The least expensive Mercedes-Benz crossover SUV that you can buy has received a complete makeover for the 2021 model year. The all-new 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 offers more interior room and a host of new convenience & safety features. Bust being the least expensive crossover SUV that you can buy from the brand, does it still feel like a Mercedes-Benz vehicle?
Engine – The GLA 250 is available with only a 2.0L turbocharged engine but thankfully it’s not the least powerful variant in the Mercedes-Benz lineup. That honor goes to the Mercedes A220. This GLA 250 produces 221 hp & 258 lb-ft of torque (165 kW & 350 Nm) that is good enough for a claimed 0-100 km/h sprint of 6.7 seconds. Like many turbocharged engines, the peak torque figure is reached at low rpms – 1,800 in this case – and is sustained until 4,000 rpms. The peak power figure is reached at the 5,500 rpm mark where the engine begins to lose puff beyond that point. The low rpm torque figure means that the engine doesn’t have to work very hard to get the GLA 250 moving off the line. Overtaking another vehicle on a highway is also a breeze and effortless.The acceleration won’t pin you to the back of the seat like the GLA 45 AMG would, but it’s more than enough power for everyday commuting.
Fuel economy is not too bad for an AWD crossover SUV that tips the scales at 1,565 kg (3,450 lbs). It is rated for 9.8 L/100km (24 MPG) in a city and 7.1 L/100km (33 MPG) on a highway with the 4MATIC AWD system. In the United States, the GLA 250 is available with FWD only which will save you about 0.3 L/100km (1 MPG). Premium fuel is required.
Transmission – This second generation Mercedes GLA 250 is equipped with an 8-speed dual clutch transmission. On the move, the shifts between gears are so smooth after 3rd that it’s almost impossible to perceive them unless you’re looking at the rpm needle drop. I’m not saying that below 3rd gear they’re rough, because they’re not, it’s just that you don’t notice the shifts throughout the higher gears.
One of the biggest complaints with previous iterations of Mercedes’ dual-clutch transmission has been setting off from a stop. It felt jerky and as though a novice was learning to drive a manual car for the first time. This 8-speed dual-clutch is much smoother when setting off from a stop. There is some hesitation if you stomp on the throttle but if you’re gentle, it’s like driving a normal automatic.
Braking – My biggest disappointment of the driving experience of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 has been the brake feel. This particular GLA had standard brakes which work well in everyday driving situations. It’s just that the brake pedal didn’t feel as firm as I had experienced in other Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Granted, all other Mercedes-Benz vehicles I have driven had either been AMG models or had the Sport package which adds upgraded brakes. Automatic emergency braking is standard on the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC.
Handling – The 2021 GLA 250 is a tiny bit narrower than the outgoing model but it still feels planted around corners. The crossover doesn’t feel twitchy when driving over a bump mid-way through a corner. On highways, there’s very little steering input required to keep the car going straight thus reducing strain on the driver. The steering feel and weight is a bit on the light side but that aids in maneuverability around parking lots. As well, the turning circle is very good.
Ride Comfort – Although this is a base model of the GLA without any adaptive dampers, the suspension is well tuned to absorb most potholes and road bumps. You’ll want to avoid really deep potholes but the GLA will still deliver a comfortable ride over cracked city streets.
Interior Space – The exterior dimensions of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 have shrunk – apart from overall height – but the interior dimensions have grown. The front seats provide plenty of legroom for tall occupants and with the crossover being taller, it feels like the sky’s the limit in terms of head room. There’s also a large panoramic sunroof that makes it feel like you can touch the sky.
If you’re sitting in the back, you’ll actually have plenty of space. Like the front, the head room is plentiful but so is legroom. At 6’4”, I can sit comfortably behind my driving position. Granted, my knees brush up against the back of the front seats but it doesn’t feel like I’m being squished.
Further back, the Mercedes-Benz GLA 2021 doesn’t have as much cargo capacity compared to the BMW X2 or Volvo XC40; it’s main rivals. The GLA 250 has 435 L (15.3 cu-ft) of cargo volume with the rear seats up. But fold those seats down and the GLA can provide 1,430 L (50.5 cu-ft) of cargo volume, the most amongst its competitors.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – The GLA 250 is decently quiet when driving on city streets. There’s minimal engine & road noise intrusion into the cabin. When the speed builds up though, road noise is quite evident. Granted, this particular demo vehicle had winter tires so all-season tires will be a bit quieter on a highway.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – In Canada, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 starts at $42,400 CAD ($38,230 USD) but if you’re reading this in the United States, you can get without the 4MATIC AWD system which lowers the starting price to $36,230 USD.
In base form, the GLA 250 comes nicely equipped with a panoramic sunroof, heated seats, LED headlights, a 7-inch touchscreen, push button start, automatic emergency braking & power front seats just to name a few. Of course these features vary slightly between a Canadian spec & USA spec GLA 250.
A fully loaded 2021 GLA 250 is quite expensive though at just over $62,000 CAD ($56,000 USD). Realistically you probably don’t need every feature. A base GLA 250 with the Premium package should be enough to satisfy most people’s needs.
Interior Design – The new GLA 250 looks identical on the inside to the GLB 250 apart from the small area just in front of the passenger. Everything else is in line with other current Mercedes-Benz vehicles from the circular air vents below dual 10.25-inch screens to the 64 colour ambient lighting system. It looks very good and arguably Mercedes-Benz makes the best looking luxury interiors at the moment. Once you start touching it, that’s when you start to understand why this is the least expensive crossover from the brand. Most of the materials are plastics but it’s the Artico leather-like upholstery that’s most disappointing. It feels coarse and nothing like soft leather. One highlight though is the heated Nappa leather steering wheel. That feels nice in the hands and is only a $250 option.
Exterior Design – The exterior of the GLA 250 feels like it falls into the same category as the Mazda MX-5. It’s a cute looking small crossover but with this new generation, the designers gave it angry looking headlights to make it look a bit more aggressive. It kind of works if you look at it directly head-on but otherwise, it’s still just a pretty cute looking crossover.
Overall, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC still feels like a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. It drives like how a Mercedes should, It looks the part of a Mercedes. And it can be optioned like a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. As I said in the review, the one to go for is one equipped with the Premium package & Nappa leather heated steering wheel if you live in a climate similar to Vancouver. If you live somewhere like Texas, you’ll be fine with just the FWD version with the Premium package and maybe ventilated front seats.
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca