2021 Mercedes GLA 250
The smallest crossover in Mercedes lineup, the 2021 GLA, is an all new generation for 2021. It can be had in front wheel and all-wheel drive formats. All versions, including the AMG specs, use an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic and a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine. However, power and torque range from 221 hp and 258 ft-lb of torque in the GLA 250 to 382 hp and 354 ft-lb of torque in the AMG GLA 45.
Along with the twin scroll turbo, the engine is equipped with a 48-volt system to power some accessories and another compressor, aka forced induction. This compressor adds boost at lower rpm until the turbo can get up to speed and provide additional power.
The exterior design of the GLA is on par with all of Mercedes’ new crossovers. The grill is large, with a massive Mercedes emblem in the center. The LED fog lights, we’ll talk more about this later on, are in the ends of the lower dog bone shaped grill.
Moving down the side, the profile is jelly bean in shape for good aerodynamics and decent interior space. The 19” wheels are very attractive. As is common on many Mercedes vehicles, the rims stick out past the tires, meaning they will contact with rocks or curbs before the tires do.
At the back we find plenty of lighting and reflectors. There are various creases and shapes in the bodywork to break up the rear end. The whole rear hatch opens as one piece, without the option of opening the glass separately.
Lighting is excellent. The headlights are very bright with a sharp cutoff. However, the fog lights only function as extra diving lights and not fog lights. We say this because they can only be turned on if the headlights are on. There are many additional lighting features, like the ability to leave the street side parking lights on when the vehicle is parked. This is an extra safety feature for those that are street parking at night. There is also a red emergency light in the driver’s side tail light that is extra bright to help other driver’s see the vehicle when a tire needs to be changed or other roadside emergencies.
As part of the new generation updates, Mercedes has made the GLA more premium inside. It now includes many features that its larger, more expensive, siblings have. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both standard, along with power front seats with lumbar adjust and memory, rain sensing windshield wipers, and dual zone climate control.
Our test model was equipped with the Premium Package, which includes two 10.25” displays, one for the instrument cluster and the other for the infotainment screen. There are various ways to control these screens, our favorite is through the steering wheel mounted touch pads. This feature used to be an expensive addition but is now standard on the GLA 250.
The front seats are comfortable with a high-quality leather feel and manually adjustable thigh supports. The center touch pad and wrist support make the small arm rest more comfortable while keeping all the needed buttons within easy reach. Physical buttons for climate control are a must, and Mercedes has easy to see, reach, and use toggle switches at the bottom of the center stack for this.
One feature on the GLA that all vehicles should implement is the ability for the driver lock out the window controls for the passengers, yet still maintain the ability to control the windows from the driver’s switches. This works great for keeping kids and pets safe.
Rear seats and Cargo
The rear seats also have the ability to lock and unlock the doors, which is an interesting feature. The rear seats are comfortable, but the lower back portion protrudes where it meets the bottom cushion. Our smaller occupants didn’t like how it pushes out on the lower back, preventing good posture. Also, there is no center armrest for the rear passengers which would be a great addition for extra comfort.
While there is enough room for car seats in the second row, and they are easy to install, things are a little tight. For the rear-facing car seat the front seat had to be moved forward a little, reducing comfort for the driver or front seat passenger. The forward-facing car seat leaves little room for the toddler’s legs, which means lots of seat kicking.
With a 40/20/40 rear seat split, the center section can be folded down to carry longer items while still having four occupants in the vehicle. If more storage is needed all the seats can be folded for a large flat load floor.
Much has been improved in the ride and handling of the 2021 GLA over previous years. The suspension is much more compliant over road imperfections than in the previous generation. However, it retains flat cornering characteristics. Overall it’s a great and much needed improvement.
In FWD form the GLA205 very much drives and handles like a hot hatch. Power from the inline 4 is great, but even with the 48-volt compressor it needs to be at higher rpm before you really feel it kick in. The 8-speed dual clutch automatic performs very well, with quick shifts. It’s mostly smooth but there were occasions where the dual clutch would engage a little hard.
If we were speccing out a GLA for us we’d go for the AWD option. This creates better driving dynamics by greatly reducing torque steer. It is also much better for bad weather and off-pavement use.
One of the most surprising things about the GLA250 is the base price of $36,230. For everything that is included in this vehicle, one would expect a might higher price tag. The options added to our tester are:
|Natural Grain Brown Walnut Wood Trim||$325|
|Sirius XM Radio||$460|
|Heated Front Seats||$500|
|64-Color Interior Ambient Lighting||$310|
|USB-C Adapter Cable||$25|
Adding in the destination charge of $1,050 brings the total to $42,645.
Being the entry level crossover from Mercedes, the GLA 250 is more than expected. Driving characteristics are good in the front-wheel-drive form but we highly recommend getting the AWD version for bad weather and/or sportier driving dynamics. The interior is very nicely appointed with many features not available in other vehicles this size. Ultimately, it’s a luxury vehicle for those wanting a small crossover or who don’t have the budget for a full-fledged GLE or GLS.
Matthew Barnes is an experienced towing expert. He works as a mechanical engineer and his day job involves testing a variety of vehicles while towing trailers of all types and sizes. Matt shares his knowledge by writing for automotive news outlets in the evenings. When he’s not working he can be found spending time in the great outdoors with his family. He enjoys camping, hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking. Whenever possible he spends time riding in or on any power sports vehicle he can find and claims he can drive anything with a motor, which probably isn’t true.