Compact hatchbacks are hard to come by in the lineups of upscale manufacturers, but you can find the next-best thing in the small crossovers that have become a point of entry for consumers looking for their first luxury-branded vehicle.
In a Mercedes-Benz showroom, the GLA-Class serves that demographic as a subcompact utility that borrows its underpinnings from the CLA-Class sedan and the B-Class wagon. The latter was Benz's first foray into compact vehicles in North America, but as you'll read in its buyer's guide entry, it will be discontinued next year to make more room for the GLA and the smaller A-Class making its debut here this year.
The GLA-Class enters 2019 with minor updates: it now comes standard with Mercedes Me Connect, which lets the driver communicate with the car via a smartphone app and take advantage of services like breakdown management, turn-by-turn directions, a wi-fi hotspot and streaming radio.
Other updates include the addition of a panoramic sunroof to the premium package that's optional in the GLA 250; that base model also gets a new option in a "night" package that bundles sport brakes, 19-inch wheels, AMG styling cues and gloss black exterior trim.
The GLA is otherwise unchanged, so it once again is available as the GLA 250 and the AMG GLA 45. Both use a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but tuned for much different levels of performance in those two variants. In the GLA 250, it makes 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, while the GLA 45 gets a hand-built version good for 375 hp and 350 lb-ft.
Both cars use a seven-speed automatic transmission and come standard with Benz's 4Matic AWD system.
If some of those specs seem familiar, perhaps you've visited an Infiniti showroom recently: that brand's QX30 is a mechanical clone of the GLA 250. Other competitors include the BMW X2 and the Volvo XC40, though we'd argue that Swede lines up better against the larger Mercedes GLC-Class and the BMW X1.
Like the CLA sedan, the GLA has done what it was intended to do in attracting new, younger buyers to the Benz brand; it's those young, aspirational drivers whom Mercedes hopes will remain in the fold as their lives dictate future vehicular upgrades.
Standard kit in the GLA 250 includes an electric parking brake, LED taillights and daytime running lights, 18-inch wheels, heated side mirrors, leather-trimmed steering wheel, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 12-way power driver's seat, automatic headlights and a 7.0-inch infotainment display.
Key among the AMG GLA 45's additions are performance enhancers to go with the more potent motor, like stronger brakes, sport exhaust, steering and suspension systems and a drive mode selector.
As of this writing, Mercedes-Benz hadn't published fuel consumption estimates for the 2019 GLA, but they should be similar the 2018 model's figures of 10.3/7.6 L/100 km (city/highway) for the GLA 250 and 11.3/8.5 in the AMG GLA 45.