2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA Range Review

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA Range Review

Priced From $43,900Information

Overall Rating


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


4 out of 5 stars

Pros & Cons

  1. ProGreat interior design and finish.

  2. ConMore raised-hatch than SUV.

  3. The Pick: 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 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.

If you puncture a tyre on the Mercedes-AMG GLA45, you must get to grips with the tyre-repair kit. It has neither run-flat tyres nor a spare.

(You can order a space-saver spare wheel at extra cost as a dealer-fit accessory. When fitted, it is recommended you do not exceed 80km/h.)

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 and GLA200d drive their front wheels, and the GLA250 4Matic and Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 drive 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. Apple CarPlay integration for iPod and iPhone, and Android Auto for God’s Own Phones (you can display and use apps from the touchscreen). 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 automatic partial 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 three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

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

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The 2.1-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel in the GLA220d uses the least fuel, consuming just 4.5 litres/100km on the official test (city and country combined). This engine accelerates the car effortlessly from low speeds.

The main reason you might not choose the diesel is that all other GLA-Class cars feel smoother, and even the least costly of them is nearly as powerful. They use turbocharged petrol engines and these don’t use much fuel either.

Of the petrol GLAs, the GLA180 is the most economical and it is also 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 and the very high-powered AWD Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 offer enthusiast drivers a lot more acceleration. Both have 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engines. The GLA250 has about 75 per cent more power than the GLA180. The Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 has about three times as much power as the GLA180 – while still using only 7.5 litres/100km on the official test (although its fuel use can increase significantly if you’re heavy on the accelerator.)

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.

Spend more on a GLA-Class and you can have a diesel or a much more powerful petrol engine, as described above. You also get different exterior and interior trim, and more features.

Choosing the diesel GLA220d brings you dual-zone climate control, which lets you set different temperatures for each side of the cabin. You can unlock the car and drive away without taking the smart key from your bag or pocket – and a swing of your foot under the rear bumper opens the tailgate. Front seats have power-adjustable support for your lower back.

Choose a GLA250 4Matic and you also get heated front seats with full power adjustment, and a memory for your adjustments (so that you can restore your settings easily after a companion has driven the car). Headlamps dip automatically for oncoming traffic. And a large power-operated sunroof opens above front and rear occupants.

The GLA250 also brings you features aimed at improving its handling and roadholding. 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). Wheel diameter increases an inch, to 19 inches, and tyre profile shrinks slightly, marginally sharpening steering.

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 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 retains most GLA250 features but looks and feels sportier, inside and out, than the other GLA-Class cars. Equipment upgrades include leather seats, and a better audio system from Harman Kardon. There is also Distance Pilot Distronic, a more sophisticated driving assistance system that includes adaptive cruise control, high-speed auto-braking, and automatic control of speed in stop-start traffic.

The GLA 45 too is all-wheel drive and has adaptive suspension, but it rides on stiffer springs, for more responsive handling. Its 20-inch wheels carry tyres with a still lower profile. And because it is aimed unreservedly at high-performance road use, it does not have the off-road driving package.

Distance Pilot Distronic is available as an option on the three less costly GLA-Class cars, as part of a Driving Assistance Package that also brings you lane-keep assist.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

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The front sports seats in the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 have big side bolsters that make them harder to get in and out of than those in the less costly versions. And you don’t get under-seat storage or seat-cushion length adjustment.

The GLA 45 also rides less comfortably than the other GLAs, because its suspension is stiffer and its low-profile tyres have less rubber and air cushioning you from the road.

And the GLA 45 has neither run-flat tyres nor a spare tyre. You must rely on a tyre repair kit (or order the accessory space-saver spare).

Of 10 colours available on a Mercedes GLA-Class, three – Jupiter Red, Cirrus White and Night Black – are non-metallic and come at no extra cost. Other colours cost about $1100 extra.

(On a Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, however, you can have any colour as standard.)

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 compared with the Mercedes A-Class hatchback (from which the GLA is derived) 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.

While all the GLAs have lovely interiors, the non-AMG versions nevertheless are a bit more comfortable, even before you get moving. Their seats are easier to get into, with greater adjustability and a more forgiving cushion.

On the move, every GLA is more comfortable and feels more refined inside than its Mercedes A-Class hatchback counterpart, thanks to a more compliant suspension set-up which, while still taut, strikes a well-judged balance between absorbing bumps and controlling body movement.

The GLA250 4Matic, despite having bigger 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.

In contrast, the GLA 45 – still with adaptive dampers – rides less comfortably than the others, because it is more stiffly sprung (and has bigger wheels again).

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.

Standard on the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, and optional on the other 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 rated the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class for safety.

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’ or ‘AMG’ lettering, more ambient lighting in the foot wells, 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.

The Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 is capable of even more eye-opening acceleration, with a wild exhaust note and engine intake bark to match.

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.

The GLA 45 is the most responsive GLA Class to steer, thanks to the lower profile tyres and sports suspension tune. Its adaptive suspension also brings you a track-focussed Race mode that takes damping stiffness to the extreme. And you get more powerful brakes. A well-driven GLA 45 is a difficult car to catch on a twisty road.

Overall, the GLA180 and 200d make talented, raised warm hatches, while the GLA 250 4Matic is a very satisfying driver’s car. The high-powered Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 is an absolute rocket.

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 witha 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 in all but the GLA180 they also get 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 (That’s about 20 percent bigger than the A-Class boot, for example).

Among the alternatives, the GLA’s boot is equivalent to the BMW X1’s but not quite as generous as the Audi Q3’s (460 litres), and not quite up with Mercedes’ more pragmatic B-Class.

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 cars worth considering are the BMW X1 and Mini Countryman.

Are there plans to update the GLA-Class soon?

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The current, 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 GLA220d, and the introduction of a hands-free tailgate that you can open with a swipe of your foot.

A new-generation GLA is expected for the 2020 model year.

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

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Our reviewers recommend the GLA250 4Matic. This version occupies a terrific middle ground between the excellent front-wheel drive GLA180 and 220d, and the over-the-top Mercedes-AMG GLA 45. The extra power and all-wheel-drive system makes the GLA250 a lot of fun, without the comfort compromises of the AMG model.