Less hatch, more crossover. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class has been fully redesigned, and it has matured in the process. The brand’s most affordable crossover SUV offers a luxury experience without the stratospheric price tag of a Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class, and it no longer looks like a hatchback.

That’s thanks to a new platform, which is 3.6 inches taller and more than an inch wider than the outgoing model. The wheelbase is a couple inches longer as well, although overall length shrinks a hair. We like the new profile, and the mesh grille provides just enough flair.

The new Mercedes GLA rides like a crossover, too. The taller ride height makes the model less of a corner carver, but the suspension smooths out rough roads with confidence.

Growing pains. The stretched wheelbase fixes our biggest complaint about the previous GLA-Class, adding an extra 4.5 inches of rear leg room. Passengers in the front lose a few fractions of an inch, but it’s a trade we’re happy to make. The GLA-Class is livable with five adults, and that's more than some compact crossovers can say.

Cargo volume improves, but remains unexceptional with 15.4 cubic feet behind the seats. Some midsize sedans can do better, and the BMW X1 holds more than 27 cubes. Capacity expands to 50.5 cubic feet with the seats folded.

We have a couple other annoyances with the new shape. The flowing C-pillars look great from the outside, but they create a large blind spot on the passenger side. While we appreciate the extra leg room, the seat bottoms are stiffer and shorter than we’d like.

Mercedes GLA-Class

Strong engine. To start, the GLA-Class comes in only one trim and powertrain. Luckily, it’s a good one. The GLA 250 gets a power bump over the outgoing model, with its 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine now making a healthy 221 horsepower. Turbo lag is minimal, and wheel-mounted paddle shifters make passing maneuvers easier.

All-wheel drive is an option for an extra $2,000. Unlike Mercedes' other crossovers, torque goes to the front wheels by default. A sport mode tightens up the responses and sends more power to the rear wheels, but it can make the transmission lurch at slow speeds. The GLA-Class also comes with an off-road mode, though a relatively low clearance of 5.6 inches makes us reluctant to take it scrambling.

Handling is adequate for around-town driving, but nothing exceptional. For a racier experience, drivers should look to upcoming AMG models, which will add power and tighten up the suspension.

Options add up fast. Base-model buyers won’t be disappointed, and the GLA-Class has some neat party tricks. The new MBUX system responds to natural voice commands, and a pair of 7-inch screens look sharp. Interior fit and finish is up to brand standards, which is impressive for the price.

All the same, the options list feels stingy at times. Wireless charging is an extra $200, and we think the reclining rear seats should be included for the price. Automatic emergency braking is the only included active safety feature – especially with the sizable blind spot, most buyers will want the $1,700 Driver Assistance Package.

Tick a few more boxes, and it isn’t hard to send the GLA-Class up into headier price brackets. We like it best as an affordable alternative to the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, so it’s best to steer clear of unnecessary add-ons.

Final thoughts. The new 2021 Mercedes GLA-Class isn’t perfect, but it’s an improvement over the last model. The powertrain is excellent, and the new interior is as spacious as it is stylish.

For buyers who don’t need the utility of larger crossovers or SUVs, the GLA-Class is a affordable alternative that feels nearly as luxurious.

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