Mercedes-Benz may not be known for building small, front-wheel-drive-based hatchbacks, but in Europe it sells several of them. Across the pond, the luxury brand’s compact range includes the A-class hatchback, the B-class mini-MPV (available in the States as an EV), the CLA-class shooting-brake wagon, and the GLA-class crossover. The four look so similar that it’s hard to tell them apart. The GLA crossover we get in the U.S., for instance, is only 2.4 inches taller than the A-class hatchback, and we’ve consistently compared it with a hotted-up hatch in look and feel since it arrived on our shores in 2014.
More Fun Than You’d Think
The GLA250’s performance, though, remains firmly in the compact-hatchback camp—a good thing for drivers. Mercedes-Benz doesn’t note any engine or transmission tweaks, yet this 2018 example outaccelerated its 2016 counterpart, recording a 5.8-second sprint to 60 mph (versus 6.1 seconds previously). That’s significantly quicker than any of its direct competitors—and hot on the heels of a Volkswagen Golf GTI with an automatic. The wild, 375-hp AMG GLA45 also is available for more ardent speed freaks.
The GLA250 is not particularly sprightly in everyday driving, however, and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is to blame. In its default Comfort mode, sluggish shifts accentuate the engine’s turbo lag; Sport mode helps keep the 2.0-liter on boil and sharpens throttle response considerably. Firm suspension tuning and direct steering make the little Benz genuinely fun to drive, albeit at the cost of a harsh ride, and the powerful brakes stopped the GLA from 70 mph in a short 160 feet, 13 feet better than the 2016 example.
It doesn’t come cheap, either. Though a starting price in the mid-$30,000 range is enticingly low for anything wearing a three-pointed star, sparse standard equipment means that you need to pay up to get expected features like heated seats, leather upholstery, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Our test car was loaded with the Premium ($1800), Convenience ($400), Multimedia ($2300), Sport ($2400), Night ($300), Interior ($1700), and Driver Assistance ($1500) packages, as well as a couple of stand-alone options. There’s not one among those that we’d easily jettison, beyond perhaps sacrificing the aesthetic charms of the Sport and Night packages.
Stickering for a cool $50,100, a GLA equipped like this one has completely eclipsed any sort of hot-hatch comparison and treads deep into the territory of the much more nicely appointed and elegant GLC-class crossover. Even if the updated GLA looks more rugged than before, it has not been elevated to that level.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
PRICE AS TESTED: $50,100 (base price: $36,325)
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 122 cu in, 1991 cc
Power: 208 hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1200 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 106.3 in
Length: 173.9 in
Width: 71.0 in Height: 60.0 in
Passenger volume: 78–80 cu ft
Cargo volume: 17 cu ft
Curb weight: 3531 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 5.8 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 16.5 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 28.5 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.3 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.1 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 4.4 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.5 sec @ 94 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 131 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 160 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.88 g
EPA combined/city/highway: 26/23/31 mpg
C/D observed: 22 mpg