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2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class vs. 2015 Audi Q3: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro April 2015

The compact-luxury-SUV segment is heating up, with several new models -- the Buick Encore, the BMW X1 and the Lexus NX, just to name a few -- joining the fray within the last year or two. Two other new challengers are the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and the 2015 Audi Q3, both of which are the smallest SUVs either brand has ever sold in the United States. But which one is better? We've created a close comparison of the two models to find out, but first let's see what's new for the Q3 and the GLA for the 2015 model year.

2015 Audi Q3

The Q3 is all new for the 2015 model year. It slots below the larger Q5 and the 3-row Q7 in Audi's growing SUV lineup.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

Like the Q3, the GLA is also new for the 2015 model year. It joins a larger SUV family than the Audi, as Mercedes sells compact GLK, midsize GLE, full-size GL and range-topping G-Class models.

Reliability

Both the Q3 and the GLA are simply too new for reliability ratings. Although reliability doesn't necessarily translate from one model to another, we're a little more encouraged by the Mercedes than the Audi, as the GLA's slightly larger GLK stablemate received an above-average rating in J.D. Power's reliability rankings, compared to the Q5's average rating. As for warranty length, both models are identical, offering 4 years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection, which includes powertrain coverage.

As a result, this category is simply too close to call, at least until we get final reliability ratings back from industry experts at J.D. Power.

Fuel Economy

The Q3 and the GLA offer highly similar base-level powertrains. In the Audi, it's a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, while the GLA250 touts a 208-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. The Audi uses a 6-speed automatic, while the GLA uses a 7-speed.

The GLA250's gas mileage numbers significantly trump the Q3's, as the small Benz reaches as high as 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway with standard all-wheel drive. The Q3 can only muster 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy, and that's with front-wheel drive. Add all-wheel drive, and those figures drop slightly to 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.

The GLA also offers a high-performance AMG model, dubbed the GLA45 AMG. While we suspect fuel economy-minded shoppers wouldn't consider the 355-hp sport crossover, we're still impressed with its 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy gas mileage ratings.

Safety

The GLA and the Q3 are too new to have undergone crash tests carried out by either the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). But we have high hopes for the two models, as Audi and Mercedes vehicles tend to earn strong scores in crash tests from both groups.

As for safety equipment, the GLA has a big advantage over the Q3. While both cars feature just about every standard safety feature you'd expect -- anti-lock brakes, side-curtain airbags and more -- the GLA also adds standard collision-prevention assist, which provides automatic braking in the event of a collision. It also touts a standard attention-assist system, which monitors drivers for signs of drowsiness. Neither feature is available in the Q3.

The GLA also trumps the Q3 when it comes to safety options. While the Q3 touts extras such as parking sensors and a backup camera, the GLA goes above and beyond to offer an available automated parking system, lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control, none of which is offered in the Audi. As a result, safety is an easy decision: The GLA gets the nod, assuming it doesn't fail its crash tests when it eventually goes before IIHS and NHTSA.

Technology

If technology is a top priority for your next car, you'll want the GLA instead of the Q3. Although comfort and convenience tech features are largely the same between both vehicles (save for the GLA's larger standard touchscreen), the primary benefit is safety gadgets, as we've covered above. The GLA simply offers more of these features, from advanced items such as adaptive cruise control and automated parking to simpler gadgets such as lane-departure warning and automatic braking -- features we think the Audi probably should also offer.

Value

If you've followed along so far, you've probably taken note of our preference for the GLA in almost every category, including safety equipment, fuel economy and overall technology. It also has another benefit that we haven't yet highlighted: standard all-wheel drive, compared to -optional all-wheel drive in the Q3.

And then there's the biggest benefit of all: Despite the GLA's stronger showings in just about every arena, the Mercedes is actually cheaper than the Audi. While the Mercedes starts at $32,225 with destination, the Audi is $33,425 -- a fairly large $1,200 jump, especially when you consider the Q3's conspicuously absent standard all-wheel drive.

Autotrader's Advice

As you might expect given our remarks above, we think the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a better choice than the 2015 Audi Q3. The GLA offers better gas mileage, more equipment, more safety features, more technology and standard all-wheel drive -- all for less money. There's also an optional high-performance AMG version for shoppers who want to have a little fun with their compact luxury crossover.

Perhaps the Q3's only holdout advantage is its styling: While the GLA has more of a station-wagon look, the Audi offers a more traditional SUV design. That alone will likely be enough to sway some buyers to the Audi despite its less-for-more pricing. But if you don't mind the GLA's looks, we'd say go for the Mercedes all day long.

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2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class vs. 2015 Audi Q3: Which Is Better? - Autotrader