Petite crossovers and SUVs are hot, and the all-new 2021 GLA-Class is the littlest SUV from Mercedes-Benz and considered an entry-level model. The GLA is stylish, loaded with tech, and available in a base GLA 250 model and two performance-oriented AMG models. Its main rivals are the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
Base Price: $47,550
As Tested: $53,630
Mileage: 23 mpg city/29 mpg highway/25 mpg combined
The five-passenger GLA was introduced for the 2015 model year. The redesigned 2021 GLA is three inches taller and half an inch shorter than the outgoing model, with slightly more cargo space. The base engine has more power and is more efficient, and the GLA comes with more standard driver assistance technologies.
It comes in three trims: 250, AMG 35 and AMG 45. Starting prices are $36,230, $47,550, and $54,500, respectively. All come loaded with features and tech. The AMG versions have more power and come standard with Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive system, 4MATIC. It’s available on the 250 for an additional $2,000.
The 250 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The AMG GLA 35 gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four that makes 302 horses and 295 pound-feet. The AMG GLA 45 has an AMG handcrafted 2.0-liter turbo four that generates 382 hp and 354 pound-feet.
EPA ratings for my tester are 23 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with a combined rating of 25. I got 25 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The AMG GLA 35 has snappy acceleration—it can blast from zero to 60 mpg in five seconds. It’s a breeze to get up to speed for merging and passing at freeway speeds. The eight-speed shifts promptly and smoothly most of the time. Steering is responsive, and the AMG GLA 35 feels mostly planted when cornering with just a little body lean. The ride is firmer than you might expect in a Mercedes SUV, but not jarring or uncomfortable. Its relatively small size makes it easy to drive in busy city traffic and tight parking lots. While the AMG GLA 35 isn’t the sportiest small luxury SUV, it is peppy and fun to drive.
The interior is attractive with mostly nice materials including the same air vents and controls that Mercedes is known for. Yes, there are some hard plastics, but most of the materials are of high quality and look and feel good. Hey, this is an entry-level SUV so the cabin is not going to be as luxurious as some spendier rivals. Passengers in both rows enjoy decent leg- and headroom—this isn’t always the case in a small SUV or crossover. Two adults will be comfortable in back.
The GLA has the latest MBUX infotainment system with two 10.25-inch screens that can be controlled multiple ways: by touch, voice, gestures, a touchpad between the front seats, and steering wheel-mounted controls. You can say “Hey Mercedes” and the system is ready to respond to just about any voice command. After you get familiar with it, the system is easy to use.
Standard features include remote start, rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, synthetic leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, reclining rear seats, the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system with a seven-inch touch screen, touchpad controller, HD Radio, Bluetooth, four USB ports, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
Available features include a surround-view camera system, real leather upholstery, front sport seats, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, sliding rear seats, 10.25-inch touch screen, navigation, 12-speaker Burmester audio system, satellite radio, Wi-Fi hot spot, wireless device charging, a panoramic moonroof and head-up display.
Standard driver assistance technologies include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, driver drowsiness monitoring, vehicle exit warning that lets you know if vehicles or cyclists are approaching from behind as doors are being opened, and crosswind assist, which detects when a crosswind has affected your driving line, and corrects the course of the vehicle.
Available driver assistance technologies include adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane centering assist, active lane change assist, evasive steering assist, intersection assist, parallel and perpendicular park assist, traffic sign recognition, route-based speed adaptation, and Pre Safe Plus, which tightens seat belts and rolls up the windows if sensors detect an impending rearward collision.
Cargo space is slightly below average for the class. The GLA has 15.4 cubic feet with both rows of seating in place and 50.5 cubes with the rear seats folded. The low liftover height is nice when loading large and/or bulky items. A power liftgate is standard and a hands-free power liftgate is available.
Entry-level Mercedes is relatively affordable
Surprisingly roomy interior
Loaded with tech
User-friendly MBUX infotainment system
Standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Below average cargo space
Cabin not as ritzy as some rivals
My tester starts at $47,550. The L6K AMG performance steering wheel in Nappa leather is $500. The RVZ 19-inch AMG 10-spoke wheels in matte black are $300. The U88 AMG drive unit steering wheel buttons are $400. Sirius XM radio is $460. Heated front seats are $500. USB-C adapter cable is $25. The Multimedia Package is $1,295 and includes navigation, navigation services including map updates for three years, MBUX Augmented Reality for navigation, and speed limit assist. The AMG Night Package is $750 and includes front splitter, grille trim and louvres in the outer air intakes, AMG side panel inserts, beltline and window line trim strips in high-gloss black, exterior mirror covers, roof rails, and tailpipe trim in black. The Premium Package is $800 and includes keyless-go, hands-free access, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, and side mirrors with power fold-in. Destination and delivery fee is $1,050 bringing the grand total to $53,630.
The GLA is the entry-level and littlest SUV from Mercedes-Benz, but it has a lot to offer including peppy performance and tons of tech and features for the price. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the market for a small luxury crossover or SUV.