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Most Improved Player: The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

Entry level prestige is a very tricky needle to thread. You want to make the goodness of the

luxury product available to a broader audience, but that means a lower price point and, despite what the cynics say, you're paying for a whole lot more than the label. A brand is defined by its materials, its fit and finish, and in the case of automobiles, its performance.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 rear 3/4 view

All of which brings us to the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250. It is the baby of Mercedes' rather extensive SUV lineup (GLB, GLC, GLE, GLS and G-Class) and as a result, is under no small amount of pressure.

I reviewed the previous-generation GLA 250 at the 2017 Western Automotive Journalists Media Day in Monterey, California for the old TireKicker site and found it to exceed expectations. The new 2021 GLA 250 is better still.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 hood up

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 engine

Power now comes from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 221 combined net horsepower through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Zero to 60 in the previous generation was 7.1 seconds. Now it's 6.8. And the EPA fuel economy estimate is 24 city/33 highway.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 liftgate open

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 cargo area

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 interior

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 rear seat

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 front seats

The interior materials and fit and finish are top-rate and a couple of leaps above the previous-generation in terms of style and tech. The base price of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 is $38,230. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are keyless start, dual-zone climate control and 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

2021 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 instrument panel

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 digital gauge cluster

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 infotainment and HVAC

As with most European luxury makes, the extra-cost options are what takes a shockingly reasonable base price to the "okay, that's what I figured a Mercedes would cost" level. On ours, a whopping $16,305 worth. Again, the window sticker is at the end.

With $1,050 destination and delivery charges, the as-tested price of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 is $55,585.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 front view

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 side view

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 rear view

And that's where the value equation comes into play. The next-size up GLB 250, with the same engine, starts about $1,500 higher in base price. If you need or choose to go small, though, there is no penalty in the GLA 250. Mercedes has found the key to making its entry level an equal member of a prestigious lineup of vehicles.


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