The GLA 250 is an all-round package, but all the droolworthy features are offered as optional that make it exorbitantly expensive

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Mercedes launched the 2021 GLA in July last year and promoted it as a much safer, spacious, and off-road-oriented compact vehicle. While we don’t agree that offering a four-wheel-drive system makes it an off-roader, it certainly seems to have become a better package overall.

The GLA is a seasoned product that only gotten better this time around. It feels a lot more luxurious and modern than its predecessor. But, does spending close to $40,000 for an entry-level, compact Mercedes with a four-pot mill make a whole lot of sense?

Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Exterior

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Exterior
- image 876083

The GLA looks proportionate from all the angles, but has a hatchback appearance that’s trying to look like a compact SUV. It features a radiator grille with distinctive openings along with a single louvre that isn’t as neutral as one would like. It comes with LED headlights as standard and features short overhangs. That, coupled with the raised stance will give you the confidence to take it over beaten paths without worrying about scraping it.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Exterior
- image 876096

It rides on 18-inch wheels as standard wrapped around 215/65 section tires. However, Mercedes has offered up to 20-inch wheels. At the rear, the black plastic cladding has infiltrated into the bumper quite heavily and helps breaks the overall color monotony. The LED taillamps look sharp and give the derriere an aggressive look. Other than the front grille, the GLA 250 has a ‘please all offend none’ exterior and doesn’t scream for unwanted attention.

How Big Is It?

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Exterior
- image 876098

The GLA measures 173.6 inches in length, 79.5 inches in width, and 63.4 inches in height. It sits three inches higher than its predecessor. The GLA has a 107.4-inch long wheelbase and a 5.2-inch ground clearance when loaded. The front and rear tracks measure 63.2 inches. The GLA 250 weighs 3,384 pounds in the base avatar and 110 pounds more for the all-wheel-drive system.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA exterior dimensions
New GLA Predecessor Diff.
Length 173.6 174.2 -0.6
Width 72.2 71.0 +1.2
Width incl. exterior mirrors 79.5 79.6 -0.1
Height 63.6 60.0 +3.6
Wheelbase 107.4 106.3 +1.1
Track, front 63.2 61.4 +1.8
Track, rear 63.2 61.4 +1.8

Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Interior

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Interior
- image 876065

Step inside the cabin and you’ll be welcomed to a bright, airy, tech-heavy cabin. Since it is a luxury brand, the part quality all around is top-notch. It sure feels inferior to the higher models from the portfolio, but there’s nothing to complain about if you’re coming from, say, a Volkswagen or a Honda. Behind the chunky steering wheel is a seven-inch digital instrument cluster that’s conjoined to the same-sized touchscreen system. You can pay extra moolah and get the 10.25-inch twins also if big screens are your thing.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Interior
- image 876046

The GLA 250 comes with a seven-inch touchscreen as standard. It runs on the MBUX infotainment system with Voice Control that is activated with the prompt "Hey Mercedes". The system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well. Furthermore, there’s a new-gen Touchpad to control the system that’s an improvement over the one it replaces, but it is still not very impressive.

Other standard features include:

  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Rearview camera
  • Cruise Control
  • Keyless start/stop

How Spacious Is It?

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Interior
- image 876052

The GLA is a compact car at the end of the day and you can’t step inside the cabin expecting SUV-like space. It offers 39 inches of headroom, 41 inches of legroom, and 56 inches of shoulder room at the front. Things aren’t too bad at the rear, with the headroom and legroom rated at 38 inches, and shoulder room at 55 inches.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA interior dimensions
New GLA Predecessor Diff.
Max. front headroom 40.8 40.0 +0.8
Headroom, rear 38.1 38.4 -0.3
Legroom, front 41.1 41.9 -0.8
Legroom, rear 38.4 33.9 +4.5
Elbow room, front 57.3 56.0 +1.3
Elbow room, rear 57.3 55.5 +1.8
Shoulder room, front 55.9 54.8 +1.1
Shoulder room, rear 54.8 53.1 +1.7

As for the cargo room, the car comes with 15.4 cubic feet of space behind the seats. When you fold the rear seats, you have 50.5 cubic feet of space available.

Optional Accessories and Packages

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Exterior
- image 876043

In the standard form, the GLA just about ticks all the boxes. If you need a truly luxurious experience, you’ll have to spend on optional accessories. Some of the optional accessories include:

  • 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster
  • 10.25-inch touchscreen system
  • Burmester surround sound system
  • Head-Up Display
  • Panoramic sliding sunroof
  • Suspension with Adaptive Damping System
  • Inductive wireless charging and NFC pairing
  • Heated and ventilated front seats
  • Illuminated star
  • Heated steering wheel

Mercedes also offers many packages like the Premium Package, Multimedia Package, Parking Assistance Package, Lighting Package, Driver Assistance Package, Night Package, and AMG Line to add to the pizzazz.

Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Drivetrain and Fuel Economy

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Interior
- image 876080
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 comes with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine under the hood that churns out 221 horses at 5,500 rpm – an increase of 13 horses over the 2020 model – and 258 pound-feet of twist between 1,800 rpm and 4,000 rpm.

This means the car comes with a strong mid-range, but high-revving is not its cup of tea. The engine redlines at a rather conservative 6,500 rpm.

Power is sent to the front wheels as standard via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Paddle-shifters are also offered here. You can opt for the all-wheel-drive 4MATIC system by splurging an additional $2,000. This system comes with three preset drive modes – Eco/Comfort, Sport, and Off-road. In the Eco/Comfort mode, the power distribution is 80:20 for the front axle and rear axle. When slot into the Sport mode, the ratio changes to 70:30, and when switched to Off-road, power is equally sent to both the axles and the all-wheel-drive clutch acts as an inter-axle differential lock.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250
- image 876078

The GLA takes 6.8 seconds to sprint to 60 mph from a standstill when powering just the front wheels, and 6.6 seconds when equipped with the all-wheel-drive system. Top speed, however, is limited to 130 mph in both cases.

The GLA delivers 25 miles in the city, 34 miles on the highway, and 28 miles combined for even gallon of fuel it gulps. The figures for the 4MATIC are 24 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 27 mpg combined. It comes with a 12.7-gallon fuel tank in both avatars.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 specifications
Engine Inline-4
Transmission 8G-DCT
Displacement 1,991
Output 221 @ 5,500 rpm
Max. torque 258 @ 1,620 – 4,000 rpm
Acceleration 0-60 mph 6.8 / 6.6 est.
Top speed 130

Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Pricing

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Exterior
- image 876044

Mercedes has priced the GLA 250 at $36,230 for the front-wheel-drive model and $38,230 for the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive model. This doesn’t include the $1,050 destination charge.

Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Competition

BMW X1

2019 BMW X1
- image 842058

The BMW X1 is one of the most sorted products in the segment. Even with the controversial front grille, it looks quite muscular and handsome. It’s a BMW, so there’s no question of it not being luxurious in any trim. The X1 comes with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder twin-turbo engine that produces 228 horses and 258 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to either the front wheels or the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Performance is on par with the other vehicles, taking 6.6 seconds to sprint to 60 mph from a standstill and a top speed of 130 mph. The BMW X1 starts at $35,400.

Read our full review on the BMW X1

Volvo XC40

2018 Volvo XC40
- image 733305

The XC40 isn’t a wise, mature product like the other SUVs in Volvo’s lineup and appeals to the younger folks. There are up to 17 different color combinations to choose from. It rides on 18- and 19-inch wheels as standard, depending on the trim, and comes with a clean-looking, feature-rich interior. The XC40 is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine as standard that makes 187 horses and 221 pound-feet of torque. The same mill is also offered in a powerful avatar where it makes 248 ponies and 258 pound-feet of twist. Power is sent to the front wheels in the former and all the wheels in the latter via the same eight-speed automatic gearbox. The Volvo XC40 starts at $33,700.

Read our full review on the Volvo XC40

Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Safety and Driver-Assistance Features

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250
- image 898235

The safety and driver-assistance feature-list includes:

  • Cruise Control
  • Active Brake Assist
  • Adaptive Braking Technology with Hill-Start Assist and Brake Hold
  • Crosswind Assist
  • Attention Assist

Final Thoughts

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250
- image 898267

Buying a 2021 Mercedes GLA is a decision of the heart and not the head. It is premium inside out and offers peppy performance, but spending around $50,000 with options for a small SUV that sits almost at the bottom of the automaker’s lineup isn’t a decision you’d make with your head. We’d recommend going the extra yard and getting the GLA 35 or the GLA 45, or even the AMG GLA if you have the financial bandwidth.

The 2021 model looks very much like the model it replaces, but it feels a lot plusher and in line with the other Mercedes models. The company has offered an all-wheel-drive system too, but that helps with the performance more than its off-roading prowess. But, all said and done, is it a bad product by any means? No, sir! If we had a buttload of money and wanted something compact that connects with us, this would be one of the top contenders.

  • Leave it
    • Can get very expensive with optional goodies and packages

Source: Main Photo and Video Credit: Phil Daix.

Sidd Dhimaan
Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read full bio
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