The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is back for another year with some modest updates, offering a stylish compact SUV built off the bones of the CLA-Class sedan. Competing against the INFINITI QX30, Buick Encore, BMW X1, and Audi Q3, the GLA offers the higher driving position everybody wants these days along with the practicality of a hatchback. For those who want something truly crazy, Mercedes-Benz has given us the rip-roaring AMG GLA 45, which packs one of the most powerful four-cylinder engines ever sold to the public under the hood, but the standard GLA 250 will do fine for most people who aren't nuts.

Best Value

We're looking for the best value here, and unfortunately nobody needs an AMG. Instead, we think the best value is with a GLA 250. With only 208 horsepower, all-wheel drive won't make much of a difference and most people wouldn't dream of taking a GLA off road, so we recommend sticking with front-wheel drive.

While the GLA 250 does come fairly well equipped from the factory, we'd spring for the Nut-Brown Leather to make it feel like a real luxury vehicle. We'd also go for the Premium Package and Driver Assistance Package. Here's how our GLA 250 would add up.

  • Model: 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250
  • Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four cylinder
  • Output: 208 hp / 258 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 24 City / 33 Hwy
  • Options: Nut Brown Leather Upholstery ($1,650), Premium Package ($1,800, blind-spot monitoring, keyless entry and start, hands-free tailgate, heated front seats, satellite radio), Driver Assistance Package ($1,500, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist), Panoramic sunroof ($1,500)
  • Base Price: $34,945 (including the $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $41,395

Performance

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

This year, Mercedes has squeezed an extra six horsepower out of the GLA 250's engine, bringing the total up to 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, although there's no appreciable difference considering the zero-to-60 time remains unchanged at just over 7.0 seconds. The seven-speed transmission can shift from quick-thinking and intelligent in Sport mode to a more earth-friendly "Eco" mode that minimizes fuel use. The GLA 250 manages to be well planted in the corners with minimal body lean, but sacrifices a smooth ride on rough roads. As a vehicle that's marketed as an upscale city car, the GLA 250's suspension can make it feel out of place on American city streets that can be notoriously neglected. The GLA 250's all-wheel drive won't allow for off-road expeditions, but it'll help increase traction in the rain or light snow.

The AMG GLA 45 is the Mr. Hyde to the Dr. Jekyll that is the GLA 250. Mercedes-Benz has boosted the 2.0-liter turbo-four up to a whopping 375 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, enough to send this hot-hatch to 60 mph in a blistering 4.3 seconds. It also receives all-wheel drive, a new exhaust that'll certainly announce your arrival, and a stiffer suspension to make it take corners at high speeds. The handling prowess of the GLA 45 can be dialed up even more with the AMG Dynamic Plus Package which adds a limited slip differential for the front axle, adaptive suspension, and a race mode for when you find yourself on a closed course.

Style

While the GLA may be one of the least expensive ways to get yourself behind the wheel of a new Mercedes-Benz, it doesn't look like it. The GLA 250 follows the Mercedes-Benz corporate design language excellently, looking more like a tall hatchback than a full-on SUV. This approach definitely gives a more European flair to the model, which is a different direction from some other manufacturers who make small crossovers that look awkwardly tall. Inside, the GLA somehow feels modern and somewhat retro at the same time, as if it was inspired by the dawn of the Jet Age. It comes standard with a fairly convincing leatherette, but leather is offered as an upgrade alongside various trim materials like carbon fiber, wood, and aluminum.

The standard AMG GLA 45 looks pretty similar to the GLA 250 to the untrained eye, but it features an aggressive looking bumper, splitter, and rear diffuser. Inside, the AMG GLA 45 is trimmed out like a purpose-built sports car, with Alcantara seats and trim (or DINOMICA, as Mercedes calls it), red seat belts reminiscent of racing harnesses and well-bolstered sport seats. If you want, you can always outfit it with luxury materials like the GLA 250, but if you're going with an AMG, you may as well go big and bold with the AMG Performance Studio Package. This package adds a gigantic rear spoiler along with new wheels, Recaro seats, some aerodynamic tweaks, and a unique, yellow-trimmed interior.

The Best and Worst Things

Like the previous year, the GLA-Class' greatest strength is its price. On one hand, the $34,945 GLA 250 is a great looking entry-level luxury crossover that looks and feels like a real Mercedes, and those who want more are given the option to beef it up.

However, the AMG GLA 45 may be a fantastic performer that'll absolutely put a smile on you face, but it quickly approaches $65,000 if you aren't paying attention. This can make it feel a bit more outclassed compared with some more thoroughbred competitors like the RS3 and BMW M2. That being said, none of these options offer a hatchback or SUV option at this price, so for those who want something like a GLA 45 you may not have many other options.

Right For? Wrong For?

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

The GLA 250 is a great car for navigating the city streets, as it's small, maneuverable, and easy to park while giving the higher SUV vantage point that people are craving these days. That being said, it wouldn't be a great car for those with older children as the rear seat is pretty cramped like most subcompact SUVs.

The AMG GLA 45, especially when equipped with the bonkers looking AMG Performance Studio Package with the big wing and loud exhaust, performs the same sort of trick that most supercars do: it makes you feel like a 12 year old. This is something that's infinitely desirable for some, but it may come at the cost of not being taken seriously. Also, don't underestimate the fact that it looks like it's practically begging to be pulled over.

The Bottom Line

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a small luxury SUV with a low cost of entry that still manages to look and feel like a a luxury car. Additionally, you can option it to the moon to make it feel super nice. While it may be too small for any real hauling, it'll make a great car for darting around the city or suburbs. For those who want an experience every time they drive, the AMG GLA 45 is a barnstormer, but it can get expensive quickly when you start checking boxes on the option sheets.