Mercedes is fine with throwing around the term “coupe,” using it to describe four-door crossovers, which are decidedly not coupes. And the brand is okay with throwing around the term “SUV” as well, indicated by the GLA’s of yesteryear.
With a low overall height and ground clearance just above five inches, the GLA was more of a hatchback than SUV.
But for 2021, Mercedes has revamped and refreshed its GLA class with updated styling and larger dimensions, including a four-inch higher ride that puts its more in line with a crossover/SUV than a semi-hot hatch. So yes, honey, size does matter.
The seating position for the driver and front passenger is now higher and more upright, with Mercedes admitting it is now “more typical of an SUV.”
The cabin has been significantly upgraded in terms of appearance. The last generation GLA’s dash looked as if they had been taken from Mercedes’ parts bin a decade ago, but the restyled interior is modern, attractive and aligns with the rest of the Benz lineup.
Black leatherette seating is standard with several shades of real cowhide available through options packages.
Two crisply colored 7-inch screens serve as the digital gauge cluster and infotainment screen for Mercedes’ MBUX system. Those screens can be bulked up to 10.25-inches with the Premium Package ($1,750) that includes other add-ons like a hands-free liftgate.
Using MBUX comes with a learning curve because of the touchpad system, which is far less convenient than a rotary controller, but its built-in voice recognition system is extremely accurate.
Opting for the Multimedia Package ($1,295) adds navigation complete with augmented reality. When using the system, the infotainment screen can display the feed from the GLA’s front-facing camera and superimpose street names, guiding arrows and house numbers to ease navigating unfamiliar areas.
Despite the Benz’s added height and width, improvements in passenger space are modest. The cabin is compact cozy, but transporting four adults, or a bulky, rear-facing child seat with a person sitting in front, is no issue.
The GLA250 is powered by a 2-liter, inline-four turbocharged engine, the same powerplant in the CLA250. The engine, which offers 221-hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque, has plenty of pep and zest which can breathe some life into the daily commute.
The inline-four is bolted to an 8-speed dual clutch transmission with paddle shifters. A few gear changes were fumbled at lower speeds during my week with the GLA, but shifts were otherwise smart and relatively smooth.
Front-wheel drive is standard with all-wheel drive available as a $2,000 upgrade. As expected, the 4MATIC system does cut down on fuel economy, but not by much. With front wheel drive, the GLA gets a respectable 25 city and 34 highway for a combined 28 mpg. All-wheel drive cuts each of those figures by a lone mile per gallon.
Ride quality was just slightly on the stiff side, but body motions were well controlled. Good thing, because the GLA’s steering is precise and quick.
Some fun can certainly be had whipping the 250 around, but those wanting some more umph can shell out for the two new AMG versions of the GLA. The GLA 35 will break the 300-hp mark, and the GLA 45, which will be available in the coming months, will offer 382 ponies and an estimated 0-60 time of 4.3 seconds.
Pricing for the 250 starts just above $36,000, but along with its Benz stablemates, options can quickly balloon the price. In addition to the aforementioned options, buyers can also add one of two “AMG Line” packages that include 19-inch, five-spoke wheels, sport front seats, exterior styling upgrades like a chrome diamond-block grille and more. A panoramic roof, heated and ventilated front seats, LED ambient interior lighting, a head-up display, wireless charging and a Burmester surround sound system can also be fitted a la carte.
Plenty of safety and driver-aid features come in the Driver Assistance Package ($1,700) that includes smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot assist, lane keep assist, steering assist, and a whole bunch of other, well, assists.
With its refresh and added height, the GLA can now more accurately join the ranks of the subcompact luxury SUV market, and it’s a solid player in the growing market.