The all-new 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 is taller and wider, with shorter front and rear overhangs, than the previous version. (Manufacturer photo)

The all-new 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 is taller and wider, with shorter front and rear overhangs, than the previous version. (Manufacturer photo)

Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 compact SUV is transformed for 2021

There’s a new 221-horsepower turbo engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, and a much roomier cabin.

Mercedes-Benz has transformed its GLA compact SUV for 2021. It’s a wee bit shorter, but taller and wider, and has more room inside for passengers and cargo alike. It’s a feast for the eyes and a spectacle of tech.

The 2021 GLA 250 with front-wheel drive and its all-wheel-drive sibling, the GLA 250 4Matic, arrived this summer at local dealerships. Both are powered by a zippy new turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder engine turning out 221 horsepower, which is a 13-horsepower gain over the 2020 model. Torque is 258 lb-ft. The engine is partnered with a newly engineered and highly competent eight-speed automatic transmission.

Fuel economy ratings for the front-drive model are 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined. The 4Matic gets 24/33/27 mpg.

Standard roof rails, short front and rear overhangs, protective cladding, and the increased ride height give the 2021 GLA 250 a more SUV-like personality.

Pricing with a $1,050 destination charge starts at $37,280 for the GLA 250, and $39,280 for the GLA 250 4Matic. Standard features are not profuse, and the available options aren’t frugal. Some generally popular features are among the options, so ballooning the bottom line is an issue.

For this report, I drove the GLA 250 4Matic. In addition to all-wheel drive, this model comes with a special engineering package providing an off-road driving mode and tailoring the involved mechanicals for capability. This doesn’t mean, mind you, that the GLA 250 4Matic can go merrily along the Reiter Foothills State Forest ORV trails. Not that anyone who owned this Mercedes would take it there. A likely situation for putting this feature to work would be a road covered in deep snow.

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 has an optional display panel incorporating the gauges and infotainment system. (Manufacturer photo)

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 has an optional display panel incorporating the gauges and infotainment system. (Manufacturer photo)

Standard items on the GLA 250 4Matic include power front seats with lumbar support, a split-folding rear seat, rain-sensing windshield wipers, LED headlights and taillights, dual-zone climate control, a power liftgate, Bluetooth, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay.

Options on my tester totaled $11,835 and included 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, SiriusXM radio, heated front seats, 64-color ambient lighting, and wireless charging. The paint, upholstery, and wood trim were $2,495 combined.

A Driver Assistance package for $1,700 provided automatic assistance for so many functions you could take a nap while driving. But don’t, because driving the GLA is a pleasure.

A Multimedia package ($1,295) added an advanced navigation system to the standard MBUX infotainment system. By the way, the MBUX system has a touchpad controller on the center console that’s too challenging for my patience and coordination levels. There are other means of operating the system, thank God, including steering wheel controls and the touchscreen. There’s voice command, too.

The tester’s ultimate option was the Premium package ($1,750) adding a freestanding panel, 24 inches wide by 5 inches tall, incorporating the gauge and infotainment displays. It is softly and beautifully lit, the soul of the GLA interior.

Bright, sturdy, oversized turbine-style air vents are another interior highlight. Theoretically they should appear garish and preposterous, but they don’t. They’re wonderful, because Mercedes.

Headroom and legroom are generous for driver and front passenger, but also for rear seat riders as well. Second row seats are fixed but can be folded. Sliding seats are available as an extra-cost option.

The cargo area measures 15.4 cubic feet with rear seats upright, and 50.5 cubic feet with seats folded. Its floor is level with the liftgate sill for easier loading and unloading of heavy items.

Overall, the cabin of this small Mercedes-Benz SUV is cozy, elegant, and inviting. Luxury doesn’t have to be large.

The all-new 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 has front-wheel drive. Its sibling, the GLA 250 4Matic, has all-wheel drive. (Manufacturer photo)

The all-new 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 has front-wheel drive. Its sibling, the GLA 250 4Matic, has all-wheel drive. (Manufacturer photo)

2021 MERCEDES-BENZ GLA 250 4MATIC

Base price, including destination charge: $39,280

Price as driven: $51,205

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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