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2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader December 2014

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is the crossover version of the recently introduced CLA-Class sedan, offering Mercedes style and luxury in a compact, affordable package. Equipped with fast, yet fuel-efficient, turbocharged engines and a range of standard and optional features, the GLA-Class looks to shake things up at the lower end of the premium-crossover spectrum.

With its tidy exterior dimensions and modest interior space, the GLA is really more of a hatchback than an SUV, but there's nothing wrong with that. After all, hatchbacks themselves are utility vehicles at heart, and the GLA offers the same flexibility with its folding rear seatbacks, adding a touch of class via the standard power lift gate. The GLA is also rewarding to drive, particularly in hopped-up GLA45 AMG form, and its available 4MATIC all-wheel drive makes it a solid option for shoppers who live in the Snow Belt.

Can the 2015 GLA-Class fend off the fierce competition in this segment? Let's take a look.

What's New for 2015?

The 2015 GLA-Class is an all-new model.

What We Like

Fun to drive; good fuel economy; easy to park; upscale ambience

What We Don't

Limited cargo capacity; some subpar cabin materials; firm ride

How Much?

$32,225-$49,225

Fuel Economy

The GLA250 starts with front-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine rated at 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The GLA250 4MATIC uses the same engine but adds all-wheel drive. The GLA45 AMG pumps up the volume with a "handcrafted" 2.0-liter turbo four that's rated at 355 hp and 332 lb-ft.

All GLA-Class models employ a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission (it works just like an automatic), with the GLA45 AMG getting a performance-tuned version with quicker shifts.

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the GLA250 4MATIC at 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway -- an impressive showing for a compact luxury crossover with all-wheel drive. The front-wheel-drive GLA250 will be rated later in the model year. The GLA45 AMG yields respectable ratings of 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy despite its huge power advantage.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is offered in GLA250, GLA250 4MATIC and GLA45 AMG trim levels.

The GLA250 ($32,225) comes standard with features such as 18-inch alloy wheels, a power lift gate, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium vinyl upholstery, power front seats, memory settings, the COMAND infotainment system with a 5.8-in display, Bluetooth (phone and audio) and an 8-speaker audio system.

The GLA250 4MATIC ($34,225) adds all-wheel drive but is otherwise similarly equipped to the base GLA250.

Notable options include 19-in wheels, upgraded front brakes, an exterior aero kit, bi-xenon headlights and LED taillights, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, a Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, an upgraded 7-in display, voice controls, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, sport front seats and premium vinyl dashboard trim.

The GLA45 AMG ($49,225) is similarly equipped but occupies a different class in terms of performance, adding the stronger engine, 19-in wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, sport steering, performance brakes and exterior styling enhancements. The AMG model can also be outfitted with Recaro seats, a sport exhaust, a rear spoiler and 20-in wheels if desired.

Safety

All 2015 GLA-Class models come standard with anti-lock disc brakes, stability control and eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee and full-length side-curtain). Also standard is Collision Prevention Assist Plus, a forward-collision-mitigation system that includes automatic braking if an impact is imminent.

The Multimedia package includes a rearview camera, while the Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system and lane-keeping assist. Rear-side airbags are also optional.

Behind the Wheel

In our interior evaluation, we were suitably impressed by the GLA's premium vibe, though a closer inspection revealed some rather un-Mercedes-like hard plastics on the dashboard, door panels and center console. Everything seems to be screwed together tightly, but the materials aren't as sumptuous as we've come to expect from the prestigious brand. Still, that makes sense when you consider the GLA's low price point: This is an opportunity to get into a Mercedes for the same amount of money that you'd spend on a Volkswagen, so we're guessing that a lot of shoppers will be willing to forgive a few subpar surfaces.

More predictable is the diminutive GLA's limited interior space. The front seats offer pleasantly firm support and ample adjustability, but rear legroom depends on who's sitting in front -- if the driver has long legs, for example, the passenger in back is going to be cramped. With shorter folks up front, the back seat is just fine for two adults. In terms of cargo capacity, the GLA offers 17.2 cu ft. behind the rear seats and 43.6 cu ft. with those seatbacks flipped down -- not bad for a hatchback, but subpar for a compact crossover.

On the road, the GLA feels sharp and eager. The base 208-hp engine has plenty of punch, and the quick steering and firm suspension provide athletic handling in tight corners. On the flip side, the suspension isn't very compliant on rough roads, so if you're expecting a cushy ride, you might be disappointed. Noise levels at speed are also a bit higher than the luxury-class norm. The GLA45 AMG steps up to sports-car acceleration and even more entertaining handling, but it comes at a steep price. For most drivers, the GLA250 will be more than adequate.

Other Cars to Consider

Audi Q3 -- The new Q3 is the GLA's primary rival, offering similar turbocharged power and all-wheel-drive traction. We give the Q3 the edge in interior quality, but the Benz is more fun to drive.

BMW X1 -- The aging X1 doesn't quite have the GLA's curb appeal, but it compensates with a superb rear-wheel-drive chassis and an available 6-cylinder engine.

Infiniti QX50 -- Like the X1, the QX50 is an older, more performance-oriented crossover, and its V6 engine packs a serious punch with standard 325 hp.

Used Audi Q5 -- The Q5 is a bit larger, but it's nicer inside and offers a variety of desirable powertrains.

AutoTrader's Advice

Stick with the base GLA250 or GLA250 4MATIC. The GLA45 AMG makes for a thrilling test drive, but is it worth the extra $15,000 or so? In our opinion, the GLA is all about value, so the more affordable models are where it's at.

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Used 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
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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.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class: New Car Review - Autotrader