Compact and stylish, the GLA crossover might look compelling at first but it falls short against competitors such as the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. Like the related CLA sedan, the GLA sacrifices too many luxury qualities in pursuit of budget-minded, status seeker buyers.
The first reality check comes upon seeing the window sticker. Despite the price-targeted marketing starting around $35,000, you won't find many examples for below $40,000 on dealer's lots, and that retail price tends to be a few thousand dollars more than the competition. You also aren't getting a whole lot of car for the money. Park the GLA next to a similarly-sized Mazda3 or Subaru Impreza and cynics might wonder where the money went. The GLA's premium does pay for a nicely finished interior and nimble handling, with compact dimensions adding to maneuverability. Fuel economy isn't too shabby either at 26 mpg overall.
But as we experienced in the CLA, if you expect real Mercedes qualities -- such as a hushed cabin, plush ride, and a vault-like solid feel -- you'll be disappointed. The loud cabin and stiff ride would bother us in a $25,000 car; paying over $40,000 for that is borderline insulting. Further letdowns include marginal head room and poor visibility. Test track acceleration numbers are impressive, but in routine stop-and-go traffic, the car feels unresponsive.