If you’re looking for a new model in the hot subcompact-luxury segment, you might be interested in checking out two of today’s most popular entrants: the 2016 BMW X1 and the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA. Both offer attractive packaging, lots of equipment, surprisingly reasonable pricing and recently updated designs.
But which one is better? And which one should you get? We’ve created a close comparison to help answer those questions, but first let’s find out what’s new with both models for the latest model year.
2016 BMW X1
The X1 is fully redesigned for the latest model year, boasting a totally new look, new features and a larger interior than its predecessor. See all 2016 BMW X1 models available near you
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA
The GLA made its debut last year. For 2016, it adds a newly standard 7-inch touchscreen, along with keyless ignition and dual-zone automatic climate control. The GLA also offers an improved backup camera, along with more power in the high-performance AMG GLA45 trim. See all 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class models available near you
The reliability experts at J.D. Power have not yet rated the GLA or the X1 for dependability; both models are too new. However, it’s worth noting that both Mercedes and BMW scored slightly above the industry average in J.D. Power’s latest Vehicle Dependability Study, which gives overall ratings by brand. Mercedes just slightly outscored BMW.
As for warranty coverage, both models are identical, touting 4 years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper protection with no additional powertrain warranty.
The result: Until we see specific numbers by model, we think this category is a toss-up.
The GLA offers two engines. Most models use a 208-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which is hooked up to a 7-speed automatic transmission and front- or all-wheel drive. It can return 25 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive or 24 mpg city/32 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive. Drivers looking for more power can upgrade to the AMG GLA45, which uses the same engine tuned for an amazing 375 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. It comes with standard all-wheel drive and gets an impressive 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy.
Meanwhile, the X1 also offers just one engine, and it’s also a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder — though the X1’s power plant is rated at 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The X1 comes standard with all-wheel drive and returns 22 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.
As a result, the winner here is the GLA. It touts better gas mileage than the X1 with its base engine and surprisingly respectable numbers with its high-performance powertrain. It’s worth noting, however, that while the X1 doesn’t have quite the same fuel economy as the GLA250, it does offer more overall hp.
Although the Mercedes-Benz GLA has not yet been crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the BMW X1 earned the firm’s coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation. Neither model has been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
As for safety features, the GLA offers a slight advantage over the BMW. While both models come standard with everything you might expect — such as side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control — the GLA adds standard automatic forward-collision braking, which is optional in the BMW and an unusual standard feature in the segment. Both models also offer adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and a blind spot monitoring system, but only the X1 touts available automated high beams.
Our take: With very few safety ratings in yet for these two models, it’s hard to pick a winner in this category. But we’re impressed with the GLA’s standard forward-collision warning and braking system, which we think gives it a slight leg up over its BMW rival.
Because the GLA and X1 are among the newest models in the subcompact luxury crossover segment, they’re both filled to the brim with virtually all of the latest technology.
In addition to the safety features we’ve mentioned, both the GLA and X1 also offer enormous center screens, automated parking systems, advanced infotainment systems with app capability and multispeaker premium sound systems. While one model may offer some features the other is missing, these two are both on the cutting edge, and we think most technophiles would be happy to drive either one.
The X1 starts at $35,800 with shipping while the GLA is $33,500, a big difference that may make the GLA seem like the better value. But it’s important to remember that the X1 comes standard with all-wheel drive, which is only optional in the GLA. If you need all-wheel drive in your GLA, you’ll have to spend an extra $2,000 to get it, bringing your base price up to $35,500.
Still, we think the GLA has a slight edge in value, and its lower base price is a big reason. Some drivers don’t need all-wheel drive, so the GLA has an edge by offering a cheaper model that doesn’t include the feature. The GLA also boasts better gas mileage, more standard features and a high-performance AMG variant, which the X1 lacks.
Both the 2016 BMW X1 and the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA are among the best offerings in the subcompact luxury SUV class, but we think the GLA stands out just a little more. In addition to a lower base price and the availability of a front-wheel-drive model, the GLA touts more standard equipment than its X1 rival, along with better gas mileage. We also like the fact that there’s a high-performance variant available.
Simply put, while the X1 is a great choice, we think the GLA is just a little bit better.