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Mercedes Tries to Hook First-Timers With the GLA250

Mercedes GLA News

Staff Member

Automakers, as many businesses do, try to catch buyers at an early age because satisfied customers can be loyal for life. Buying a new Mercedes-Benz and getting the image that comes with it was not an option when I got my first real job. Choosing to work in the media ' that's my fault.

Mercedes's strategy to snag first-time buyers has been quite successful with the CLA coupe-like sedan that starts at $32,429. Its newest temptation is the GLA250.

Wide and squat, GLA is built on the same front-drive platform as CLA. Five inches shorter and lower than a Honda CR-V, the hatchback has a silhouette unlike the tall, boxy GLK Class.

A base GLA250 retails for $32,225. There's a pot o' gold at the end of every rainbow, too. Good luck finding either. Desirable features like a backup camera and all-wheel drive rapidly push the price skyward. While the car can top out at a lofty $53,000, my test car (without keyless ignition) had a sticker price of $45,505. A new Nissan Versa can be bought for the price of the option packages.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine makes 208 horsepower and 258- pound-feet of torque low in the power band. Still, throttle response is sluggish off the line. Sport mode eliminates some of the initial lag, but gears are sustained noticeably longer, a dynamic not everyone will like. GLA250 ultimately redeems itself with sprints from 0 to 60 miles an hour in approximately seven seconds.

A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission fires off snappy shifts. Spring for the $2,000 all-wheel drive and GLA will deliver owners to hiking trailheads and Starbucks on snowy days. Even with eight inches of ground clearance, this Mercedes won't challenge Land Rover Discovery Sport.

A good size for urban chores, GLA is agile. Steering is lighter than expected from a Stuttgart machine. At highway speeds, GLA is moderately quiet, the firm suspension generally comfortable. Sharp impacts are felt and there's a hint of bounce after bumps. Windows are narrow, so the optional blind-spot warning is $550 well spent.

Fuel economy is rated by the government at 24 miles per gallon in the city, 32 on the highway using specified premium fuel. I saw 27 in mixed driving. An aggressive start-stop mode shuts the engine down at standstill. I turned the system off.

The cabin, with its raised dashboard, does not have the style and quality found in the C-Class sedan, but it is an upgrade from nonluxury brands. Seats are comfortable and supportive, and cup holders are plentiful, but owners will yearn for a more comprehensible user interface.

For a smaller vehicle, GLA's back seat is not half bad for two average-size adults. There are no pockets on the seat backs, and cup holders that emerge from the armrest are actively user-hostile.

The cargo hold is nearly the same size as a midsize sedan, and dropping the seats creates the same cave-of-a-space as VW Golf, a car that feels every bit as German as GLA. Maybe more so.

Small premium crossover shoppers will look at Audi Q3 and BMW X1. Frugal buyers can choose a fully loaded Honda CR-V, Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5 and save an easy $10,000. None of those have the Mercedes star, though. Loyalty to it, even at the bottom rung, comes at a price.