Subcompact crossover SUVs are all the rage these days. They keep proving that less really can be more, at least when it comes to SUVs. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA is one of the top luxury subcompact crossovers on the market. It offers elegant and sophisticated styling, one of the most refined cabins in its segment, potent performance, and next-generation technology. The GLA was first introduced in 2016, but was completely redesigned for 2021. That’s great news for anyone shopping for a luxury SUV. Here’s everything you need to know about the new Mercedes-Benz GLA.
New for 2021
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA has been fully redesigned from the ground up for 2021. That means everything is new, which makes the GLA an even more attractive buy than ever before. It features a sleeker exterior design, which aligns it better with Mercedes’ current offerings. IT also offers a more upscale cabin. Although the GLA isn’t technically a brand new vehicle, the 2021 model might as well be.
Exterior Styling: More SUV Than Jacked-Up Hatchback
The 2021 GLA now looks more SUV-like, thanks to the fact that it is slightly wider and stouter than before. It’s also approximately four inches taller, which helps. Its look can best be described as “elegant sportiness,” although the athleticism is a bit on the lighter side. It boasts a fluid, aerodynamic shape with clean lines and eye-catching curves. There’s a wider, sportier stance with more aggressive front and rear fascias. The GLA 250 and GLA 250 4MATIC trim levels get Mercedes’ new single-billet diamond-block grille, standard 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, chrome roof bars, chrome window surrounds, standard LED headlights and taillights, a roof spoiler, and chrome dual exhaust tips.
The performance-focused AMG GLA35 and AMG GLA45 trim levels are more aggressive. They come with the menacing Mercedes-Benz panamericana grilles, fiercer front and rear bumpers, 19-inch AMG wheels, quad exhaust tips, a rear spoiler, and black rear diffusers. We’ll talk more about the different trim levels available in a minute.
What’s Under the Hood: A Trio of Turbo-Fours
The GLA 250 and GLA 250 4MATIC are driven by a 2.0-liter turbo-four, generating 221 hp and 258 lb-ft. of torque. These numbers may not sound like much, but they do help the GLA achieve a 0-o-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds This is thanks, in part, to its quick-shifting eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. The GLA 250 4MATIC’s time is slightly quicker at 6.6 seconds, thanks to the additional traction facilitated by its all-wheel-drive system.
The AMG GLA 35 trim gets an exclusive AMG-enhanced 2.0-liter turbo-four. It delivers 302 hp and 295 lb-ft. of torque. Thanks to this engine, the AMG GLA35 requires just 5.1 seconds to sprint from 0-to-60. The AMG GLA 45 offers the most powerful engine — a special handcrafted AMG 2.0-liter turbo-four, rated at 382 hp and 354 lb-ft. of torque. This engine propels this SUV to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. The GLA has an all-new suspension system, which should make it more responsive through the corners.
The EPA rates the base GLA at 25/34/28 MPG (city, highway, combined). However, those figures fall to 24/33/27 MPG when AWD is equipped. The AMG models obviously do poorer at the pump, but still won’t kill your wallet. The AMG35 is rated at 23/29/25 MPG while the more powerful AMG45 checks in at 20/27/23 MPG.
The cabin of the 2021 GLA has a sleek and modern design. It comes fully decked out with premium materials. The center console features turbine-style air vents, a strip of metallic-accented controls for the climate control system, and a large touchpad controller for the infotainment system. The GLA 250 and GLA 250 4MATIC trim levels offer standard power-adjustable front seats (complete with three-position memory) trimmed in leatherette material. They also feature a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a dual-zone climate control system, a keyless entry and ignition system, and a power liftgate. Heated front seats, however, are optional. So are a panorama moonroof, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, multi-color ambient lighting system, leather upholstery, and sport front seats.
The AMG GLA35 and AMG GLA45 trim levels feature flat-bottom sport steering wheels, sport front seats, carbon-fiber-esque dash trim, red interior stitching, AMG floor mats, brushed stainless steel pedals, and aluminum paddle shifters. These models also get the multi-color ambient lighting system as standard. Optional features include AMG Performance front seats, AMG illuminated front door sills, MB-Tex/DINAMICA upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, and red seat belts.
The cabin of the 2021 GLA is roomier than that of its prior model. That is partly thanks to the fact that its wheelbase has increased slightly. The new GLA now offers 39 inches of headroom and 41 inches of legroom up front. In the rear there is now 38.1 inches of headroom and 38 inches of legroom — or five more inches of legroom than the previous model. The 2021 GLA offers 15.36 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats. That number rises to 50.5 cubic feet if you fold down the rear seats.
The 2021 GLA comes standard with what at first glance looks like one long infotainment screen. However, it’s actually two separate seven-inch display. One serves as the gauge cluster and the other as the infotainment screen. Optional 10.25-inch screens are available for those who are more iPhone XR than iPhone SE. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, but GPS navigation is optional. However, if you opt for the multimedia package, you get MB Navigation, which uses advanced GPS technology and hard drive-stored 3D maps to guide drivers. It can also respond to voice commands. A 12-speaker Burmester sound system is also on offer, as are a wireless charging pad and heads-up display.
Standard safety and driver’s assistance tech includes automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot assist, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. However, like with so many things, the best stuff is hidden behind a paywall. In this case, we’re talking about the optional Driver Assistance Package. This package unlocks 12 new pieces of safety and driver’s assistance tech, including adaptive cruise control, active brake assist with a cross-traffic function, and active lane-change assist. They are excellent features to have, but it’s disappointing that Mercedes charges extra for them. Then again, so many other brands do exactly the same thing.
Pricing and Trim Levels
The GLA 250 starts at $36,230, while the GLA 250 4MATIC starts at $38,230. The high-performance AMG GLA35 and AMG GLA45 carry MSRPs of $47,550 and $54,500, respectively. However, these prices don’t include transportation, handling charges, and other fees. It’s also worth noting is that you’re likely to spend quite a bit more than these listed starting prices. After all, those upgrades and optional features are hard to pass up.
For example, the only free color options for the GLA 250 and GLA 250 4MATIC trim levels are Polar White and Night Black. You have to pay approximately $720 for other colors like Denim Blue Metallic or Patagonia Red Metallic. Also, the base GLA 250 and GLA 250 4MATIC get standard seven-inch digital displays, with the larger 10.25-inch units locked away inside the Premium package. That costs an extra $1,750. However, optioning this package also adds a hands-free power liftgate, power-folding side mirrors and auto-dimming driver-side mirrors, and an advanced rearview mirror. In short, the Mercedes GLA is certainly a luxury SUV in every regard — including the pricetag.
The Last Word
Mercedes-Benz has made a good thing even better with the redesigned 2021 GLA. While it may not have quite the same utility or base peppiness of its rivals, it still offers great value in all other aspects. However, it has to be said that many of the desirable features are only offered as options or upgrade packages. That means you’ll probably end up spending much more than the sticker price to get the GLA you want. On the other hand, if you’re shopping for a new Benz, you might not be overly concerned about the cost. If it’s not a problem for you, then the 2021 Mercedes GLA is definitely worth a test drive.