While it is still early going, at this point in 2015 I have to say that of all of the vehicles that I have had the opportunity to drive, the Mercedes GLA250 4MATIC is quite simply the most enjoyable of all.
It is a compact SUV. Or so they say.
The GLA250 is one of those cars that looks better in sheet metal than in photography. It is hard to get the sense of how this vehicle is not a small five-door but is actually raised higher, thus providing a whisper of an SUV
Rather, it is, in my estimation, a sedan with sort-of off-road proportions. It is a sedan that rides a bit high. There is nothing visibly SUV about it, in that SUVs tend to be boxy objects, and the GLA has a lot of design character.
You know it is a Mercedes, but not like any Mercedes that you’ve seen before.
While it is probably not the comparison that anyone at the Daimler Design Office would like to see, but the vehicle that comes closest to the GLA in terms of the way it sits on the road would be the Nissan Juke.
However, whereas the Juke styling, particularly the front end, may be considered to be outré, the GLA is more refined and stylish while still looking like it is ready for business, with the business being that of getting from A to B with confidence: That’s what the slightly higher ride height conveys to me.
Remember how Mercedes introduced the CLA with the “Sympathy for the Devil” ad run during the 2013 Super Bowl? That car was created to appeal to a younger demographic. The CLA is pretty much a scaled-down, straight-up Mercedes sedan. The point of that ad was pretty much that you could get a real Mercedes for money that wouldn’t require selling your soul to Satan.
But the GLA is undoubtedly the sort of vehicle that would be even more appealing to people who are looking for something that’s out of the mainstream and affordable.
That is, the base MSRP for the GLA with a 208-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, a seven-speed DCT transmission with steering-wheel mounted shift paddles, and all-wheel-drive is $33,330 (not including $925 for delivery). According to TrueCar, the average MSRP for a light vehicle in the U.S. is $34,537, so the GLA is not unattainable.
Now I must admit that the vehicle that I drove was optioned up well beyond the $33 1/3-K mark. It has $12,590 in stand-alone (e.g., $550 for blind spot assist) and packaged (e.g., $2,480 for the Multimedia Package (COMAND System with navigation, rearview camera, 7.0-in. LCD screen with 3D map views) enhanced voice control system, 10-GB music register, DVD player, Gracenote information, SD card slot, Sirius XM traffic and weather, navigation map update for three years)).
The GLA I drove was as well-equipped as any luxury car would likely be. (Admittedly, it doesn’t have the self-driving sensors and processors of, say, its giant brother S Class. But it doesn’t have that heated massage seat in the second row, either. Let’s face it: there are options and equipment, and then there are, well, options and equipment.)
Another interesting characteristic of the GLA is that this truly is a German car, which is something that can’t be said of more German cars than you might think, cars that are produced in places ranging from Hungary to Mexico. The GLA’s engine and transmission are made in Germany. The GLA is assembled in Rastatt, Germany. Yes, a German car.
It was still winter around here when I was driving the GLA, and its 4MATIC system proved to be surefooted. The car was quick enough for expressway driving. It is more than nimble enough for maneuvering in a crowded Costco parking lot and it has the capacity to swallow up a Costco cart full of stuff (the cargo volume with the rear seats folded is 42 cubic-feet).
There are many months to go in 2015. But I’ve got to say that the GLA250 is going to be one of, if not the, favorite of the year.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4
Material: Aluminum block and head
Horsepower: 208 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,200-4,000 rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Steering: Rack & pinion speed-dependent electric power assist
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Length: 173.9 in.
Width: 79.6 in.
Height: 60 in.
Ground clearance: 8 in.
EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 24/32/27 mpg