2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA Review

One of the youngest nameplates of the Mercedes-Benz lineup is the GLA. Born in 2013 in China as the GLA-Class, it was meant to compete with the BMW X1 or, on a smaller scale, with the Audi Q3.

Interior & Exterior design

Gallery: Mercedes-Benz GLA – Review, 2021

Since its launch, the car has been on the road as a single generation. Despite being marketed as a crossover SUV, the car failed to make an impression on the segment because of its small stature, which made more of a high-riding hatchback.

That will change from 2020, as the second generation will hit the road taller and roomier, and based on a newer platform.

Seen by the Germans as the brother of the GLB introduced earlier in 2019, the GLA will become the entry-level model to the range of Mercedes SUVs, and is at the same time the eight model in the carmaker’s compact car offering.

Video: Mercedes-Benz GLA – 2021

External design & features

At a glance, the dimensions of the new GLA are clearly different than the ones of the previous generation. The car is higher, but also a tad shorter, which brings it much closer to the desired status of SUV.

The length of the car is 4,410 mm, 15 mm shorter than the outgoing version, but at the same time stands 1,611 mm tall, which is a significant increase of 100 mm. Coupled with a tad more width of 1,834 mm, the SUV-look of the GLA is undeniable.

Design-wise, it keeps the clean surfaces that have been used on the still marketed model (which in this case translate into a drag coefficient figure of 0.28), but of course adds the new front end, with the improved interpretation of the front grille, sleeker headlights, and reinterpreted bumper.

From the side, the car shows coupe-like lines with short overhangs both front and rear, and protective cladding throughout, as to hint to its off-road nature. The wheels are sized 20 inches and positioned in line with the outer edge of the body.

At the rear, the lights come in a two-part design, and the reflectors are positioned separate from them in the bumper.

Interior design, features and passenger space

Being taller on the outside means there is much more room inside, vertically. But what about horizontally, given the few mm shaved off its length?

Mercedes says that is not an issue, and going hand in hand with the more generous headroom is equally impressive legroom, at least for the people in the back. 

Given the increased dimensions, those at the front sit higher, befitting a car that claims to be a crossover – the numbers show riding position is 140 mm higher than in the A-Class and 500 higher than the B-Class.

In the new GLA visibility has been improved as well, thanks to the optimized cross-section for the roof pillars.

Visually, the shape of the dashboard is radically different, made this way to better accommodate the new screens fitted inside and the redesigned-repositioned ventilation outlets. 

The center console – its shape, mostly, – has been improved, as did the interior of the doors. The materials chosen to cover the interior surfaces remain the usual high-end Mercedes choices.

More assessments
Gadgets

Just as all other Mercedes models released over the past two years, the GLA relies on the new Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system.

In the case of this SUV, MBUX translates into a free-standing infotainment screen and a digital cluster, that are offered in three size variants: two 7-inch displays, one 7- and one 10.25-inch, and two 10.25-inch displays.

As a show of technological advancements, the GLA features the new Carwash function that debuted on the GLS earlier in 2019. This automated system folds the exterior mirrors, closes the windows and sunroof, turns off the rain sensor and switches the climate control to air-recirculation mode as soon as it is engaged.

Performance

Engine-wise, the GLA is not as gifted as some of its other siblings from the compact Mercedes stables. In its case, at least in the beginning, there will be only two engines, a lot less than the ones deployed on the previous generation.

The offering starts with the GLA 200, equipped with a four-cylinder 163 hp engine linked to a 7G-DCT transmission. In this configuration, the model accelerates to 62 mph in 8.7 seconds, tops at 210 kph (130 mph) and has a fuel economy rating of 5.9-5.6 liters/100 km (42 mpg).

Also a four-cylinder is the engine deployed in the much more powerful GLA 35 4MATIC AMG. In this case, linked to an AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 8G transmission, it develops 306 hp accelerates in 5.1 seconds and tops at 250 kph (155 mph). Fuel consumption is rated at 7.5-7.4 liters/100 km (31 mpg).

Safety

Just as its bigger and more expensive siblings, the GLA is packed with safety systems, both the ones required by law, and a host of others, more recent technologies.

Among the ones worth mentioning are the Active Brake Assist, the turning maneuver function, and the emergency corridor function. The last of the bunch is used to alert drivers of approaching cyclists or vehicles, and pedestrians detected near road crossings.

Conclusion

Since the introduction of the GLA six years ago, over 1 million units were made and sold, but it’s unclear whether customers were buying it as an SUV or something else. Still, the success prompted Mercedes to make an even better one, and closer to the SUV status.

The new version lands in Europe in the spring of next year, and subsequently head for the U.S. and China. Mercedes predicts it “will become one of the brand’s most popular compact class models, only just behind the A-Class.”

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