By on July 16, 2015

GLAProof-1-3

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 lives within the margins.

The compact — which shares more in common with a hatchback than an SUV — has a life thanks to America’s all-things-crossover obsession. It dodges definition, shirks consistent fuel-economy ratings and even has me guessing on my own feelings toward it. For sure, I can’t find a single offensive thing about the GLA. Even more, I can’t find a single thing to love.


The Tester

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250

Engine: 2.0-liter inline, turbocharged 4-cylinder (208 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm; 258 pound-feet @ 1,250-4,000)

Transmission: 7-speed DCT transmission with paddle shifters

Fuel Economy (rating): 24 mpg city/32 mpg highway/27 mpg combined
Fuel Economy (observed): 25.3 mpg according to trip computer in 60/40-split city/highway driving.

Options: Cocoa brown exterior paint; Satin light brown poplar wood trim; Blind-spot assist; Bi-xenon headlamps; 19-inch wheels; Premium package (satellite radio, heated front seats, harman/kardon audio, dual-zone climate control); Multimedia package (navigation, 7-inch high-resolution display, DVD player, traffic information).

Base price: $33,300
Price as tested: $41,950


Exterior
From beak to butt, the GLA looks like adolescent hatchback growing into its tall frame.

That’s not an indictment on the GLA’s overall looks. The GLA’s stretched sheet metal from front to back look downright futuristic compared to the BMW X1 and Lexus NX. Maybe not as classically handsome as the Range Rover Evoque and a coin-flip compared to the Audi Q3, but there is nothing about the GLA that outwardly screams “half-baked.” It’s clear that German engineers set out to build a handsome crossover that happened to be a Mercedes, and not a Mercedes crossover that happened to be handsome. In my opinion, the GLA is too busy to look “classic” Mercedes.

2015MercedesBenzGLA250-2

Even the tail, which has the unenviable task of tying together the multiple body lines and profile curves, looks solidly modern and scrutinized. If I had to nitpick — and I think I have to — the bulbous tail lamps have a whisper of ugly.

2015MercedesBenzGLA250-1

Up front, however, the GLA’s nose and grille present a compelling argument. The car, which starts at just over $34,000, looks more expensive from the front. It’s a case of Mercedes putting a better foot forward for entry buyers. I prefer the GLA’s nose over, say, the boxy approach of the GLK, but the GLA’s face is much less polarizing.

The thick C-pillar visually lengthens the GLA’s abrupt end and gives the car a longer approach than its 179-inch measurement would indicate. From all approaches, the GLA looks bigger outside than it actually is, and that’s not a bad thing.

Shod with our optional 19-inch wheels the GLA sits tall and muscular without being gaudy. If the Subaru Forester had a Y chromosome, it’d look like a Mercedes-Benz GLA.

2015MercedesBenzGLA250-3

Interior
If intention was everything, the GLA’s interior would shine as a paragon for what luxury crossovers should be. Unfortunately, execution factors into the final result so we have to look at these things as they are — not as they could be.

2015MercedesBenzGLA250-4

First, the familiar: the Mercedes-Benz three-spoke wheel in the GLA is an exceptional touch. The wheel feels solid and confident, and its steering wheel controls and paddle shifters are among the best in the business right now.

Additionally, Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND system (its infotainment interface) is clear and fabulously unfussy. Pairing a smartphone or dictating an address is a breeze, and the 7-inch high-resolution display is seamlessly integrated into the GLA (albeit for $2,480 extra) without looking like a 80-inch HDTV in a trailer home.

The GLA even looks the part too. The ballyhooed cross-hair air vents are impressive, and even the beige faux-leather seats would have me second-guessing shelling out $1,700 for the privilege of more hides between the doors.

But it doesn’t take long for impressions to settle into reality.

The three-spoke wheel hides the stalk and makes setting cruise control nearly impossible. The controls for the COMAND system are awkwardly placed somewhere between my elbow and my wrist, and the dash sounds unsettlingly too hollow.

2015MercedesBenzGLA250-5

Even the comfortable-looking MB-Tex seats started to flatten the longer I was in the car and after 2 hours in a hot car driving through the city, I found myself itching to get out.

If I can use a small example: the GLA’s electric-adjustable seat controls are in the doors, like every other new Mercedes-Benz. Unlike some of them, the GLA doesn’t have electrically adjustable headrests, but there’s still a piece of fixed-molded plastic where that slider would go. In short, the GLA has all the look inside that a Mercedes should have, but it’s just not as special.

(Spring for the leather seats and you get a MB-Tex-stitched dash upper, which could kill two birds with one stone.)

The rear seats are comfortable for adults on short to moderate trips. My 6-foot-2-inch frame could fold into the back behind the driver, but not with someone my size driving up front.

Infotainment
As a $2,480 option on a $33,300 car, Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND system is no minor detail. The big, bright 7-inch high-resolution display rises prominently from the middle of the dash and is distinctly an added extra — there’s no hiding that the GLA was built first without it.

However, the COMAND system is thoughtfully integrated and wasn’t much of a distraction for me. I’m incredibly familiar with the layout and controls, so it’s hard for me to comment on the system’s learning curve. However, I can report that after teaching passengers how the small-ish knob placed near the cup holders could slide AND rotate, very few people had trouble learning the system.

The good: The radio controls mimic a tuner, and the system is detailed without needing too much attention.

The bad: Adding a phone, then adding that same phone as a Bluetooth streaming device is a head scratcher.

The ugly: The control knob is far-too small for my big mitts.

In the new C-Class, the COMAND system is nearly impossible to beat. In the GLA, it’s very good.

2015MercedesBenzGLA250-7

Drivetrain

The GLA250 sports a 2.0-liter turbo four that makes an entirely approachable 208 hp. According to the manufacturer, the GLA250 runs up to 60 mph in around 7 seconds, which may not be blinding, but may not be the engine’s fault. The 7-speed DCT transmission does its very best to keep the GLA in low-rev, fuel-saving territory on the tach and it’s apparent. More than a few times, I guessed I was in third gear by the other side of the intersection, and the GLA’s long legs are built for wringing every last mile from its 15-gallon tank.

Unfortunately, it’s a losing attempt.

Despite my best efforts on long highway jaunts, I couldn’t approach 30 mpg consistently, and the GLA may be thirstier than its 27 mpg combined rating would indicate.

In combined driving, over nearly 200 miles, I managed only just over 25 mpg without over-taxing the GLA or touching the paddle shifters.

The GLA is offered in front- or all-wheel drive, which Mercedes calls 4MATIC, configurations. Our tester was the latter, but without much snow or mountain driving to be found over the past week, it’s hard to report whether the all-wheel drive is necessary. We’ll blame El Nino. Or something.

2015MercedesBenzGLA250-8

Drive
Despite being one of the least expensive cars that Mercedes-Benz offers, the GLA is surprisingly confident and nimble on the road. Its grippy, direct steering was surprising for a car that weighs nearly 3,500 pounds and forces all its energy through the front wheels under normal circumstances. I could coax the GLA250 into a push, but not without plenty of drama from the wheels first. (And that’s the way it should be.)

The GLA is easy to park and remarkably maneuverable around an Ikea parking lot (if you’re wondering what I did with it instead of driving into the Rockies.)

There are some niggles, however. The GLA is far from quiet inside. A considerable amount of road noise comes through into the cabin and it feels like Mercedes just skipped some of the sound deadening material in the final checklist.

Also, Mercedes’ collision prevention assist system isn’t any more advanced than anyone else’s, which means that it’s entirely too intrusive. In stop-and-go traffic, the system tripped a few times and warned of a low-speed collision that wasn’t going to happen anyway.

And if I could coax the transmission into shorter shifts at the risk of less impressive fuel economy (on paper), I would. Mash your right foot, count to three and then the GLA clambers forward. There’s too much time between action and reaction for a car that costs more than $40,000.

But there’s nothing wholly unsatisfactory about the GLA. It looks impressive and delivers a product that’s nearly better than anyone else’s. It’s better looking than the NX, more modern than the X1 with more interior potential than the MKC at a price that’s on target for what I’d expect from the three-star folks.

It’s just, coming from the company that recently made an extremely good C-Class car, the only thing I could define about the GLA was my extremely high expectations before I drove it. And maybe that’s just not fair.

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47 Comments on “2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC: Lookin’ for Love...”


  • avatar
    RideHeight

    It’s as much a crossover as the, to me, disappointing HR-V is.

    • 0 avatar
      MUSASHI66

      I am curious – why are you disappointed in the HR-V? It seems to me that it is everything that it is popular now, it is priced right for the category, and it is very versatile. It will never be a choice car for an enthusiast, but it might be a perfect car for his wife ;)

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        I’d just like it to be taller. Even with max seat lowering the sightlines are poor. And I had to bend my neck to not klonk my head when entering.

        • 0 avatar
          MUSASHI66

          I presume it was designed for a 5’4″ woman :D

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Yeah, and since I definitely want a balls-out He Man ride I’m giving more serious consideration to the Encore.

        • 0 avatar
          MUSASHI66

          One thing I don’t get about the latest crop of really small CUVs is why would anyone buy them? They are not much smaller or much cheaper than their larger counterparts. I guess there is about 4K difference between a base HR-V ans CR-V, and that does translate to not-insignificant $70 per month or so, but you just get so much more car from a CR-V/

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            When I got into my own CR-V after checking out the HR-V I was agreeing in advance to everything you say.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            Same reasons one might get a Civic over an Accord or a Fiesta over a Focus. That $4K difference is significant, or they just don’t want that much more car.

            When I was car shopping for my Civic I didn’t even consider same year Accords (06 and up). 90% of my driving is just me, and so far 100% of my driving has just been me and my wife. Aside from the added sound deadening, there’s nothing of benefit the Accord would have given me. Performance with the stickshift is the same, fuel economy is worse, the added size makes it harder to park and doesn’t yield me any added functionality.

            I agree that the CR-V probably hits the sweet spot for most people, but for a small family with not a lot of money but a desire for Honda quality and reliability the HR-V makes sense.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I don’t get why you would want something like this over a Golf. It’s not enough taller or with more ground clearance to make any difference. Overwrought and underwhelming. They will sell a zillion of them, of course.

  • avatar
    jjf

    So Mercedes built an Acura? i.e. a nice car that does nothing poorly, but nothing exceptional either. I’m curious how it compares with one.

    • 0 avatar
      DeeDub

      I was behind one of these this morning, which was the first time I’d seen one in person (or at least noticed one). From behind it looked like a Crosstour/ZDX, but even less efficiently packaged. It’s afflicted with big on the outside/small on the inside syndrome.

    • 0 avatar
      Veee8

      My mother in law recently bought a 2015 RDX – yes they are nice and exceptionally boring at the same time.

  • avatar

    Regardless how well it drives.
    Regardless how many miles it gets per gallon.
    Regardless how much storage space it has.
    Regardless how fast it is.
    Regardless how well it corners.

    I’M DRYYYYVIIIING A MERCEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDEEEEEEEEZ!!!

    And that’s truly all that matters!

    -Badgewhores

  • avatar
    Mike N.

    So, a slightly lifted GTI for a few thousand more. Also seems to continue the Mercedes tradition of somewhat hateful transmissions that don’t do what you want.

    But to be honest, I’d rather get a GLA than a CLA.

    • 0 avatar
      Aaron Cole

      Hateful is a strong word. I like it.

      But the DCT isn’t that bad. It’s tuned for mileage, which makes sense. It’s nowhere near as lethargic as others, but it is a tad on the dreary side.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      +1 on the hateful transmissions.

      The MB 7-speed auto box is slower than cold molasses and the DCT box in the CLA-45 somehow manages to be worse.

    • 0 avatar
      Andy

      Agreed, I’d rather have a GLA than a CLA. But it’s just not that impressive. It’s got the awkward FWD-compact-converted-into-CUV proportions of the Jeep Cherokee.

  • avatar
    MUSASHI66

    I’d drive one of these if my dogs could fit, and without some serious liposuction and leg shortening procedures, it’d never happen.

    My wife on the other hand would love this and could use it daily. It is only her in the car 99% of the time, and occasionally me as well. I always transport the dogs. She drives a RAV4, had a CR-V before, and she really likes the raised ride height – she does not like sitting low in a daily driver. She’d love the feeling of a turbo engine as she is a crazy speed demon driver (I know, in a RAV4). I have her sold on a Forester XT for her next car though. We are probably 5 years away from a new car for her at this point, and I wonder what new cars will be on the market by then.

    Nice photo shoot location btw – I walked past that wall many a time on my way to the light rail station across the street.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I work with a guy who drives one of the MB GLA things. I sometimes park my 2014 Elantra GT next to him. The GLA is taller and higher off the ground but looks to be identical in nearly every other measurement, including nearly identical in profile. The GLA is literally a jacked-up compact hatchback. But it is better looking than another guy’s wife’s CLA.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Lookin’ for love… in all the wrong places.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    How the HELL is it that thirsty?? My 9-3, with a 12 year old Ecotec 2T making the same power figures, easily sits on 7L/100km (33mpg) at 110KMH. And that’s with a 5 speed ffs.

    What does she weigh, is that the issue? The Saab is about 1,600KG.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Because you presumably don’t perfectly replicate the EPA test procedures in your daily driving, and car reviewers tend to skew rather lead-footed? Officially, your Saab gets 20/29/23, compared to the Benz’s 24/32/27.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Saabs are known to produce fuel as they drive along, so be careful your tank isn’t over-filled.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Good review, I’m liking Mr. Cole’s work here.

    Stilted compacts and subcompacts masquerading as SUVs have no draw for me, especially from a luxury marque, so I won’t comment on the overall class of vehicle. But anything with a sluggish gearbox, underachieving fuel economy, mediocre acceleration, road noise, and spotty interior quality hooked inexplicably to a $42K price tag deserves a hearty “Meh”.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    That’s okay looking for a Hyundai, but priced too high.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Good review; this is more like it.

    The small interior volume and tacked-on look of that display are off-putting.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “not as classically handsome as the Range Rover Evoque”

    Proof that aesthetics are very much relative.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      (And I see this thing has the chrome vent surrounds and gauge backs that killed the GLK for me.

      “Can’t look at the dash while the sun’s behind you” is … bad.)

    • 0 avatar
      Aaron Cole

      I very much agree. However, I think the Evoque (especially in two-door variety) is a very well proportioned car and was a solid step forward in aggressive design for the segment that was getting pretty bulbous. Even though it’s look comes at the (high) cost of outward visibility.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Yeah, the author kinda lost me with that quote.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    That massive front grille ain’t helping that things mpg

    And DW pretty much beat me to it, this really looks like Hyundai with a Benz badge added.

  • avatar
    markf

    That infotainment screen is hideous. Looks like someone just got some Velcro and made it stick. It would make me angry every time I got in the car….

  • avatar

    The newer Mercedes-Benz three-spoke wheel is even better. It can be seen in the new C-Class, S-Class Coupe, GLE-Class Coupe, GTS-Class and the upcoming Metris, GLC-Class and GLE-Class.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    I think Hyundai/Kia is involved with Mercedes.

    Just look at the interior and the goofy grille.

    Mercedes has decided to toss their distinctiveness and jumped on the bandwagon to copy off of the fad that Hyundai/Kia/Toyota have started. This looks like it was badge-engineered, as does the rest of the lineup. The R-Class looked the part better than anything that’s out by M-B today.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    The rear tail lights remind me of eyes almost swollen shut due to some allergic reaction. Strange I know, but that’s what came to mind.

  • avatar
    SELECTIVE_KNOWLEDGE_MAN

    “The GLA’s stretched sheet metal from front to back look downright futuristic compared to the (…) Lexus NX.”

    Come again?

    “It’s better looking than the NX”

    Thanks for letting us know…

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    GLA looks more futuristic than NX? :) Yeah right! I think NX is the most modern and sharp looking SUV in recent years, GLA looks downright boring.

    Reviewing design is always like stepping on ice with only socks on.

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