Crossover & Midsize

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Doesn’t Let Price Stop it From Beating the BMW X1

It’s no secret that luxury cars are expensive, but most shoppers still won’t pay over a certain amount for one vehicle. In a battle between a Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 and a BMW X1, thriftier shoppers may choose the cheaper option. However, in a recent MotorTrend comparison test, the pricier GLA 250 showed itself to be the better car.

The base BMW X1 isn’t that much cheaper than the standard GLA 250. The upcharge really becomes apparent when you spring for the priciest trim. The xDrive 28i costs around $43,000, while the GLA 250 4Matic retails closer to $50,000.

The hype around the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

The folks at MotorTrend reported that they were satisfied with the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250’s performance. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-four that can produce 208 hp, paired with a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission. Testers noted that the transmission operates smoothly, the suspension works well, and the brakes are easy to modulate.

If you want the most luxurious cabin, the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 is the best option. It has the typical Mercedes-Benz trademarks like wood trim and glossy chrome accents on the controls. The seats also feel very plush, made with genuine leather in 4Matic versions. Testers also said that the GLA 250 feels roomier than its BMW rival.

While testers enjoyed the ride inside the GLA 250, it has some apparent handling issues. It’s not the sportiest SUV, so it can’t handle corners with any grace. Despite this, it can still be driven with confidence on winding roads thanks to a well-weighted steering wheel. 

Drivers may also notice that transmission feels unrefined during leisurely city drives. The GLA 250 feels fast once it gets going, but acceleration can be slow off the starting line.

Is the BMW X1 better?

The BMW X1 is definitely the more athletic option between the two. Its engine is slightly more powerful, a turbo-four capable of 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Its eight-speed automatic transmission delivers accurate shifts and the engine itself exhibits smooth acceleration.

It also gets better mileage than the GLA 250 and it doesn’t have trouble maneuvering around tight corners. The brakes work quickly, but there’s an audible noise as you press down on the pedal.

Despite being speedier, the BMW X1 is full of minor performance issues. The steering wheel feels heavy and doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. MotorTrend also reported that there’s a noticeable delay in transferring power to all four wheels with AWD.

MotorTrend also wasn’t very impressed with the BMW X1’s interior. While it has a bigger cargo hold than the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250, it doesn’t provide a lot of second-row legroom. The stiff suspension also makes the car uncomfortable during extended trips.

Testers also spotted plenty of low-grade materials once they sat in the cabin. Combined with a sloppy fit and finish, the BMW X1’s insides feel cheap in comparison to the Benz offering. It also has a smaller infotainment screen and doesn’t have a fancy digital gauge cluster. While these aren’t necessarily dealbreakers, it makes the BMW X1 feel less modern.

The obvious winner

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MotorTrend definitely felt that the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 was a better SUV than the BMW X1. On paper, the BMW X1 has some nice performance chops, but it can’t quite deliver in a real-world setting. Even though it might be slower from the get-go, the GLA 250 is more enjoyable to drive. 

The Benz is also freshly redesigned, while the BMW X1 is clearly in need of an update. Sure, it may be a big price difference, but the superior quality of the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 can’t be ignored.