Luxury compact crossover
The Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 was launched in 2014, bringing the German brand to the luxury subcompact crossover scene for the first time. The GLA-Class combines signature Mercedes styling, technology, and endless add-ons with turbocharged power and all-wheel drive – all in a small package.
Look for a compact and highly manoeuvrable driving experience, with room for four adults and their stuff. The GLA’s small size helps enable highly respectable fuel economy, too.
Various electronic enhancements were fitted for off-road use, including a downhill assist system and a terrain-specific off-road setting for the transmission and all-wheel drive system.
Safety features include adaptive cruise control, driver attention monitoring, and a collision-prevention system that can help mitigate or prevent certain types of crashes using automatic braking.
Features include a since-standardized rearview camera, automatic lights and high-beams, automatic climate control, the brand’s signature infotainment interface, a panoramic sunroof, leather memory seating, a power tailgate, navigation, and more.
A facelift was applied for 2017, which tweaked the GLA’s looks, cabin, and feature content. If it’s in your budget, a 2017 or newer model may prove more appealing than an earlier unit. Note that an all-new generation of the GLA-Class is set to arrive in 2020.
All models ran a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine, good for 208 hp and a robust 258 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission was standard, as was all-wheel drive. Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) fuel consumption figures peg the GLA 250’s consumption around 10.3/7.6 L/100 km (city/highway), though your results may vary.
A high-performing GLA 45 AMG variant was also available, but that unique model is worthy of its own review.
What Owners Like
Most owners report that the GLA is easy to drive and park, and easy on fuel, and that it provides relatively affordable access to a full suite of in-demand Mercedes technologies and features. Many drivers gravitate towards this model for its promise of a luxurious drive, all-weather capability, and city-friendly sizing. Sporty drivers aren’t likely be disappointed either: The standard turbo engine is brimming with torque, and the chassis is sporty and responsive.
What Owners Dislike
Common gripes include a cramped rear seat for larger occupants, a smaller-than-expected cargo space, and a ride that some luxury car fans may find too stiff and sporty – especially on rougher roads, and on models with larger wheels and thinner tires. Finally, some owners report interior noise levels that fail to meet their expectations of a luxury vehicle.
Pro Tip: Budget for Ongoing Costs
Will the Mercedes GLA be your first premium vehicle? If so, be sure to assess the ongoing costs before you buy. For instance, the GLA needs to be fuelled with pricier premium-grade gasoline, and replacement costs for tires, brakes and suspension components, and serviceable fluids and filters may be higher than you’re used to. Finally, be sure to check insurance rates ahead of time, as these are sometimes considerably higher in premium vehicles.
Pro Tip: Plan for a Thorough Inspection
Plan your test drive for a date and time when you have an hour or more to fully inspect the vehicle. You’ll want to spend a considerable amount of time assessing the operation of numerous in-cabin features and systems before setting off for your drive (details below). Consider printing this page for reference, and be sure to leave enough time to perform all tests below as part of your test drive for maximum peace of mind.
The Test Drive
The GLA uses a dual-clutch transmission, which is a form of automatic transmission. It functions the same way as a conventional automatic, but the hardware inside is different and may lead to some sensations that are unfamiliar to first-time users.
In this type of transmission, a small amount of roll-back is expected on hills while the vehicle is stopped without the brakes applied. Shifting from reverse to drive (and vice versa) may take longer than usual, especially in cold weather.
Gear changes should be fast and precise, though largely imperceptible through the vehicle’s driveline. Bear in mind that this type of transmission may feel different than other automatics, but slamming, lurching, hard shifting, clumsiness, or difficulty engaging the gear selected isn’t part of the equation. If the transmission exhibits any of the above sensations, do not purchase the vehicle until it’s been assessed by a Mercedes technician or move to another unit.
Numerous owners have reported problems as described above, with the majority corrected by a dealer-installed update that optimizes the software that controls the transmission. Here’s more information, and some more.
Note that a slamming or startling lurch when shifting between drive and reverse are signs of rare but potentially serious problems.
Auto Stop/Start System
The GLA’s ignition stop/start system shuts the engine off in certain situations to prevent wasteful idling and reduce fuel usage, however slightly. The engine shuts off in most situations when the vehicle comes to a complete stop and restarts automatically when the brake pedal is released. Some owners have noted problems with this system, mainly centring around its failure to engage.
During your test drive, bring the vehicle to a full stop several times and confirm that the system is working. It’s important to note that it may not shut the engine off every time the vehicle comes to rest. If the system fails to shut the engine off at all, or if you notice any warning or error messages related to it, have the vehicle assessed before you buy. Some owners have reported that the auxiliary battery that powers this system may have trouble holding a sufficient charge if the vehicle is driven infrequently, which knocks the system offline.
Start your test drive by spending a few minutes inside the GLA confirming that everything that runs on electricity is in working order. Try the power locks, windows, sunroof, back-up camera, power seats, Bluetooth, navigation, interior and exterior lighting, power tailgate, and all remote keyfobs.
Try the climate control system. Confirm that you’re able to play music from all sources. Try the wipers and windshield washer nozzles, too.
Manipulate the infotainment system using the centrally mounted control knob, ensuring that the knob and nearby buttons all respond as expected. If these components have suffered damage – perhaps from an accidental beverage spill – now’s the time to find out.
Confirm that all rear seating provisions fold and latch as expected, that the rear seat climate control system works as expected, and that all internal and external door handles are operational. While assessing the interior of the GLA, open and close the power tailgate several times. Any failure to open and close as expected, or an unexpected reversal in direction, warrants further investigation.
Finally, check the cabin for signs of water leaks. Remove the floor panel in the cargo area and inspect the area beneath for signs of rust, water staining, mould, or standing water. Check all interior carpeting for signs of unexplained dampness as well. Though water leaks are reported infrequently, they can damage the vehicle and be frustrating to source and repair. If you detect any issues, make arrangements to have the water leaks assessed and repaired or move to another unit.
Do This Test
On your test drive, find an open space like a parking lot and execute numerous sharp turns in both directions from a stop. You’re on the lookout for a ticking or clicking sound emanating from the front-end.
Fully lock the steering wheel to one side, then apply some throttle and drive off. Stop, change directions with the steering, and repeat. Do this test several times, noting that performing it on a slight incline (uphill) may further help coax out the unwanted sound.
If you hear it, have the vehicle inspected before you buy. Some owners have had dealers replace the front half-shafts with revised units to stop the ticking. Ask your service advisor to reference Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) L133.30-P-061504. Owners report that Mercedes is aware of the issue, but won’t address it unless owners file a complaint.
Here’s some more reading.
Various issues are possible if the battery in the GLA 250 you’re considering is on its way out. These include a transmission that can’t be shifted out of park, various check-engine lights, and the spontaneous illumination of a large number of warning lights and error messages, alongside widespread non-functionality of various vehicle systems. To prevent problems like these, have the battery tested before you buy, and replace it with a high-quality unit at the first sign of trouble.
Do not underestimate the far-reaching problems that can be caused by a weak battery in a modern car.
Check the Front Bumper and Windshield
Some of the GLA’s advanced safety systems rely on information from a camera mounted behind the windshield, as well as sensors mounted in the front bumper. Damage to either the windshield or front bumper may cause non-functionality of one or more of these systems.
Confirm that the windshield of the unit you’re considering is free of cracks or other damage, and that the front bumper is properly attached and free of obvious damage. Even a slight impact to the front bumper (perhaps bumping a light post while parking) can mis-align the bumper and sensors embedded within, which may require professional recalibration.
Other checks of a used GLA 250 should include an assessment of the fuel-door release button (info here), all steering-wheel-mounted controls, and all exterior lighting provisions. Be sure to open and close the panoramic sunroof as many times as possible on your test drive, and be on the lookout for signs of any hesitation, binding, straining, reversal of direction, or failure to operate. If you note any problems like these, have the sunroof inspected by a professional before you buy.
Though the GLA 250 seems to have impressed thousands of owners with relatively solid operation and an upscale, sporty and efficient driving experience, shoppers are advised to test drive any used units they’re considering carefully, with an eye on all tests and checks outlined above. Your best defence against purchasing a problematic used GLA 250 is to have the vehicle inspected visually, mechanically, and electronically by a Mercedes technician before you buy. A used model sold under a certified pre-owned (CPO) program at a Mercedes dealer is your best bet.
Here’s a list of recalls.
Crash Test Results