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2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2016

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a premium compact crossover based on the same platform as the CLA-Class sedan, offering style and luxury in a small and (relatively) affordable package. It comes with fast yet fuel-efficient turbocharged engines, and although its modest exterior dimensions and interior space mean the GLA is really more of a high-riding hatchback than a proper SUV, there's nothing wrong with that. Hatchbacks are essentially utility vehicles, after all.

The GLA offers the same kind of flexibility with its folding rear seats, then adds a touch of class with a standard power lift gate. It's also rewarding to drive, particularly in AMG GLA45 form, and its 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system makes it a solid choice for those who live in the Snowbelt.

What's New for 2016?

The GLA has only been out for a year, but the AMG version has already been boosted with an extra 20 horsepower and 18 lb-ft of torque, as well as receiving updated gear ratios. It can also be specced with a new Dynamic Plus package that includes a limited-slip differential.

The whole range benefits from dual-zone automatic climate control, extendable under-thigh support for the front seats, keyless ignition and an upgraded infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen (the previous unit measured 5.8 inches) and better voice recognition.

New options include a Dynamic Select function (replacing Agility Select) that brings a choice of different drive modes (Comfort, ECO, Sport and Sport+), plus a rearview-camera package that shows a 180-degree view. Ambient cabin lighting can now come as a stand-alone option.

A 5-year subscription to the company's mbrace2 Connect telematics system is also standard. This includes web services, roadside connection, MB Apps (nonstreaming), diagnostics, remote updates and remote starting.

What We Like

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

What We Don't

Limited cargo capacity; some subpar cabin materials; firm ride; noisy for a Benz

How Much?

$33,425-$50,775

Fuel Economy

The GLA250 uses front-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine rated at 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated fuel consumption at an impressive 25 miles per gallon in the city, 35 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg combined.

The GLA250 4MATIC uses the same engine but adds all-wheel drive. Fuel consumption is still respectable at 24 mpg city/32 mpg hwy/27 mpg combined.

The AMG GLA45 also has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, but this one develops 375 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. It has all-wheel drive as standard. Fuel consumption is 22 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.

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

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class comes in GLA250, GLA250 4MATIC and AMG GLA45 versions.

The GLA250 ($33,425) comes standard with 18-in alloy wheels, a power lift gate, chrome roof rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium vinyl upholstery, power front seats with memory settings, adaptive brakes (with hill-start assist and automatic brake drying), the COMAND infotainment system with a 7-in display, Bluetooth (phone and audio) and an 8-speaker audio system with HD Radio and a USB port.

The GLA250 4MATIC ($35,425) has equipment similar to the GLA250 but adds all-wheel drive, an off-road drive mode, an off-road display and downhill speed regulation.

Options include 19-in wheels, upgraded front brakes, an exterior aero kit, bi-xenon headlights and LED taillights, auto-dimming side mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, satellite radio, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system, voice controls, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, a self-parking system, a rearview camera, leather upholstery, sport front seats and premium vinyl dashboard trim.

The AMG GLA45 ($50,775) occupies a different class in performance terms, adding the stronger engine, 19-in wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, sport steering, a sport exhaust, performance brakes, bi-xenon headlights and exterior styling enhancements. It can also be specced with Recaro seats, a rear spoiler, a limited-slip front differential and 20-in wheels.

The GLA offers 17.2 cu ft. of cargo capacity behind the rear seats and 43.6 cu ft. with the seats flipped down. That's not bad for a hatchback but not great for a compact crossover.

Safety

All 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). Rear side airbags are optional.

Collision Prevention Assist Plus -- a forward-collision mitigation system that includes automatic braking if an impact is imminent -- is standard.

The Multimedia package includes a rearview camera. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system and lane-keeping assistance.

Although the GLA hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it has performed exceptionally well in European tests.

Behind the Wheel

Overall, the GLA has a premium air, but closer inspection reveals some rather uncharacteristic hard plastics on the dashboard, door panels and center console. Everything seems to be put together tightly, though.

Considering the GLA's comparatively low price, these cheaper materials make sense. This is an opportunity to get into a Mercedes-Benz crossover for around the same cost as a Volkswagen, so a lot of shoppers will probably be willing to forgive a few below-par surfaces.

They should also be able to live with the 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, an adult passenger seated behind is going to be cramped. With shorter folks up front, though, the back seat is fine for adults.

The driving experience is sharp and eager. The base 208-hp engine has plenty of punch, while the quick steering and firm suspension provide athletic handling in tight corners. On the flip side, the suspension isn't so compliant on rough roads. Anyone who's expecting a typical Mercedes-Benz ride might be disappointed. Noise levels at speed are also higher than the luxury-class norm. The AMG GLA45 brings sports-car acceleration and more entertaining handling but comes at a steep price. For most drivers, the GLA250 will be more than adequate.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Audi Q3 -- The Q3 is a chief rival, offering similar turbocharged power and all-wheel-drive traction. It has the edge in interior quality, but the GLA is more fun.

2016 BMW X1 -- The X1 is new for 2016. This model is roomier than the GLA and has superb driving talents.

2016 Lexus NX 200t -- The 200t enjoys the usual Lexus build quality and excellent equipment.

2016 Volkswagen Golf R -- This model comes with nearly 300 hp and all-wheel drive. It's a cheaper alternative to a GLA45 that's still upscale and seriously quick.

Used BMW X3 -- The X3 has more space, and it's a highlight of its class. Check out a certified pre-owned example with a reassuring warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

The AMG version is fun, but the regular GLA is a well-rounded package and much more affordable.

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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.
2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class: New Car Review - Autotrader