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The Mercedes-Benz GLA Is Really Just a Hatchback (And That's OK)

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2016

I have some troubling news for anyone who recently purchased a Mercedes-Benz GLA thinking it's an SUV. The news is: It's actually a hatchback. And I have proof!

I discovered this a few days ago when I got into a discussion with my friend Joe about how you separate an "SUV" or a "crossover" from a hatchback. This came about when I discovered that my friend Joe believes that both the Nissan Cube and Kia Soul are crossovers, which is possibly the most blasphemous statement I've heard throughout the entirety of 2016. And, folks, it's been quite a year.

So while my discussion with Joe graduated from what we "feel" is right to actual numbers and dimensions, one thing became quite clear to both of us: Regardless of how you classify the Soul, or the Cube, or the Mazda CX-3, or the Subaru Crosstrek, there is virtually no question that the Mercedes-Benz GLA is a hatchback.

Yes, that's right: a hatchback. Not an SUV, which is what Mercedes-Benz calls it on its website. Not a crossover, which is what most of my automotive journalist colleagues call it. The Mercedes-Benz GLA is a hatchback.

My proof if this lies primarily in the GLA's height, which is -- get ready for it -- just 58.8 inches high. Obviously, this number is meaningless without context, so I'll provide some for you: The Chrysler 200, which everyone in human history agrees is a sedan, except my friend Joe, who may believe it's a crossover, is 58.7 inches in height.

Let me repeat that: the Mercedes-Benz GLA is only one tenth of an inch taller than the Chrysler 200.

The crazy doesn't stop there. The GLA's height places it squarely in between several other popular hatchbacks -- like, for instance, the Mazda3 and the Chevy Sonic. And do you know which one's the tallest of the three? The Sonic! That's right: At 59.7 inches in height, the tiny little Chevy Sonic hatchback is an inch taller than the Mercedes-Benz GLA. In fact, even the Honda Fit is taller than Mercedes' smallest "SUV."

Now, anyone willing to fight for the GLA's honor will likely point to the ground clearance, which is purportedly 8 inches with an optional "off-road package." This is far more than, for example, the Honda CR-V -- unquestionably a crossover, though Joe may consider it a hatchback -- which has just 6.7 inches of ground clearance.

And this leads me to my next point, which is: if the GLA is further off the ground than a CR-V but shorter than a Chevy Sonic, where is the actual vehicle? Is the GLA neither a hatchback nor a crossover, but rather just a figment of our imaginations?

No, that isn't actually my next point. My next point is that the ground-clearance people are missing one key fact: It's OK to be a hatchback! Yes, sure, Mercedes markets the GLA as an SUV because they know more people are going to buy it that way -- but people, come on! Hatchback is not a dirty word! Hatchbacks are lovely, practical automobiles, and we should all be so lucky that Mercedes decided to give us such a nice one, with a turbocharged engine, and lots of equipment, and reasonable pricing, and -- OH! -- the nice surprise of an extra couple inches of ground clearance.

Good going, Mercedes. You can call it whatever you want, but I'm happy to see you back in the hatchback game.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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The Mercedes-Benz GLA Is Really Just a Hatchback (And That's OK) - Autotrader