February 25, 2014
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Michael Bettencourt
Malaga, Spain – The proliferation of smaller and more affordable Mercedes-Benzes continues with this all-new compact GLA crossover, the third in a line of all-new natively front-drive Benzes that started with the B-Class hatchback in Canada – which is still not available to our hatchback-averse U.S. neighbours – and the CLA subcompact sedan.
Like the CLA offers now, the new GLA will also arrive in Canada with a much hotter AMG version available, the GLA 45, sending its generous power to all four wheels using Mercedes-Benz’s popular 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Don’t be fooled by an engine that appears to be the same size as the frugally minded but also turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder base power plant. The AMG’s 355-hp beast of an engine transforms the GLA from a city-sized family commuter to a fire-breathing performance machine.
Even so, the vast majority of GLA buyers will very likely opt for the tamer and more comfortable GLA 250, which shares its engine, platform, and seven-speed transmission with its B-Class cousin. Given their similar size, practicality and urban-friendly natures, the main question for me going into this car’s launch event in and around Malaga and Grenada boiled down to this: What does the GLA 250 do that the cheaper B 250 hatchback doesn’t?
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250. Click image to enlarge
One Mercedes-Benz rep insisted the B-Class and GLA are two totally distinct vehicles, so therefore can’t be compared to each other. But a closer look at the spec sheets of the 250 versions of each reveals that both offer the same engine, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and 2,699 mm wheelbase, the latter a technical shorthand for how much interior space a vehicle offers, assuming equal heights. Besides the B’s entry-level – for Mercede-Benz – $30,500 price, it also weighs 30 kg less, offers more head room front and rear, plus a significantly larger cargo area with the rear seats up (488 L versus the GLA’s 421), and with them folded down (1,547 versus the GLA’s 1,235).
Mercedes-Benz hasn’t announced prices for the GLA yet in Canada, where it’s scheduled to arrive in September, so it’s tough to evaluate value when you don’t know the exact price. But educated speculation puts it over the $34K CLA but below Benz’s current $39,700 C-Class sedan starting price, suggesting a base MSRP of about $37K for the GLA. That’s right in line with the $37-ish starting price of the BMW X1, and chances are it will be close to the list price of Audi’s upcoming Q3 crossover as well, also planned to arrive in the third quarter of this year.