Several years ago, Mercedes-Benz ran an advertising campaign asking a target segment of the population a simple question. “Isn’t it about time,” Mercedes asked, that they considered parking one of the company’s luxurious, exclusive status symbols in their driveway?

If I remember correctly, at that time it still cost a major chunk to buy a Benz, but there was some middle-class affluence to work with, and attractive leasing options that made it possible to, you know, maybe make the jump.

Up, that is.

These days it’s easier to ride behind the three-pointed star with a range of Mercedes-Benz models that are stickered close to mainstream money. So you get the luxury brand, but without the daunting dollars with which it was formerly associated.

The 2015 GLA 250 4MATIC is one example. All new this model year, it arrives with a starting price of $37,200 plus $2,075 Freight/PDI (though this varies by store), and for that you get a compact all-wheel-drive SUV that’s very well equipped, features eye-catching design and of course, the credibility of a venerable luxury nameplate. Mercedes-Benz becomes aspirational no more. You are there!

Our test vehicle added a few dollars (what’s new?) but not extreme. As-tested price was $45,650 which included the $3,800 Premium Package (automatic climate control, panoramic sunroof, blind spot assist, rear-view camera and navigation) and the $2,000 Premium Plus Package (power tailgate, exterior power folding mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors, bi-xenon headlights and media interface). There was also a $475 charge for Sirius satellite radio, which seems a bit excessive. But you do get various other packages standard (Enhanced Off-Road, Urban, Memory seating (power steering column is not included, contrary to the Mercedes-Benz consumer website’s information), Light and Sight, and Seat Comfort). You also get leatherette upholstery in three colour choices, I‘m happy to report, as standard equipment.

Additional options are a $1,000 Logic7 Harman/Kardon sound system and $900 automatic park assist (the GLA will park itself for you) with which our vehicle was not equipped. Items like ventilated seats and active headlights are not offered in the GLA 250, although intelligent cruise control (Distronic Plus) is as an unpublished standalone $1,200 option, as is a rear entertainment package at $1,292.

The GLA platform is shared with the entry-level CLA Coupe (it’s actually a sedan) but it has more ground clearance and a hatchback. Under the hood is the same 2.0L four-cylinder turbocharged and direct-injected engine making 208 hp at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 1,250–4,000 rpm.

The transmission is a dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic with electronic gear selection via a small lever on the steering column. Shift paddles on the steering wheel let you select “manually” if desired. The GLA 250 4MATIC will scoot from 0–100 km/h in a shade below seven seconds and will return 9.8/7.4/8.7 L/100 km city/highway/combined (I got 11.0 L/100 in cold weather, mainly city driving). Auto start/stop technology is standard (saving fuel at intersections) but may be disabled by the driver if desired.

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