2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Review


The GLA 250 is Mercedes-Benz’s smallest, and most affordable CUV. The second generation GLA 250 shares the same platform as our recently reviewed GLB class and the entry level A-class sedan. It is completely redesigned for 2021 to compete with the likes of BMW X1, Audi Q3, and Volvo XC40. It is noticeably more premium inside and out, and offers the excellent MBUX infotainment system that is found in the latest generation of Mercedes-Ben’s vehicles. 

Thanks to Mercedes-Benz Canada, we were loaned the 2021 GLA 250 4Matic for one week to test drive. Below is my unbiased review.

Compared with the first generation model, the 2021 GLA 250 is 0.6” shorter in length, 0.4” narrower, and 4.1” taller. The ground clearance has been raised by 0.35” and the wheelbase is extended by 1.2”. The changes make the new GLA look more like a SUV than a raised hatchback. And what a handsome SUV it is. 

The front fascia looks particularly sporty with slim multi-beam LED headlights, power domes on the hood, large center grille that encompasses the Three-Pointed Star logo, and thick chrome accent trims at the lower bumper. 

From the side, the 18” 5-twin-spoke wheels can be upgraded to up to 20” for a more aggressive look. The powerful shoulders are accompanied by fastback like daylight opening for a dynamic side profile. 

At the back, the split tailights are highlighted by LED light bars for a modern and unique light signature. The bumper is decorated with a thick chrome trim that accommodates the twin chrome exhaust tips. It is also sloped up slightly for a better departure angle. The chrome-plated sill protector and integrated roof rails are small touches that make the exterior of the GLA that much more premium. 

The interior of the new GLA would look very familiar to anyone who has been in a Mercedes-Benz lately. The floating dual-screen display is accompanied by turbine-style air vents, customizable deck trims, and padded leather surfaces. Our tester comes with the standard Spiral Optic plastic trims that frankly look a little bit tacky. Spending another $250 will get you the Black Linden open-pore wood inlays that look much more premium. 

The climate control buttons are neatly located below the center air vents. The buttons feel solid and provide excellent tactile feedback. With the premium package, the GLA 250 also comes with the signature 64-color LED ambient lighting system that turns the cabin of the CLA into a trendy lounge at night. 

Despite the slightly smaller footprint, the new GLA actually has more headroom and shoulder room for all passengers. The seating position for the driver and front passenger has been raised by more than 5.5” for better outward visibility. The front seats are nicely bolstered, but not as cushy as I would like. Some people might find the seats to be too firm for longer drives. 

In the rear cabin, the extended wheelbase and contoured front seat backs gives the rear passengers almost 5” more extra legroom compared to the previous generation. The rear seats are also on the firmer side, but the extra leg and headroom, as well as the split panoramic sunroof makes the rear cabin of the GLA quite a comfortable place to be. Rear passengers also enjoy dedicated air vents and storage trays at the back of the center console. 

The GLA 250 comes with the same excellent Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system found in the A-class and the GLB-class. The MBUX consists of a few different components. First, the twin optional 10.25" (7” standard) displays that are positioned right next to each other to appear as one giant screen. The left screen sits right in front of the steering wheel and displays important vehicle information such as the speed, fuel economy, and engine rpm. The right screen, which is also a touchscreen, sits right on top of the center console. It is multi-functional, and has an extensive, yet intuitive user interface. Android Auto and Apple Carplay are available with the premium package, but they really should be standard in 2021.

The second part of the MBUX system are the touchpads on the steering wheel. They are similar to the small touch pads we used to see on older Blackberry phones. The left one controls the left display, and the right for the right, simple. I love the fact that you never have to take your hands off the steering wheel to access all functions of the infotainment system.

There is another way you can control the many functions of the car without taking your hands off the wheel. This is accomplished via the LINGUATRONIC voice assist. It is a natural language smart assistant that functions like the Apple Siri or Google Assist. Simply say "Hey, Mercedes", or press the voice command button, and you can ask the GLA 250 to make a phone call, plot a new navigation route, close the roller sunshade, or change the interior light. The voice assistant can control basically anything that is not safety related. The system is smart enough to understand natural language commands like "I am cold" or "I am hungry", and responses by raising cabin temperature, or to find the closest restaurant.

The final part of the MBUX system is the track-pad that is located in the center console. There is a padded resting place for the wrist, which allows your fingers to scroll through the display menu effortlessly. 

One cool optional feature of the new infotainment system is the virtual reality style navigation system that you can get with the $1000 Navigation Package. When you are close to a junction, the center display would pull up the video feed from the front camera, and superimpose arrows to show you exactly where to turn. It is a very cool technology but does require you to take your eyes off the road to see. If you don’t want to take your eyes off the road while driving, the $1500 optional head-up display provides all of the same information directly onto the windshield in front of the driver. 

Standard GLA comes with a 6-speaker 100-watt audio system. For $700 more, you get a Burmester surround sound system that comes with 12 high-quality speakers and a 590-watt 9-channel digital amplifier.

One thing to be noted is that while there are multiple USB charging points for both the front and rear passengers, they are all in USB-C format. You will need a converter if your phone doesn’t support USB-C.

Safety and Driver Assistance
The GLA 250 comes with the following standard safety features:

  • Active Brake Assist
  • Rearview Camera
  • Adaptive braking technology
  • Tire Pressure Loss Warning System
  • Heated windshield washer system

The following features are available:

  • MULTIBEAM LED headlamps
  • Adaptive Highbeam Assist
  • Blind Spot Assist
  • Vehicle Exit Warning
  • Traffic Sign Assist
  • Active Parking Assist
  • Active Blind Spot Assist
  • Active Distance Assist
  • Active Lane Change Assist
  • 360 camera

It is worth mentioning that the latest adaptive cruise control system of Mercedes-Benz is one of the best I have experienced. It provides a very natural driving experience, and keeps the car in the center of the lane superbly.

As a side note, for any GLA 250 owner who opted for the $250 heated steering wheel but can’t find the physical control, it is located at the base of the steering column. It took me a little while to find and had to rely on the LINGUATRONIC voice assist to activate it for the first few drives.

The 2021 GLA 250 has yet to be rated by NHTSA and IIHS at the time of writing.

Just like its predecessor, the GLA 250 is powered by a 2.0L inline-4 turbocharged engine. But it now provides 221 hp of power and 258 lb.ft. of torque. The engine is coupled to a 4matic all wheel drive system that features an 8 speed dual clutch transmission. The drivetrain provides a good amount of low end torque and is capable of accelerating the 1,565kg car from 0-100km/hr in 6.7 seconds, 0.2 seconds faster than the GLB 250. 

The powertrain feels smooth, but there is a slight delay off the line. The dynamic drive selector allows you to choose between Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual mode. I like to leave the car in Sport mode as it shortens the delay considerably. 

On the road, the GLA 250 is spirited and agile. The suspension is tuned for comfort as the car glides through road bumps without punishing your spine. On the other hand, there is more body roll than I expected. If you are looking for a more engaging ride, there is also the GLA 35. With an AMG-enhanced 2.0L 302hp turbocharged engine, The GLA 35 can go from 0-100km/hr in 4.9 seconds. If that is still not enough, the GLA 45 with its 382hp AMG 2.0L turbocharged engine will complete the same task in 4.4seconds. 

That should be fast enough for most people, right?

Cargo Space & Storage
Despite its small footprint, the GLA 250 offers a spring amount of cargo room. There is 435L of trunk space behind the 2nd row seats. With the 40/20/40 rear seats folded, the cargo capacity is increased to 1430L. The cargo floor is almost at the same level as the sill, making loading and unloading bulky items easier. Unfortunately there are no seatback release tabs in the trunk. To fold the rear seats down, you have to pull the release strings located in the second row cabin. Also, there is no spare tire under the trunk floor. A tire inflation kit is provided instead. Mesh pockets and an elastic band in the trunk allows smaller items to be kept in place while the car is in motion. 

In cabin storage options are plentiful. They include a decently sized glove compartment, a large storage bin in the center console, wireless charging pad for your smartphone, deep side door pockets, additional cup holders in the rear folding armrest, and mesh pockets behind the front seatbacks.  

The redesigned GLA 250 is a winner. It is better than its predecessor in almost all fronts. It boasts a better looking exterior, a more premium interior, and many more advanced technologies. The added cabin room and cargo capacity also makes the 2021 GLA 250 extremely practical. With the current SUV crave, I have no doubt that the GLA class will be a commercial success. Its biggest competitor might come from within the company. By spending about $4000 more, the GLB 250 is even more practical and offers similar performance. 

Test Vehicle
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic SUV 

$42,400 CAD Base, $50,875 CAD as tested.

Night Black


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