Daimler takes aim at the BMW X1 and Audi Q3 with a shorter (yet roomier) and altogether better-looking subcompact crossover.
Mercedes-Benz has, over the past few years, been steadily revising and expanding both its crossover and small-car lineups with a flurry of new models. All that's been missing from both is a new GLA, the current model having been introduced back in 2014. But now it's revealed the all-new 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA you see here.
It's shorter from nose to tail – not only compared to the outgoing model, but to its subcompact stablemates as well. But it's grown in every other dimension, cloaked in far better-looking sheetmetal, and fitted with all the latest equipment that Daimler could fit into its small frame.
The new GLA rides on the same front-drive platform as the A-Class sedan, CLA four-door coupe, and the incrementally larger GLB crossover (not to mention a handful of other variants we don't get in the US, like the A-Class hatchback, B-Class minivan, and CLA Shooting Brake). But the GLA is taller than all but the seven-seat GLB, and larger than its predecessor in every dimension but length (thanks to shorter overhangs). That gives it more interior space (by almost every measure) than the model it replaces. The driving position is also higher (by almost half a foot), and with narrower roof pillars, offers better outward visibility.
Gorden Wagener's design team has also imbued the new GLA with much more attractive styling than its somewhat ungainly predecessor, of which the German automaker has sold over a million examples. It cuts through the wind with a low drag coefficient of 0.30 and handsomely adapts the styling cues from the A-Class and CLA to the crossover shape, and the theme put forth by the bigger GLC to the smaller form.
The interior is entirely fresh as well, and like other new Benzes, elevates technology to the realm of luxury. Dual displays (measuring 7 or 10.25 inches each) fill the instrument cluster, with the standard MBUX infotainment screen extending over the turbine-style central air vents.
More flexible rear seats and cargo bay make the relatively small vehicle more versatile, and Mercedes has outfitted the new GLA with a host of advanced driver-assistance and safety systems.
Motivation for the base GLA 250 that we'll get in the US comes, as before, from a 2.0-liter turbo four. It produces the same 258 lb-ft of torque as before, but power rises from 208 hp in the outgoing model to 221 hp in this new one. The dual-clutch transmission also gains a gear (from seven to eight speeds), but acceleration has, oddly, taken a significant hit, now quoted to take 8.6 seconds to reach 60 mph instead of 7.2.
Those wanting for performance will be able, once again, to opt for the AMG version, but more on that in a separate post. The suspension's all new, with MacPherson struts at the front, a multilink setup at the back, and more aluminum components all around to save weight. 4Matic all-wheel drive will once again be available, but it's a new system with an electro-mechanical (instead of hydraulic) clutch. The system sends 20 percent of output to the rear wheels in normal circumstances, 30 percent in Sport mode, and 50 in off-road mode. And models so equipped now come standard with an Off-Road Engineering Package. Look for the new GLA at your local Mercedes dealer come this summer.