By Anthony Fongaro
The quintessential hatchback-on-stilts.
As luxury automakers continue to make their vehicles bigger and bigger, smaller and cheaper models are created to fill the gap. Case-in-point: the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC. Not only is it the smallest crossover in Mercedes-Benz’s lineup but it’s one of the least expensive. But there’s an immediate problem: it’s basically a tall hatchback. It’s weird to have a vehicle that looks like a hatchback but higher up.
That, however; may not be a bad thing. The usability of a hatchback but with AWD and being higher up could prove to be great come wintertime. So let’s see if being a tall hatchback makes it a luxurious crossover or just a cheap Mercedes.
A sculpted front end with a massive Mercedes-Benz logo makes the GLA250 look like a classically designed Mercedes. Moving to the side profile, the 19-inch AMG wheels included in the Sport Package look high-end, although the package costs $2,300. For those wanting a better-looking wheel costing less, the optional non-AMG 5-spoke wheels cost $500. Around the back is where things get disappointing. The taillights appear to be larger than they should be and makes the rear end look bulbous. The one saving grace for the GLA250 is that it has a power tailgate as standard.
This is a Mercedes-Benz, right? If you took off the badges, you wouldn’t know it from the interior. The materials feel like they could be from a Toyota or Honda. The cheapest part of the GLA250 is the little iPad looking infotainment/navigation screen. It looks like Mercedes basically placed the small screen on the center consol. For a vehicle in 2016, rearview cameras should be standard and not bundled with a $2,480 package. There is the option of having upgraded leather instead of the MB-Tex fake leather which is standard. I do like the panorama sunroof (of course about $1,500) which makes the little hatchback/crossover feel more airy. Looking at the center console, Mercedes placed way too many buttons. Oh, and Mercedes, please stop using that stupid steering wheel mounted gear selector. It’s 2016 and no one uses those anymore it’s annoying to use.
Take a peek under the hood and you will see a 2.0-liter engine producing 208-horsepower. Combined with a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual, the GLA250 4MATIC gallivants to 60mph in a decent 6.4 seconds. The odd thing is the engine doesn’t feel particularly powerful. Blame it on the transmission. Does it feel nimble? Yes, although the steering is dull in your hands. Is it comfortable? Yes but once again it doesn’t feel like you waft like you do in a non-sporty Mercedes-Benz. Even though this is the AWD version, you don’t feel the AWD since it is primarily FWD. If the 4MATIC system thinks you need extra grip, it will send power to the back wheels.
This wouldn’t be a German vehicle if it had some test options which ballooned the price dramatically. Base pricing for a GLA250 with the 4MATIC AWD is $34,000 but let’s start adding up the options! First there is the Premium Package which includes things like heated seats and an upgraded Harman/kardon sound system for $2,300. Next is Blind Spot Assist which signals when you have a car in your blind spot for $500. The Multimedia Package with Navigation and a Rearview Camera sets you back $2,480. Those lovely wheels are included in the Sport Package for $2,200. Chuck in the $1,500 Panorama Sunroof, $850 Xenon Headlamps, $600 Keyless-Go and you have yourself a GLA costing you a pretty penny. The grand total for this vehicle was around $45,000. That’s $11,000 in options!
At the end of the day, I felt disappointed. Even if the GLA250 4MATIC was less expensive; it just didn’t feel like a proper luxurious Mercedes-Benz. Sure, it is easy to drive and park but so are all the other small crossovers like the Audi Q3. The only reason one should buy the GLA250 is for the Mercedes-Benz badge. Otherwise, a regular hatchback such as the Volkswagen Golf will have most of the luxuries and performance for a fraction of the cost.