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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Review ― Is the Smallest Mercedes SUV a Good Buy?

[MUSIC PLAYING] MARK TAKAHASHI: I hate to start on a negative note, but one of the worst cars I’ve driven over the last decade includes the Mercedes Benz GLA class that was introduced for 2015. Not surprisingly, I was not a fan of the CLA sedan that it was based on. With the introduction of a new A class and CLA last year, well, they’ve won me over. In fact, the A class has been an Edmunds top-rated pick for 2019 and 2020. It stands to reason, then, that I should like this– the all-new 2021 Mercedes Benz GLA 250. Do us a favor and hit the Subscribe button below to stay up-to-date on all the latest videos, and head over to edmunds.com for all of your car-shopping needs. Compared to the previous generation GLA, it now looks more like an SUV than its predecessor, which kind of looked like a big hatchback. Prices start right around $37,000, and for another 2 grand, you can get Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

As tested, this GLA 250 has a sticker price of $42,645. If it were my choice, I would’ve just gone with the Premium, Multimedia, and Driver Assistance option packages, for a grand total that comes in just under 41 grand. That’s right in line with the Edmunds top-ranked Mercedes GLB, which raises the $40,000 question. What’s the difference between the two, and why would I buy one over the other? For some, the GLA’s styling may be a draw. In many ways, it looks like a fun-size GLC, and I like it a lot more than last GLA. The GLB, on the other hand, is more boxy and upright, almost like a baby G wagon. That boxy shape has some advantages that we’ll get into, so stick around. Under the hood is the same 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that puts out 221 horsepower and 258 pound feet of torque. It also has the same 8-speed automated dual-clutch transmission. Fuel economy estimates come in at 28 miles per gallon combined, which is 2 miles per gallon better than the GLB. That’s likely due to the GLA’s smaller footprint, lighter weight, and sleeker silhouette.

I managed to get 31 MPG on our highway-heavy 115-mile evaluation loop a few days ago. So hop in. Let’s see how it drives. Here at the track, the GLA 250 hits 60 miles an hour in 6.77 seconds, which confirms Mercedes 6.8-second estimate. In everyday driving, the GLA gathers speed confidently. There is a minor shudder from the Auto Start system and a slight delay in throttle response. But after that, it’s smooth sailing. Now, if you want more from the engine, you might feel a more pronounced delay and some awkward lurches, like this. Not bad, though.

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The GLA needed 138 feet to stop from 60 miles an hour, though, and that’s pretty long for the class, and that’s really down to tires. These are 500 treadwear rating, so they’re not as sticky. The GLB did it in only 108 feet, but it had much stickier 300 treadwear tires. Otherwise, the pedal had the right amount of effort and it’s easy to come to a very smooth limo stop. Yes, eh? The GLA 250 isn’t all that sporting on a winding road or a closed circuit like this. But you know what? It doesn’t need to be. More importantly, it feels confident and capable. For the few drivers out there that want more performance, there will be some low-level AMG variants coming at the end of 2020. Ah, the end of 2020. That sounds good, right? I think most shoppers will agree that ride comfort is more important than cornering ability. And in this regard, the GLA does well. Initial impacts are well-absorbed, eliminating any harshness. You’ll feel some jostling over undulations in the road, but that’s expected for this type of vehicle. Outward visibility is excellent.

This front roof pillar doesn’t get in the way in left turns, and the view out the back doesn’t chop off anything I feel I need to see. It’s good enough that I don’t have to rely on the rearview camera as much. It also means I wouldn’t bother with the available surround-view monitor. When it comes to advanced safety features, the GLA comes up a little short in my book. You get frontal collision warning and automatic braking, as well as a blind spot monitor, but that’s about it. Nowadays, when non-luxury brands include a full suite of advanced safety features as standard, it makes me question why it’s not included here. For another $1,700, though, it’s all in the Driver Assistance package. Not surprisingly, this new GLA 250 drives a lot like the GLB, so things are definitely looking good. Let’s pull over so we can chat about all of the interior details. The standard front seats don’t have a ton of adjustments, but those adjustments do have a lot of range. You can have it lowered to the deck for a more sedan-like position, or more elevated and upright, like a traditional SUV. There’s also plenty of space, and for taller drivers, an extendable thigh support.

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Naturally, the award-winning Mercedes MBUX infotainment system is present, and with the optional premium package, the screen grows to 10 and 1/4 inches. It’s easily one of the best systems out there for its quick responses, tons of features, and four ways to control it. You can control it with these thumb pads on the steering wheel, this trace pad here, the touchscreen, as well as speech recognition that allows you to speak more naturally, rather than like a robot. As far as interior storage goes, there are moderately-sized pockets, bins, and cupholders to hold all of your personal items. There’s also a rubberized phone tray here that can be optioned as a wireless charging pad. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, but not wireless. Next up, my obligatory head taps and knee taps. I was expecting to be a little cramped back here, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how much space there is. I\’m 5 foot 10″ and sit just fine behind the front seat that\’s set for me. The seat cushion is just a little bit low, but there’s enough leg room to stretch out and get the support that I’d want on a long road trip. I’d be fine back here for that four-hour LA to Vegas run.

These seats don’t slide or recline, but I’d be comfortable back here for a few hours. Helping matters is a household power outlet and two USB ports. Remember how I mentioned the GLB’s advantage over the GLA at the top of the video? Here’s where it gains its edge. The GLA has a cargo capacity of 15.4 cubic feet. That’s about what you’d expect from a midsize sedan, not so much a crossover SUV. But GLB’s cargo space is a comparably huge 24 cubic feet. As you can see, it’s really not all that small, and there are some added perks, too. The low lift-over height means you don’t have to struggle as much with big and heavy objects, and there’s some added space underneath the floor, too. It’s a short reach to the seat back latches, and there’s a separate one just for the center passthrough. On the side are some hooks here for your shopping bags so that they don’t toss all their contents every time you take a turn.

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The last thing you need are cans, cantaloupes, jaw breakers, and ball bearings flying everywhere. Not bad, right? [MUSIC PLAYING] Given how similar the 2021 Mercedes GLA is to the GLB 250, in terms of performance, price, comfort, and refinement, you really can’t go wrong with either. The big differences is in cargo capacity and the availability of a third row of seats, albeit tiny seats. That puts the GLA in a close second place, ahead of the Audi Q3, Volvo XC40, and BMW X2. It’s also a hell of an apology for that first-generation GLA. Thanks for watching, and as always, hit the Subscribe button below and head over to edmunds.com for more information on the 2021 Mercedes Benz GLA and all of its competition. [MUSIC PLAYING]


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