Mercedes-Benz may not be famous for building small, front-wheel-drive-based hatchbacks, but in Europe it sells a few of them. Across the pond, the luxury brand’s compact array involves the A-class hatchback, the B-class mini-MPV (available in the States as an EV), the CLA-class shooting-brake wagon, and also the GLA-class crossover. The four look so similar that it’s hard to tell them apart. The GLA crossover we get in the U.S., for example, is just 2.4 inches taller than the A-class hatchback, and we’ve consistently compared it with a hotted-up hatch in look and feel as it arrived on our shores in 2014.
Maybe the GLA doesn’t say SUV loudly enough for consumers to hear. Bucking the industry trend, the GLA crossover has been outsold by its CLA sedan sibling in 2016, albeit by only a few hundred components. So it makes sense that when Mercedes upgraded the GLA for 2018, it place a priority on making it seem more SUV rugged.
Dimpled black vinyl body cladding, inserted along the side sills, indicates off-road ability, while the tail features a mildly reshaped bumper and restyled taillights. Within our test vehicle’s attractive mixture of this newest Canyon Beige paint with 19-inch black wheels, the freshened GLA does at least have more street presence, although the jury is still out on if it appears like a true crossover.
The GLA250’s functionality, though, remains firmly in the compact-hatchback camp–a good thing for motorists. Mercedes-Benz doesn’t notice any transmission or engine alterations, nevertheless this 2018 example outaccelerated its own 2016 counterpart, recording a 5.8-second dash to 60 mph (versus 6.1 seconds before). That’s considerably faster than some of its direct competitors–and hot on the heels of a Volkswagen Golf GTI having an automatic. The crazy, 375-hp AMG GLA45 also can be obtained for more ardent speed freaks.
The GLA250 is not especially sprightly in everyday driving, but and the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission would be to blame. In its default Comfort mode, sluggish shifts accentuate the engine’s turbo lag; Sport manner helps to keep the 2.0-liter on boil and sharpens throttle response substantially. Business suspension tuning and direct steering make the small Benz genuinely enjoyable to drive, albeit at the expense of a brutal ride, and the powerful brakes stopped the GLA from 70 miles in a short 160 ft, 13 feet greater compared to 2016 example.
We wish Mercedes-Benz had implemented more changes to the interior, which largely conveys over save for a 1.0-inch-larger infotainment display and some additional chrome trim. It feels well built, but the dour black plastics and total layout just don’t measure up to the standard set by Benz’s excellent cottages found in all in the C-class on up. Since the GLA’s dimensions haven’t changed, this refresh can not help the cramped rear seat and cargo area, which restrict the practical allure of the so-called utility vehicle.
It will not come cheap, either. Though a starting price from the mid-$30,000 range is enticingly low for whatever wearing a three-pointed star, sparse standard equipment means that you need to pay up for expected features such as heated seats, leather upholstery, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto performance. There’s not one of those that we would easily jettison, beyond possibly sacrificing the aesthetic charms of this Sport and Night packages.
Stickering for a cool $50,100, a GLA outfitted like this one has completely eclipsed any sort of hot-hatch comparison and treads deep into the territory of the much more well appointed and elegant GLC-class crossover. Even when the upgraded GLA appears more rugged than ever before, it hasn’t been raised to that level.