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2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class vs. 2015 BMW X1: Which Is Better?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro April 2015

If you're interested in a compact luxury SUV, you have an increasing number of different models to choose from. It seems like every brand (Buick, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, etc.) is joining the fray. To help you with your search, we've selected two of today's most popular new models, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and the 2015 BMW X1, and created an in-depth comparison test to determine which one is better. Before we get started, however, let's see what's new with the GLA and the X1 for the 2015 model year.

2015 BMW X1

Following a 2013 debut and minor updates last year, the X1 is unchanged for the latest model year.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

The GLA is completely new for the 2015 model year. It joins Mercedes-Benz's rapidly expanding SUV family, which also includes the compact GLK, midsize GLE, full-size GL and flagship G-Class.

Reliability

Unfortunately, the Mercedes-Benz GLA is simply too new to have earned a reliability score from automotive experts at J.D. Power. We're encouraged by the above-average score of its larger sibling, the GLK, though we caution against making any reliability predictions about the GLA until it's been out for at least a few more months. Since the X1 has been on sale since 2013, however, it's already earned a J.D. Power score: three circles out of five in the firm's Power Circle Ratings, indicating average reliability.

When it comes to warranty length, both the X1 and the GLA are identical, offering 4 years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and powertrain protection.

Since the GLA doesn't yet have a J.D. Power reliability rating, we're deeming this category too close to call, though we're eager to see how the compact Mercedes SUV stacks up to its BMW rival.

Fuel Economy

Both the X1 and the GLA offer two engines. The GLA250's base powertrain is a 208-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy with standard all-wheel drive is 24 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

The X1's base engine offers more power, 240 horses, though it's still a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. It returns 23 mpg city/34 mpg hwy with rear-wheel drive, or 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy with optional all-wheel drive.

For drivers who want more power, both Mercedes and BMW offer an additional option. In the high-performance GLA45 AMG, that option is a 355-hp version of the standard 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, which is good for an excellent 23 mpg city/29 mpg hwy. Meanwhile, the X1 offers a 300-hp 3.0-liter 6-cylinder, which is capable of up to 18 mpg city/27 mpg hwy. Both models include standard all-wheel drive.

Overall, the GLA has the advantage when it comes to fuel economy, but only barely. Base models return almost identical numbers, and the GLA really only pulls ahead when the high-performance GLA45 AMG is compared with the 6-cylinder X1 xDrive30i.

Safety

Neither the BMW X1 nor the Mercedes-Benz GLA has been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The GLA is also too new to have gone through testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), though the X1 earned an admirable Top Safety Pick designation from the firm.

As for safety equipment and features, the GLA is simply head and shoulders ahead of its BMW rival. Yes, it's true that the X1 offers everything you might need, including standard stability and traction control and curtain-side airbags, along with such options as parking sensors and a backup camera. But the Mercedes offers a wide variety of additional extras, including forward collision warning with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and more. Simply put, the GLA is on the forefront of the latest in automotive safety technology, while the X1 lags surprisingly far behind.

Assuming it'll ace crash tests as most Mercedes models do, the GLA is easily our pick for safety when compared to the X1.

Technology

Despite major differences in safety technology, the GLA and X1 start to even out in terms of comfort and convenience features and gadgets. For example, while the GLA's largest available infotainment screen is just 7 inches, the X1 offers an 8.8-in screen. The X1 also matches or bests some of the GLA's most advanced features by adding an available panoramic sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, a heated steering wheel and BMW's Remote Services feature, which allows smartphone users to control various vehicle functions.

Still, the GLA seems to have a few more substantive advantages, including adaptive cruise control, an automated parking system and a larger standard center screen.

If you're into technology, our advice is this: Both the GLA and the X1 deliver many of today's top comfort and convenience features, just as you'd expect from brand-new luxury cars. The two cars only really differ in terms of safety features, where the GLA has a significant advantage.

Value

The BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA are similar in a lot of ways, right down to price, where only $75 separates the base prices of the two models: $32,150 for the X1, and $32,225 for the GLA250. So which one is the better value?

If you're interested in all-wheel drive, the GLA has a big advantage over the X1 right out of the gate: It offers standard all-wheel drive, while the feature is $1,800 extra in the BMW. The GLA250 also has far more other standard features than the X1, including 10-way power front seats (compared to the BMW's manual seats), a power liftgate (manual in the BMW), driver memory settings (optional in the BMW) and more.

Higher trim levels aren't quite as comparable. The high-performance GLA45 AMG starts just below $50,000, which is a huge step up from the X1 xDrive35i's $40,000 base price. But those models aren't meant to square off: The sporty GLA45 would instead compete with a non-existent X1M, while the GLA doesn't have a trim level in between the base-level GLA250 and the high-performance GLA45.

In the end, the value equation is tilted in the Mercedes' favor if you're comparing base models. The GLA250 offers more equipment and standard all-wheel drive for less money, and that's a good thing for most shoppers.

Autotrader's Advice

Although the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class and the 2015 BMW X1 are both strong rivals, the GLA is our pick. Yes, it's a little less powerful than the BMW, but it offers standard all-wheel drive and more features for less money than the X1. It also offers a much wider array of the latest safety tech, which the X1 is sorely lacking. All in all, the X1 is a good compact luxury SUV, whereas the GLA is a great one.

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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 vs. 2015 BMW X1: Which Is Better? - Autotrader