Test Driver: 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC
The 2108 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 seems to defy description — accurate descriptions, anyway.
Mercedes refers to it as a compact crossover. Most reviews say it is a small crossover. One describes it as "petite."
I think anyone who drives it will agree it is a luxury subcompact crossover. A slightly big subcompact, maybe, but any vehicle you have twist youself into, like the GLA250, is a subcompact in my eyes.
And that may be the problem. We all know luxury vehicles cost extra while subcompacts have historically been the cheapest vehicles on the market — so are buyers really prepared to pay more for what should be a low-priced vehicle?
Everyone needs to relax. The GLA250 is about the same size as the affordable subcompact crossovers on the market, including the Chevy Trax, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Jeep, Nissan Juke, and Fiat 500X.
But it is built as well or better than the more upscale subcompact crossovers, including the BMW X1, Buick Encore, and MINI Countryman. In fact, the most direct competition is the Infiniti QX30, which is built on the same platform and features the same drivetrain, even though it has a unique body and interior. And all of them are selling sell just fine, thank you.
Subcompact have obvious strengths and weaknesses. Because they are so small, subcompact tend to be nimble and fun to drive. They do especially well in downtowns, where traffic lanes are narrow and parking is at a premium. In a week of mixed driving, I found the 2108 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC was especially good for city driving, where we could easily switch lanes when the traffic ahead of us slowed down, thanks to precise steering and sporty suspension.
But the small size is also the downside, especially if you have to carry more than two adults or much luggage very far. Fortunately, I didn't, so I will spare you the details about the small rear seats and cargo space. You've been warned, though.
For such a small vehicle, the GLA250 comes with a lot of Mercedes characteristics. They range from the large corporate grill and aggressive stance to the upright infotainment screen that protrudes above the aluminum dash with the large, round air vents. The interior was lined with highest quality materials. And the latest automotive technologies were either at my fingers or waiting quietly to help if I placed a wheel wrong.
The engine and transmission combination also feels like it belongs in a Mercedes. The turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four cylinder engine produces a smooth 208 horsepower that is channeled through a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission that is always in the right gear. And my test model was equipped with the company's excellent 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system that was both unobtrusive and effective in wet weather.
But as I said, there's a price to be paid for such quality. The 2018 GLA250 4MATIC starts out more expensive than larger crossovers offer by most American, Japanese and South Korean manufacturer. Optional package push the prices even higher, like the nearly $9,000 worth of add-on that came with my test model. And it wasn't even the most expensive version — the GLA45 increases the output of the turbo four to 355 horsepower and the starting price to nearly $50,000.
At the same time, as with all vehicles from Mercedes, you get what you pay for in terms of performance, refinement and status. Everywhere I went, people noticed the GLA250 and asked about it. Part of that was because of the Jupiter Red paint and optional AMG body package and 19-inch wheels, I'm sure, but part of it was just the impression everything from Mercedes makes on people — even the smallest ones.
2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC
Base price: $35,400
Price as tested: $44,305
Type: Subcompact crossover
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter 4 (208 hp, 258 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 7-speed DCT automatic
EPA estimated mileage: TBA
Overall length: 173.9 inches
Base curb weight: 3,296 pounds
Final assembly: Rastatt, Germany