter turbo-4 mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic good for 208 horsepower. The GLA45, however, maintains its significant bump in grunt, pushing out 375 hp from a heavily modified version of the same engine and transmission. A standout of the GLA’s driving experience is its taut handling, but this unfortunately translates to a somewhat stiff ride over less-than-perfect roads. Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is a high point, too, with the ability to handle loose surfaces and mild off-roading with ease, not to mention inclement weather.

Inside, the front seats are supportive and comfortable, but rear seats are tight and leave something to be desired, though they offer superior room to the CLA sedan. The rear seats fold flat to create a more cavernous cargo hold.

All 2019 GLAs come equipped with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, as well as the option for a surround-view camera system. Frustratingly, neither the IIHS nor federal testers have crashed a GLA, despite the small crossover having been on sale for a few years.

Also standard are power features, including a power tailgate; power front seats wrapped in synthetic leather; and 18-inch wheels. Options include leather seats  and a panoramic sunroof. Prices start from about $34,500, but for our money, we’d have the premium package, adding blind-spot monitors, heated front seats, and keyless ignition, as well as the smartphone package, which brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. All-wheel drive is a must, too, for those in states subject to snowy weather.

Styling
The GLA is more hatchback chic than SUV tough, but it wears its styling cues well.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA rides on higher suspension and sports a slightly taller hatchback body style than the CLA sedan. Close in proportions to the Infiniti QX30, with which it shares a platform, the 2019 GLA is businesslike and slightly blunt in a way that works overall. We give it a 6 out of 10 for styling 

Despite its short roof, the GLA packs in plenty of styling cues where it can, from the steeply-angled roof pillars to the significantly sculpted body. Eighteen-inch wheels give the GLA some curbside appeal, and the massive three-pointed star that takes up nearly a third of the grille reminds everyone exactly what you’re driving. The front and rear bumpers, as well as standard LED tail lights, gave the GLA more presence in its refresh last year, while optional LED headlights (standard on the AMG model) leave a distinct signature in the rearview mirrors of cars in front at night.

The GLA’s cockpit carries over relatively unchanged, but sports a handsome if somewhat dated design that puts the infotainment screen front and center in a tacked-on look. The dash wears big circular vents and soft-touch plastics. The aero-inspired design still looks handsome, but some dash and door trim panels feel hard to the touch. Leather costs extra, as do finer trim pieces in carbon-fiber, wood, and aluminum.

Performance
Somewhere between mildly rugged and wildly entertaining, the Mercedes-Benz GLA offers performance unlike almost any other SUV we’ve driven once the AMG badge is attached.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA makes use of its otherwise commonplace 2.0-liter turbo-4 in two very different ways, from purely competent performance to fire-breathing fun.

We give the model line a 5 out of 10 for performance. The banshee AMG GLA45’s rocket ship appeal dilutes considerably in the stiff-riding GLA250.

In the base GLA250, the turbo helps push performance figures to 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, yielding a 7.1 second 0-60 mph time and a top speed of 130 mph. The 7-speed automatic responds briskly along with the engine in Sport mode, but otherwise, is in no particular rush to shift. When equipped with all-wheel drive, which Mercedes-Benz brands as 4Matic, the GLA sends most of its torque to the front wheels, with the ability to split things evenly between the front and rear when more traction is needed.
With 375 hp and 350 lb-ft In the AMG GLA45, this humble turbo-4 becomes wildly entertaining, as standard all-wheel drive and a sport-tuned transmission help drop the 0-60 time to 4.3 seconds, a riot for such a small SUV.

The GLA is no off-roader like the Jeep Wrangler, but the AWD system is competent at doling out decent traction when needed, and hill-descent control is available if you do go off the beaten path.

Despite a tall body, the GLA is a competent handler, proving spry in the corners despite 8 inches of ground clearance. The main downfall, however, is ride quality, which is hurt by somewhat large 18-inch wheels and stiff springs.

For fun, there’s no match for the GLA45. A beefed up engine and transmission couple with 19-inch hardcore tires and a delightful exhaust note make it a formidable hot hatchback alternative, albeit much more expensive than a Golf R or Subaru WRX. It’s entertaining and faultlessly fast as it drops 4.3-second 0-60 mph times and slides through corners with neutral abandon. Add on a limited-slip front-end differential, sport suspension, and Race mode, and the GLA45 may twitch its tail out of line, but only after the driver exhausts all common sense.

Comfort & Quality
The tautly proportioned Mercedes GLA is decently roomy inside, if not especially luxurious.

With its compact size, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA is most comfortable for two passengers and their gear, but can handle an additional passenger or two if needed.

The 2019 GLA rates 5 out of 10 for comfort on our scale. 

Front seats are a bit snug, but hold passengers in tight with aggressive bolsters and firm cushions, and power adjustment makes choosing your optimal seating position easy. The AMG GLA45 is equipped with fantastic Recaro sport seats, which are comfortable on long distances too, a rarity for such aggressive thrones. On both models, synthetic leather is the default, while real leather costs extra.

The rear seats are tight for anyone who is average build or above, but leg room is harder to come by than head room in the back. With taller drivers or passengers up front, rear leg room all but disappears, so consider something larger if you are above average height and often carry passengers in the back.

Folding down the rear seats increases cargo space from a modest 17 cubic feet to a respectable 43.6, enough for a decent amount of luggage, even larger suitcases.

In some ways, the GLA feels refined like a Mercedes should, but in others, it’s not much more than a mere compact car with some nicer kit attached to it. The ride is quiet on the highway except when the optional summer tires are fitted, which are noisier than they should be. Hard plastics scattered about and the thin fabric sunroof shade are not befitting of a Mercedes, and constantly remind you that you’re in one of the most affordable models to wear the three-pointed star.

Safety
The GLA has not yet been tested by the IIHS or NHTSA for crash safety.

Neither federal nor independent crash-testers have smacked the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class against a wall yet, a surprising omission usually reserved for low-volume cars. Accordingly, we're holding its safety score until those tests occur. 

The GLA comes standard with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, which can help prevent low-speed impacts entirely or at least limit the speed of impact greatly. All-wheel drive is optional, as well as an excellent surround-view camera system.

The options list includes luxurious safety features such as active lane control and adaptive cruise control. Automatic parking assistance that can tuck the GLA into a spot without driver input is a la carte as well.

Features
While the Mercedes GLA lacks a handful of key premium features, they’re mostly rolled into the AMG version.

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA lineup has ample standard luxury features, but Mercedes arguably charges more than they should for upscale kit such as the leather trim that is standard on competitors. We rate the GLA 7 out of 10 in this category. 

Every version of the GLA comes with power-operated features like a tailgate, front seats, keyless ignition, and 18-inch wheels, as well as Bluetooth phone and audio, and synthetic leather upholstery.

All-wheel drive is optional and so is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, the latter is especially disappointing considering that other automakers are starting to make the smartphone compatibility standard equipment. Buyers also have the choice to opt for a panoramic sunroof, hands-free liftgate, and LED headlights.

The GLA45 AMG includes most features in its standard equipment list, along with a panoramic sunroof and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. In top spec, the GLA45 can come ever so close to $70,000, right behind the excellent and much more powerful C63 AMG.

Fuel Economy
While not a mileage superstar, the GLA averages fuel economy like other compact hatchbacks, and even the AMG doesn’t carry a big penalty.

The Mercedes Benz GLA Class hasn’t yet been rated by the EPA for the 2019 model year, but last year’s strong numbers should carry over.

Last year, the GLA250 earned 24 mpg city, 33 highway, 27 combined. With all-wheel drive, those numbers fell to 23/31/26 mpg.

The GLA45 AMG checks in at 22/28/25 mpg, figures not terrible for a vehicle of its prodigious power.

We’ll carry over the GLA’s score of 5 out of 10 until the EPA proves it otherwise.

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