REVIEW: Mercedes AMG GLA 45 one of the hottest hatchbacks

In the past, Mercedes-Benz was a brand most well-known for luxury and elegance, but less so for performance.

All that changed, however, when the AMG sub-brand was launched a number of years ago, slowly but surely changing the image of the “pointed star.” AMG performance division is specifically designed to deliver world-class vehicles that may surprise even the loyal Porsche and BMW fans, because AMG’s high-performance vehicles are some of the best in the industry.

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The 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA 45 is no exception, a compact crossover with astounding – if somewhat raw – power and handling. It is somewhat unique in the marketplace, offering both neck-snapping performance and practicality at the same time. The GLA 45 competes with the likes of VW Golf R (which is much cheaper), Audi RS3, and perhaps even the BMW X2. But most competitors do not offer the functionality of a five-door hatch, though some Japanese automakers such as Subaru and Honda do offer them in a lower price range (WRX STI and Type R).

For 2019, the engine is improved and it now pumps out 20 more horsepower and 18 more foot-pounds of torque.

Design

A larger-than-life attitude characterizes the AMG GLA 45 and is present throughout the bold design features. New wheels and bumpers round out the changes made for 2019. The new spoiler lip and airflow vent in the rear help to reduce the drag coefficient and improve aerodynamic flow. This adventurous design also features an AMG double-crosswing grille and an optional Night Package, which shows off many exterior features rendered in gloss black.

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A larger-than-life attitude characterizes the AMG GLA 45 and is present throughout the bold design features. photo supplied Mercedes-Benz

As with all Mercedes-Benz, luxurious amenities and features are found throughout the interior. Power front seats with memory, power liftgate, 12-color LED ambient lighting and Harman Kardon surround sound are just a few of these features. The performance seats are highly contoured and snug, and have red topstitching to complement the bright red seatbelts. However, the deep-bucket shape and firm feel can make your morning commute a little less than comfortable.

There is an optional performance steering wheel with aluminum shift paddles to follow the sporty theme. Innovative technology in the GLA 45 helps the driver feel entertained, engaged, and, most of all, connected. This includes the “Mercedes me” app that offers Remote Start, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and in-car internet. Data can also be transmitted to the dealer about service needs, remote diagnostics, software updates and accident recovery.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also fully integrated into the infotainment system. The Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA 45 is fairly roomy with a total capacity of 1,235 litres, although this capacity is overshadowed by the larger Audi RS3 sedan or BMW X2 SUV.

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Red accents highlight an interior that is filled with luxurious amenities. Power front seats with memory, power liftgate, 12-color LED ambient lighting and Harman Kardon surround sound are just a few of these features in the GLA 45. photo supplied Mercedes-Benz

One interesting standard feature is Attention Assist, which is a function that continuously monitors driving behaviour (up to 70 different facets), and will alert the driver on screen and with audible warnings to take a rest if needed. The GLA also comes with eight airbags (including driver’s knee), blind-spot sensors, lane-departure warning, collision mitigation, and lane-keep assist.

Performance

The AMG GLA 45 revs from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in just 4.4 seconds, 2.2 seconds faster than the tamer GLA 250. The GLA 45 comes equipped with AWD and this seems to be biased towards the front tires. However, power is distributed to the rear tires as required. The handcrafted 2.0-litre turbo I4 engine for the GLA 45 was given a makeover this year with a new camshaft, new engine management as well as 26.1 psi of boost which provides an impressive 375 h.p. and 350 foot-pounds of torque.

Paired with this powerful engine is a speedshift DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. An ECO Start/Stop system is similar to many other vehicles and is automatically engaged to save fuel and reduce emissions. Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race are driving modes that are tailored for every driving situation. The GLA 45 hugs the pavement thanks to turbo-fed traction, precision handling and a chassis with well-developed springs, dampers and stabilizers.

On the other hand, some may feel that the stiff suspension and overly aggressive shift program make the GLA 45 a bit difficult to drive smoothly. The baby Benz accelerates like there is no tomorrow and the exhaust sound is a music to your ears (if you are a sports car fan), but the car can be quite bumpy over rough roads and the transmission shifting could come across abrupt under hard acceleration.

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The Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA 45 is a compact crossover with astounding – if somewhat raw – power and handling. photo supplied Mercedes-Benz

If you don’t mind buying a non-luxury brand, the VW Golf R and Honda Civic Type R present interesting alternatives. They don’t compete directly per se, but the performance levels are comparable and they are cheaper and far easier to drive as day-to-day vehicles.

Fuel consumption for the GLA 45 for highway/city is 8.3 litres/100 km and 10.7 l/100 km respectively, and CO2 emissions combined are 193 g/km.

Summary

The 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA 45 starts from $53,100 and this means that it’s definitely at the top of the price range. There are numerous add-on packages available, which means you can customize your ride and truly make the GLA 45 your own.

Can the GLA 45 distinguish itself well enough from the more economical hot hatchbacks with similar performance abilities? I think so, because with the AMG GLA 45, you will not need to choose between performance and luxury.

You can have both.

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