2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA review

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA250

Overall Rating

0

4 out of 5 stars

Rating breakdown
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Safety, value & features

4 out of 5 stars

Comfort & space

4 out of 5 stars

Engine & gearbox

4 out of 5 stars

Ride & handling

4 out of 5 stars

Technology

4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProGreat interior design and finish.

  2. ConMore raised-hatch than SUV.

  3. The Pick: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC 4D Wagon

What stands out?

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The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a good looking small car that’s half hatch and half high-riding SUV. It has a stylish cabin, lots of luxury and safety equipment, and the option of all-wheel drive. Efficient petrol and diesel engines extend to an eye-widening high-performance model. Auto braking is standard.

What might bug me?

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On long trips, wishing you had a spare wheel and tyre. If you puncture a tyre on most GLA-Class cars, you just keep driving: their tyres will still work when they’re flat. That’s great, provided you can get a new tyre fitted soon. Once it has lost air, a run-flat tyre will last for about 80km.

Drivers born and bred on traditional automatic gearboxes may need to approach the dual-clutch auto gearbox in all GLA-class cars with an open mind. A dual-clutch transmission is essentially an automated manual gearbox – albeit a highly sophisticated one – and sometimes it won’t match the smoothness of a conventional automatic when starting from rest.

What body styles are there?

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Five-door hatchback only.

The Mercedes-Benz GLA180 drives its front wheels, and the GLA250 4Matic drives all four wheels. They are all classed as small SUVs, higher priced.

What features does every Mercedes GLA have?

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Climate control air conditioning, and cruise control.

A reversing camera, and parking sensors front and rear. Active parking assist, which can steer the car into a parking spot.

Very bright and long-lived LED headlights, which switch on automatically when it’s getting dark, and LED taillights and daytime running lights. Windscreen wipers that operate automatically when it rains.

A multimedia system with a CD player, AM/FM and digital radio receivers, satellite navigation, and an 8.0-inch colour display. Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration. Control from buttons on the steering wheel.

A powered tailgate, which can be operated by pressing a button on the key or a button on the tailgate itself. Roof rails, which make it easier to fit rooftop luggage systems.

A collision warning and prevention system, with autonomous emergency braking, that works at city and highway speeds. A fatigue alert, and blind-spot assistance.

Nine airbags. (For their placement, and for more on GLA-Class safety systems, please open the Safety section below).

Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car. All new cars must have this feature.

Every Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class carries a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

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There is no longer a diesel option in the GLA range, which makes the GLA180 the most economical and the least costly. Its 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder uses 5.7 litres/100km on the official test.

The all-wheel-drive GLA250 4Matic has a 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine with about 75 per cent more power than the GLA180 while still using only 7.0 litres/100km on the official test.

All engines have an automatic stop-start system, which saves fuel in urban driving. It shuts down the engine when you stop, and starts it again when you take your foot off the brake pedal to drive away.

Every Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class has a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

Dual-clutch automatics operate much like a manual gearbox with robotic control. They save fuel and shift very swiftly and smoothly on the highway, but generally don’t feel quite as fluid and elastic as a conventional auto in stop-start driving conditions.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

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The least costly Mercedes GLA, the GLA180, comes with the 1.6-litre petrol engine, Artico fake-leather upholstery, 18-inch wheels, and the equipment in all GLAs.

Upgrading to the GLA180 Night Edition brings bigger 19-inch alloy wheels with lower-profile tyres that marginally sharpen steering, cloth trim, power front seats with memory function (so that you can restore your settings easily after a companion has driven the car).

You can spend even more on a GLA180 with the Urban Edition, which adds ambient interior lighting, comfort Suspension, heated front seats, smart-keyless entry that unlocks the car without having to take the key fob out of your bag or pocket, leather trim, powered driver's lumbar support, premium mats, and a panoramic sunroof.

Choose a GLA250 4Matic and you gain LED headlamps that dip automatically for oncoming traffic, LED tail-lights, a hands-free powered tailgate and rear air vents.

The GLA250 also brings you features aimed at improving its handling and road holding. The most important of these are all-wheel drive (which adds grip when accelerating and improves stability on slippery roads), and adaptive suspension (which can automatically soften the car’s ride over bumpy roads, and stiffen it for better control in fast cornering).

Additionally, an Off-road Engineering Package allows you to soften the accelerator response, and optimise the stability control, for very slippery or loose surfaces.

The GLA250 4Matic Night Edition has all that plus carbon fibre trim.

Additional active safety features are available to each version as an extra-cost option. Called Distance Pilot Distronic, it includes adaptive cruise control, high-speed auto-braking, lane-keeping assist, and automatic control of speed in stop-start traffic.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The GLA180 special editions with 19-inch wheels ride a little firmer because lower profile have less air in them to cushion the rim from the road

Of seven colours available on a Mercedes GLA-Class, three – Jupiter Red, Polar White and Night Black – are non-metallic and come at no extra cost. Other colours cost extra.

How comfortable is the GLA-Class?

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The stylish design and fine finish of the GLA’s interior makes it a nice place to be. The raised seating position gives you very good vision out, which adds to the confidence of the driver and the comfort of passengers.

All trim combinations feel the money’s worth. And yet as you step through the range, the different treatments make each feel a bit more special than the last.

On the move, every GLA feels comfortable and feels thanks to a compliant suspension set-up which, while taut, strikes a well-judged balance between absorbing bumps and controlling body movement.

The GLA250 4Matic, despite having the bigger 19-inch wheels with low-profile tyres, rides with a bit more polish than other GLAs because its adaptive suspension dampers can match the damping force to the driving conditions.

What about safety in a Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class?

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GLA-Class safety high points include its nine airbags, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, driver attention alert, blind-spot assistance, and partial automatic braking system. On all but the GLA 45, run-flat tyres help you stay in control if a tyre deflates suddenly.

There are two airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one alongside each front occupant to protect the upper body and head; one alongside each front occupant to protect at pelvis level; one alongside each rear occupant to protect the upper body and head; and a knee protection airbag for the driver.

The radar-based Collision Prevention Assist Plus gives you a forward collision warning that works at city and (low) highway speeds, and partial auto braking. It warns of an obstacle in front of the car – typically a slower vehicle – and will apply the brakes if you do not react. It will not initiate a full emergency stop, however.

The attention-assist system warns you if you show signs of falling asleep at the wheel. Blind Spot assist warns you, when changing lanes, if a vehicle is alongside out of view.

Otional all GLA-Class cars, is a Driving Assistance Package comprising Distance Pilot Distronic and Lane Keeping Assist. Distance Pilot Distronic includes a more sophisticated auto-braking function that operates at speeds up to 200km/h. Lane Keeping assist prods you if you have begun to drift distractedly – and possibly dangerously – into an adjacent lane.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has not tested the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class for safety since it first arrived in 2015. However, the GLA did achieve a five-star Euro NCAP rating in 2014.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

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The Mercedes GLA’s avant-garde hatch-meets-SUV style means the enjoyment starts even before you get in. And it looks extra cool at night, with ambient lighting spilling from beneath the door handles.

The classy, inner-city bar vibe continues inside courtesy of illuminated door sill panels with ‘Mercedes-Benz’ lettering, more ambient lighting in the footwells, and a slick dashboard presentation.

Even the least powerful engines move the GLA-Class briskly, working well with the smart and decisive seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The small petrol is smoother than the diesel, but the diesel needs even less accelerator to keep up with traffic, which makes it relaxing to drive.

The GLA250, with its 2.0-litre turbo petrol, offers you the sort of speed you would get in a hot hatch such as a VW Golf GTI – it’s a lot of fun.

Light, accurate steering features in all versions. There’s a slightly doughy patch just off centre but beyond that zone you get a solid sense of connection with the road.

While any GLA will turn into corners eagerly, the all-wheel-drive models feel more on-rails in the middle of corners. And they thrust out of them more convincingly, using the extra traction of the driven rear wheels.

Because of its taller stance, occupants of a GLA-Class car will be more aware of body roll than they would be in an A-Class hatchback. But the raised ride height is no impediment to handling or cornering speed.

On the flip side, the small increase in ground clearance compared with the A-Class is of minimal benefit. The GLA is suited only to very light off-roading, such as driving on a lumpy gravel road.

Overall, the GLA180 is a talented, raised warm hatch, while the GLA 250 4Matic is a very satisfying driver’s car.

How is life in the rear seats?

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The GLA-Class shares its wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear wheels – with Mercedes’ A-Class small hatch, and it has less leg room than obvious alternatives the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 (the Audi being the roomiest of the trio). The GLA also has less shoulder room than the Q3 and X1.

The GLA has good rear headroom – more than the donor A-Class – though you lose some of this in versions with a sunroof.

The rear seat bases are relatively short, so they don’t offer enough under-thigh support for great long-haul comfort. However the backrest angle feels right, and the level of lateral support is good.

Forward vision is good thanks to a rear cushion set high in relation to the front seats, with help from the slim front headrests.

Rear passengers get a fold-down centre rear armrest with twin cup-holders, and GLA250 has dedicated air-conditioning vents.

How is it for carrying stuff?

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The GLA-Class has 421 litres of boot space, which makes it considerably better for carrying stuff than a small hatch.

The rear centre-armrest allows the through-loading of long items, and with the 60-40 split-folding rear backrest lowered the GLA can swallow up to 1235 litres of luggage.

Where does Mercedes-Benz make the GLA?

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The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is made in Germany.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

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The Mercedes GLA-Class blurs the line between a small hatch and a small SUV. As a result, you might wish for a bit more space from your small SUV, which you get in the slightly larger, more traditionally SUV-bodied Audi Q3.

Other luxury small SUVs worth considering are the Audi Q2, BMW X1, Lexus UX, Mini Countryman and Volvo XC-40.

Are there plans to update the GLA-Class soon?

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Yes, the current model is in the sunset phase of its lifespan and is expected to be replaced by an all-new model at the end of 2020.

This first-generation, Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class arrived in early 2014. There were minor revisions to equipment and engines in the third quarter of 2016.

In June 2017 the GLA received a subtle restyle and some fresh equipment – notably LED headlamps, the extension of smart-key entry to the diesel GLA220d, and the introduction of a hands-free tailgate that you can open with a swipe of your foot.

Mercedes-Benz quietly dropped the GLA 220d for the 2019 model year and pocket-rocket GLA45 AMG from the 2020 range.

Mercedes-Benz introduced a longer five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty in March 2020, which covers all GLAs sold from then.

The second-generation Mercedes-Benz GLA was revealed in December 2019. Based on the latest-generation A-Class, it features more interior space, more tech smarts and better driving experience than this model.

It will debut in Europe in the second half of 2020, with a local arrival expected by Christmas.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

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Our reviewers recommend the GLA250 4Matic. The extra power and all-wheel-drive system makes it a lot of fun, without compromising comfort.