The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 may be marketed as a crossover but make no mistake this is a hot hatch in every sense of the definition. Just take a look at it; that incredibly aggressive front fascia complete with larger lower air intakes and the AMG-specific Panamericana grille. With its compact proportions and round profile, the GLA 45 looks like a hot hatch with body cladding, especially when you consider that its suspension is lowered versus the standard car. The quad exhausts give away its true intentions and you can even spec it with an aero package that adds a larger roof-mounted wing just like Alex’s test car.
Once you get inside the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45’s interior, you’ll immediately notice its compact dimensions. Cargo capacity is small, meaning you’ll need to fold the rear seats down to maximize cargo capacity. The elevated driving position gives the GLA a crossover-like feel inside despite not having a boxy profile like its sibling, the GLB-Class. Beware of the AMG performance seats because they lack lumbar support and they’re not as comfortable. Surprisingly, rear-seat space is generous considering the GLA’s size. You also get the MBUX interface, which is fairly easy to use via voice, a touchpad, the steering wheel, or the main touchscreen.
Powering the GLA 45 is a hand-built 2.0-liter turbo-four with 382 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic is the only transmission on offer and a performance-tuned AWD system is standard. In other global markets, Mercedes offers the GLA 45 S, which uses the same 2.0-liter turbo-four bumped up to 416 hp and 369 lb-ft. To go with the big power are equally massive performance tires on available 21-inch wheels, massive brakes, a performance-tuned suspension with optional adaptive dampers, and an active exhaust system. The AMG Dynamic Plus package also adds a Race mode, the AMG Drive Unit selector on the steering wheel, and the AMG performance steering wheel in Nappa leather/Dinamica. You will pay for that performance in fuel economy, though, because the EPA rates the GLA 45 at 20/27/23 mpg city/highway/combined.
If you’re looking for the most potent hot hatch, you’ve found it. The GLA 45 is incredibly quick and powerful, think nuclear-grade powertrain in a compact package. All that power gets complemented by incredible handling, meaning it’ll hold the road like crazy, giving it a feeling like it handles better than being on rails. The quick, direct steering further adds to the driving experience, giving the GLA a connected feel. What’s the tradeoff? Ride comfort. You will feel every imperfection on the pavement, especially with the suspension in the sportiest setting. It doesn’t skitter around but everything gets amplified by the wide tires. You’ll also get a louder cabin thanks to the wide rubber and the ultra-stiff suspension. As a result, you get lots of road and tire noise, especially on the highway.
For those prioritizing all-out performance, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 is the way to go. The uncompromising nature of this hot hatch dressed up as a crossover gives you potent performance and incredible capabilities for its size. However, you better be ready to pay up and/or willingly deal with the sacrifice in ride quality. Load up a GLA 45 like Alex’s test car and you’re looking at well over $70,000. That puts it in the same ballpark as larger vehicles, some of which are more potent. If you’re looking for a compact hatchback or crossover, there aren’t that many options especially with this level of performance. As a result, the GLA 45 stands at the top of the hill; it’s the most capable hot hatch money can buy in the U.S. and there isn’t anything yet that can challenge it–at least for now.
0 to 60: 4.1 seconds
60 to 0: 105 feet
Cabin Noise: C; 74 dB
Fuel Economy: A