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2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2018

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a premium subcompact SUV. In theory. In practice, it's really more of a high-riding hatchback, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

This is the smallest -- and therefore the least expensive -- crossover from Mercedes-Benz. As well as offering style and luxury in a modestly sized and (relatively) affordable package, the GLA comes with gutsy yet fuel-efficient turbocharged engines. It provides flexibility with its folding rear seats, then adds a touch of class with a standard powered tailgate.

It's also rewarding to drive, particularly in GLA 45 AMG form, and its 4Matic all-wheel-drive system makes it a solid choice for those who live in the snowbelt. The GLA is based on the same platform as the CLA-Class sedan.

What's New for 2018?

Even though it seems as if the GLA has only been around for a year or two, it's already received a styling update at the nose and tail. The instrument cluster has also been redesigned, while the air conditioning vent rings are more "strongly accentuated" (according to the company). A rearview camera becomes standard, along with a new high-resolution 8-inch display. LED headlights have joined the options list, plus a hands-free feature for the powered tailgate. And there are a few cosmetic changes.

What We Like

Fun drive; decent fuel economy; easy to park; upscale ambiance

What We Don't

Limited cargo capacity; some subpar cabin materials; firm ride; relatively noisy for a Benz

How Much?

$34,395-$51,595

Fuel Economy

The GLA 250 uses front-wheel drive and a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in combined driving.

The GLA 250 4Matic uses the same engine, but adds all-wheel drive. Fuel consumption is still respectable, at 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.

The Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 also has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, but this one develops 375 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. It has all-wheel drive as standard. Fuel consumption is 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.

All models have a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission (it works just like an automatic), with the GLA 45 AMG getting a performance-tuned version with quicker shifts.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class comes in GLA 250, GLA 250 4Matic and 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 versions.

The GLA 250 ($34,395) comes standard with 18-in alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a powered tailgate, chrome roof rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium vinyl upholstery, power adjustable front seats with driver's-side memory settings, a rearview camera, Adaptive Brake (with hill-start assist and automatic brake drying), the Comand infotainment system with an 8-in display, Bluetooth (for phone and audio) and an 8-speaker audio system with HD Radio and a USB port.

The GLA 250 4Matic ($36,395) has equipment similar to the GLA 250, but adds all-wheel drive, an off-road drive mode, an off-road display and downhill speed regulation.

Options include 19-in wheels, upgraded front brakes, an exterior aero kit, LED headlights and taillights, self-dimming side mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, satellite radio, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon Surround Sound system, ambient cabin lighting, hands-free tailgate operation, voice controls, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, a self-parking system, leather upholstery, sport front seats and a premium vinyl dashboard trim.

The Convenience package comes with a garage door opener, auto-dimming mirrors and a compass.

The 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 ($51,595) occupies a different class in performance terms, adding the stronger engine, 19-in wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, sport steering, a sport exhaust, performance brakes, LED lighting and exterior styling enhancements. It can also be specced with Recaro sport seats, a rear spoiler and 20-in wheels. The Dynamic Plus package adds a limited-slip front differential, an adjustable suspension and race mode, while raising top speed to 167 mph.

Maximum cargo capacity is 41.8 cu ft. with the rear seats flipped down. Not bad for a hatchback, but not great for a small crossover.

Safety

All GLA-Class models come standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control and eight airbags (front, front side, front knee and full-length side curtain). Rear side airbags are optional.

Collision Prevention Assist Plus -- a forward-collision mitigation system that includes automatic braking if an impact is imminent -- is standard.

The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance.

Although the GLA-Class hasn't yet been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it has performed exceptionally well in European tests.

Behind the Wheel

Overall, the GLA has a premium air, but closer inspection reveals some rather uncharacteristic hard plastics on the dashboard, door panels and center console. Everything seems to be put together tightly, though.

Cheaper materials make sense, considering the GLA's comparatively low price. This is an opportunity to get into a Mercedes-Benz crossover for around the same cost as a Volkswagen, so a lot of shoppers will probably be willing to forgive a few below-par surfaces.

They should also be able to live with the limited interior space. The front seats offer pleasantly firm support and ample adjustability, but rear legroom depends on who's sitting up front. If the driver has long legs, an adult passenger behind is going to be cramped. With shorter folks up front, the back seat is fine for adults.

The driving experience is sharp and eager. The base 208-hp engine has plenty of punch, while the quick steering and firm suspension provide athletic handling in tight corners. On the flip side, the suspension isn't so compliant on rough roads. Anyone expecting a typical Mercedes-Benz ride might be disappointed. Noise levels at speed are also higher than the luxury-class norm. The GLA 45 brings sports-car acceleration and more entertaining handling, but comes at a steep price. For most drivers, the GLA 250 will be more than adequate.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Audi Q3 -- The Q3 is a chief rival, offering similar turbocharged power and all-wheel-drive traction. It has the edge in interior quality, but the GLA is more fun.

2018 BMW X1 -- Roomier than the GLA and has superb driving talents.

2018 Lexus NX 300 -- Enjoys the usual Lexus build quality and excellent equipment.

2018 Volkswagen Golf R -- Comes with nearly 300 hp and all-wheel drive. A cheaper alternative to a GLA 45 that's still upscale and seriously quick.

Used BMW X3 -- More space and a highlight of its class. Check out a certified pre-owned (CPO) example with a reassuring warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

The straight-ahead GLA 250 is a well-rounded, well-equipped vehicle. When attacking the options list, put the safety features at the top.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class: New Car Review - Autotrader