In the land of sub-compact luxury crossover SUVs, the Mercedes GLA offers a Mercedes-Benz-worthy experience at around $34k. This price may seem like a bit of a stretch for a sub-compact crossover SUV, but the GLA manages to punch above its weight class in multiple important categories.
The best, highest trim Mercedes GLA is the GLA 45 AMG, but this performance version costs as much as $54k. This price is a bit hard to justify if you are not in the market for a performance-oriented sub-compact crossover SUV, but there are other more affordable options.
Regular Mercedes GLA models
The two main trim levels for the GLA are the standard GLA 250 which starts at around $34,000, and the GLA 250 4-Matic which starts at around $36,000.
The obvious difference here is the four-wheel-drive system, and many customers tend to opt for the 4-Matic, as the four-wheel-drive system offers a better grip. This system results in an all-around safer package, especially in damp and cold conditions.
However, if you live in a climate that rarely experiences unfavorable weather conditions, opting for the regular front-wheel drive GLA 250 might save you a dollar or two. When it comes to resale though, the 4-Matic version certainly is a more popular choice.
The GLA 250 offers 208hp and around 258 lb.-ft. in both trims, a 7-speed DCT transmission, and returns around 35MPG, which is not necessarily a class-leading fuel efficiency result. But, if you think that both of these trims are boring looking, an AMG Exclusive version certainly does look more appealing.
The AMG package entails a lengthy list of sporty options, such as AMG wheels, AMG sports seats, front seat heating, 4-way lumbar support, a 3 spoke multifunction sports steering wheel, extended aluminum and leather design touches and much more. The AMG package is also highly sought after in the second-hand market.
GLA 35 AMG and the GLA 45 AMG
If you think that even the AMG package on the GLA 250 4-Matic is still boring and that it lacks performance, the GLA 35 AMG and the GLA 45 AMG are the very top of the line GLA models currently listed for sale in most Mercedes dealerships.
The 35 AMG costs around $47,500, and for such a price-tag you’ll get a well-equipped 300hp GLA 250 4-Matic. Even at such a high price-tag, Mercedes will still sell a bunch of additional add-on options that will increase the final price of the 35 AMG to a territory mostly occupied by larger SUVs.
For context, the full-size GLC SUV starts at around $43k, and a well-optioned GLA 35 could get you a decently specified GLC. Let’s face it, subcompact crossover SUVs are not made for performance-oriented driving, and for that reason, and many others, a GLC is a better buy at this price point.
But, if you want the sportiest subcompact crossover SUV Mercedes could ever sell you, it’s the GLA 45 AMG. The GLA 45 offers 382 horsepower, a stiffer chassis, and a suspension package mostly suited for moderate performance driving.
As mentioned previously, cars in this segment are limited by their construction and are not made with performance driving in mind. Furthermore, the price of these vehicles is incredibly hard to justify. So, if you want a smaller sportier Mercedes, go for the A or the CLA 45 AMG, or forget about it entirely and opt for a decently specified GLC instead.
The “perfect” GLA
To find the perfect GLA, you should go ahead and test-drive all the different variants. After all these different versions are experienced, you should take a good look at the options list, and decide what is needed, and what is wanted.
When you buy a new Mercedes, you can mix and match many different Premium and AMG packages, specific options and such that will personalize the car to your own liking. You can choose the paint, the wheels, the sound system, ambient lighting and a bunch more.
So, a perfect GLA is probably the one you deem to be perfect, not the one someone else chooses for you. Of course, some versions are objectively better than others, but we must not forget the fact that cars are an emotional purchase as well.
More about the Mercedes GLA
How does the competition stack up to the GLA?
The main competitors for the GLA are the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1. All three vehicles offer an experience that is worthy of such premium brand names, but some cost-cutting in these is obvious, and especially so in the AMG, RS or M models.
All three of these brands are acknowledging the sheer market share of these models, so as newer models come out, most of them do offer significantly more than the predecessors. For example, the new Q3 is more akin to an A3, but the previous-gen Q3 just seemed a bit previous generation, even when it was just released.
Which generation of the GLA is the best?
The new GLA is the best, it’s a no brainer. The previous-gen GLA and the A-class had a fairly mixed reception by customers, as many of them believed that both of these are not “true Mercedes.”
Furthermore, with the new model, Mercedes actually put some thought into the GLA, and now the GLA represents a great entry-level Mercedes sub-compact crossover. Mercedes managed to make the new GLA more akin to larger models, and less of a design afterthought. And the sales are surely reaping the benefits.
Is the GLA a better buy than the entry-level A-class hatchback or the stylish CLA?
Nowadays, people love SUVs. Even though the GLA is a sub-compact crossover SUV, it is still an SUV.
So, it’s more a question of design than anything else, because these two share a lot of components. The A-class hatchback and the GLA are comparably priced, and they offer pretty much the same features. The GLA does offer FWD in non-AMG models, and the A-class does not.
But, if you want an AMG version, the A-class seems like a sportier vehicle. If you prefer style and substance, the $38k Mercedes CLA offers a sedan-like design at a more approachable price point. The CLA is certainly a popular choice, but it does lack in practicality compared to the GLA and the A-class.