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2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250: Real World Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Josh Sadlier December 2014

The all-new 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 is the latest member of a rapidly multiplying species. The idea is to take an existing compact or subcompact car and make a crossover SUV out of it, and automakers around the world are scrambling to get in the game. In Benz's case, the donor car was the CLA-Class sedan. Employing the CLA's pint-sized, front-wheel-drive platform, the designers put a muscular hatchback body on top and jacked up the ride height for that all-important commanding view of the road. The result is the GLA-Class crossover. It's a cute ute if there ever was one and a significant test of the market's appetite for this type of vehicle.

Risky Business

When I slid into the GLA250's driver seat -- a sideways rather than downward movement, thanks to that elevated ride height -- my first thought was, "This is different." Actually, it's not different if you're used to the CLA250, but compared to any other Mercedes, it's an odd experience. The cabin is narrow, for one thing, whereas I'm used to expansive Benz interiors, even in smaller models such as the C-Class-based GLK crossover. If you rap your knuckles on the lower half of the dash, you'll hear hard plastic echoing back, presumably because the GLA250's rock-bottom base price ($32,225) doesn't leave room for the usual soft-touch treatment.

Are entry-level luxury shoppers ready for a Mercedes like this? Well, the CLA-Class was selling just fine at last count, so the answer is probably yes. If the GLA catches on, I think the exterior styling will be a crucial factor in its success. From the curb, there's no doubt that the GLA looks the part of a real Mercedes, with its proud, upright grille (replete with a massive 3-pointed star) and its muscular haunches and dignified taillights. Image counts for a lot in this segment, and in this case, it might count for enough that the GLA's relatively uninspired interior won't matter.

High-Performance Feel

On the road, my all-wheel-drive GLA250 4MATIC test car impressed me with its taut, responsive character. I wouldn't have been surprised if the suspension were soft and the steering slow, but as it turns out, this crossover is downright sporty. My test route included some typically uneven Los Angeles pavement, and the GLA's ride was borderline stiff at times. It certainly didn't seem like the suspension was soaking up bumps in luxury-grade fashion. On the flip side, when I ran the GLA through some tight canyon roads, it was in its element, evincing quick, precise steering and remarkably disciplined body motions for an affordable luxury crossover.

The GLA250 impresses in the engine room, too. It's not a powerhouse like its gonzo GLA45 AMG sibling, a 355-horsepower monument to cute-ute excess. The GLA250's 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine pumps out an ample 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, good for a sprint to 60 miles per hour in about 7 seconds. In ordinary driving, it feels even stronger thanks to all that torque. And you get an Environmental Protection Agency-rated 32 miles per gallon on the highway, too, so the GLA250 4MATIC is a fairly frugal choice in that regard.

Is It Worth the Price?

I can definitely see the appeal of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 for a shopper who wants that classic SUV driving position. You sit up high and feel secure in this baby Benz, and if those are top priorities, the GLA offers an authentic Mercedes experience at a pretty appealing base price. If you don't need to tower over other compact cars, though, you might want something like the Volkswagen GTI hatchback, which has a lower price point, a similarly capable turbocharged engine, superior handling and more cargo space. On the other hand, the GTI comes only with front-wheel drive, so if-all wheel drive is another must-have on your list, I couldn't blame you for setting your sights on a 2015 GLA250 4MATIC.

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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 GLA250: Real World Review - Autotrader