The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is the least expensive method of getting into a brand-new premium crossover/SUV wearing that prestigious 3-pointed star. Mercedes-Benz always uses the letter "G" when naming its SUV-based products. So that makes the 2019 GLA-Class officially a crossover/SUV, although it might also be considered a high-riding subcompact hatchback. Hatchbacks definitely have their advantages, however, especially with regard to practicality.
As well as offering style and luxury in a modestly sized and (relatively) affordable package, the GLA comes with gutsy, yet fuel-efficient turbocharged engines. It provides flexibility with its folding rear seats, then adds a touch of class with a standard powered tailgate.
It’s also rewarding to drive, particularly in GLA 45 AMG form, and its 4Matic all-wheel drive system makes it a solid choice for those who live in the Snow Belt. The GLA is based on the same platform as the CLA-Class sedan.
What’s New for 2019?
The GLA 45 receives 20-in alloy wheels as standard. Iridium Silver joins the list of exterior paint choices. And that’s it.
What We Like
Enjoyable drive; decent fuel economy; easy to park; upscale ambience.
What We Don’t
Limited cargo capacity; some subpar cabin materials; firm ride; relatively noisy for a Benz.
$34,945 to $54,345
The GLA 250 uses front-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine rated at 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 33 mpg on the highway and 27 mpg in combined driving.
The GLA 250 4Matic uses the same engine, but adds AWD. Fuel consumption is still respectable at 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/26 mpg combined.
The Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 also has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, but this one develops 375 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. It has AWD as standard. Fuel consumption is 22 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.
All models have a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission (it works just like an automatic), with the GLA 45 AMG getting a performance-tuned version with quicker shifts.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class comes in GLA 250, GLA 250 4Matic and 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 versions.
The GLA 250 ($34,945) comes standard with 18-in alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, selectable driving modes, a powered liftgate, chrome roof rails, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium vinyl upholstery, power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory settings, a rearview camera, Adaptive Brake (with hill-start assist and automatic brake drying), a Comand infotainment system with an 8-in display, Bluetooth (phone and audio) and an 8-speaker audio system with HD radio and a USB port.
The GLA 250 4Matic ($36,945) has equipment similar to the GLA 250, but adds AWD, off-road drive mode, off-road display and downhill speed regulation.
Options include 19-in wheels, upgraded front brakes, an xterior aero kit, LED headlights and taillights, self-dimming side mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, satellite radio, a 12-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound system, ambient cabin lighting, hands-free tailgate operation, voice controls, smartphone integration, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, self-parking system, leather upholstery, sport front seats and premium vinyl dashboard trim.
The Convenience package comes with a garage door opener, auto-dimming mirrors and a compass.
The 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 ($54,345) occupies a different class in performance terms, adding the stronger engine, 20-in wheels, sport-tuned suspension, sport steering, sport exhaust, performance brakes, LED lighting, blind spot monitoring and exterior styling enhancements. It can also be fitted with Recaro sport seats and a rear spoiler. The Dynamic Plus package adds a limited-slip front differential, adjustable suspension and race mode, while raising top speed to 167 miles per hour.
Maximum cargo capacity is 41.8 cu ft. with the rear seats flipped down. Not bad for a hatchback, but not great for a small crossover.
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 Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist.
Although the GLA-Class hasn’t yet been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it has performed exceptionally well in European tests.
Behind the Wheel
Overall, the GLA has a premium air, but closer inspection reveals some rather uncharacteristically hard plastics on the dashboard, door panels and center console. Everything seems to be put together tightly, though.
Cheaper materials make sense considering the GLA’s comparatively low price. 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 is sitting in front. If the driver has long legs, an adult passenger behind is going to be cramped. With shorter folks up front, the back seat is fine for adults.
The driving experience is precise 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 expecting a typical Mercedes-Benz ride might be disappointed. Noise levels at speed are also higher than the luxury-class norm. The GLA 45 brings sports-car acceleration and more entertaining handling, but comes at a steep price. For most drivers, the GLA 250 will be more than adequate.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Audi Q3 — An all-new generation of the Q3 is due to arrive some time in 2019 (late summer/early fall) and it’s a major improvement over the outgoing model. Any buyers who have the luxury of time might want to wait and see how this contender shapes up.
2019 Jaguar E-Pace — Fresher, roomier and with a gutsier entry level engine than the GLA. More expensive, though.
2019 Volvo XC40 — Completely new for 2019. Arguably good-looking, full of luxury touches and safety equipment.
Used BMW X3 — More space and a highlight of its class. Check out a certified pre-owned (CPO) example with a reassuring warranty.
As a premium subcompact crossover, the regular 2019 GLA 250 makes a lot of sense. As entertaining as the AMG version is, if someone really wanted something sporty, they might be looking at a completely different set of vehicles. We would add as many safety features as the budget allowed.