2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC Review 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.
Perhaps the GLA doesn’t say SUV loudly enough for consumers to hear. Bucking the industry trend, the GLA crossover was outsold by its CLA sedan sibling in 2016, albeit by only a few hundred units. So it makes sense that when Mercedes updated the GLA for 2018, it put a priority on making it look more SUV rugged.
A new front end sports a reshaped bumper and a restyled grille that looks more like those found on Benz’s larger SUVs, the GLE and the GLS. Dimpled black plastic body cladding, added along the side sills, suggests off-road ability, while the tail features a mildly reshaped bumper and restyled taillights. In our test vehicle’s attractive combination of the new Canyon Beige paint with 19-inch black wheels, the freshened GLA does at least have more road presence, although the jury is still out on whether it looks like a real crossover.
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.
2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC Features
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.
We wish Mercedes-Benz had implemented more changes to the interior, which mostly carries over save for a 1.0-inch-larger infotainment screen and some additional chrome trim. It feels well built, but the dour black plastics and overall design simply don’t measure up to the standard set by Benz’s superb cabins found in everything from the C-class on up. Since the GLA’s dimensions haven’t changed, this refresh can’t help the cramped rear seat and cargo area, which limit the practical appeal of this so-called utility vehicle.
It doesn’t come cheap, either. Although 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 such as 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.