Small crossovers have quickly become the most popular vehicles in the luxury world, as they offer access to premium amenities with a low price point and great versatility. Three key players in the current small luxury crossover segment are the Volvo XC40, the Audi Q3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA. They each feature room for five adults with additional space for cargo with all-wheel-drive that makes them great daily drivers all year long. Each of these three models has their own advantages and below, we break down the key interior, exterior and performance numbers.
Each of these three small luxury crossovers has similarly sized cabins, but the Volvo XC40 has an advantage in several key metrics. The XC40 offers 39 inches of front headroom and 39.1 inches of rear headroom. The Audi Q3 offers 39.6 inches of front headroom and the Mercedes-Benz GLA has the same 39 inches as the Volvo.
The biggest difference comes in second-row headroom, with the XC40 offering 39.1 inches while the GLA has 38.1 inches and the Q3 has 37.6 inches for rear riders. In terms of shoulder room, the Volvo leads the way with 56.7 inches up front and 56.3 inches in the rear. The Audi offers 56.7 inches in the front and 55.1 inches in the rear while the Mercedes has 55.9 inches for the front and 54.8 inches at the back. Finally, the XC40 offers a total cargo capacity of 57.5 cubic feet, beating the GLA at 50.5 and the Audi at 48.
The only metric in which the Volvo doesn’t lead in interior space is legroom, where it is topped by the GLA. The Mercedes offers 41 inches of legroom in the front row and 38 inches in the second row, beating the Volvo by roughly two inches in the second row while besting the Audi by an inch in the front row and two inches in the second row.
The trade-off of having the roomier cabin with the Volvo is that it is dimensionally larger on the outside, but all three of these luxury crossovers are within a few inches of each other in every direction. The XC40 isn’t significantly larger, so parking in tight areas shouldn’t be more of a problem than it is with the Audi or Mercedes.
Power and Performance
In terms of performance, the Audi Q3 technically has the advantage in entry-level performance, as it only comes with the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, eight-speed automatic transmission, and standard all-wheel-drive. Both the Volvo and the Mercedes-Benz have a front-drive base model, but Audi does not.Whether you select front- or all-wheel-drive, all three of these luxury crossovers come with a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
In the XC40, the front-drive models offer 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque while the GLA packs 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, making the Benz the most powerful front-wheel-drive option. Volvo doesn’t publish official acceleration times for the XC40, but Mercedes states that the front-drive GLA will dash from a stop to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. Also, in achieving 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway, the GLA yields better fuel economy numbers than the Volvo at 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
If you demand all-wheel-drive, the Volvo XC40 offers 248 horsepower, the Q3 offers 228 horsepower and the GLA is the same as the front-drive model with 221 horsepower. All three models offer 258 lb-ft of torque with all-wheel-drive, allowing the Audi to sprint to 60 in 7.0 seconds while the Benz takes 6.6 seconds. Again, Volvo doesn’t have an official 0–60 time, but in looking around online, it looks like the AWD XC40 gets to 60 in the mid-6-second range. As was the case with the front-wheel-drive package, the Mercedes is the fuel economy leader with all-wheel-drive models as well. The GLA features a rating of 24 miles-per-gallon in the city and 33 on the highway. The Volvo ranks second with 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway and the Audi is third with 19 mpg city and 27 mpg for the highway.
In short, the Mercedes-Benz GLA offers the most powerful and most fuel-friendly front-drive model. If you require all-wheel-drive, the Volvo has the advantage in power while the GLA still gets the best fuel economy, but the Mercedes also has an ace-in-the-hole.
That is the AMG GLA 35, packing 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. All of the models above will scoot from a stop to 60 mph in six-to-seven seconds. The AMG GLA gets to 60 in just 5.1 seconds with the help of a specially-tuned eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive system. The AMG only gets 23 miles-per-gallon around town and 29 on the highway, but if you are focused on power, you are likely to compromise some fuel economy. The AMG also costs way more, but we will talk about that a bit later.
Luxury and Technology
In terms of standard luxury and technology, the Audi Q3 has a clear advantage over the Volvo XC40 and Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 before adding any options or packages. In the Q3, leather seats with heated surfaces up front are standard, as are the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, the 8.8-inch center infotainment screen, three-zone climate control, and a panoramic sunroof.
In the Volvo XC40 with either front- or all-wheel-drive, leather is standard, but it the seats are not heated. The XC40 does have an impressive standard technology setup, featuring a 12.3-inch instrument cluster screen and a 9-inch infotainment screen, but unlike the Audi, the Volvo doesn’t come with the multi-zone climate control system or the glass roof. The Volvo panoramic roof costs $1,475 and heated front seats are part of the $750 Climate Package.
In the GLA 250, MB-Tex synthetic leather and a pair of 7-inch screens, one serving as the instrument panel and the other handling infotainment controls, are standard. If you want real leather in the GLA, you have to opt for the $1,750 Premium Package, which also includes a pair of 10.25-inch screens. If you want a glass roof in the Benz, it will cost you $1,500 and heated front seats cost $500. If you step up to the all-wheel-drive GLA 250 4Matic, standard and optional features are unchanged.
In addition to those standard and optional features mentioned above, each of these small crossovers has a premium sound system package. The Audi offers a Bang & Olufsen 3D Premium Sound System with 15 speakers and 680 watts of power as part of the Prestige trim level, which also includes the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit, the 10.1-inch infotainment screen. XC40 buyers can add a Harman Kardon 14-speaker, 600-watt sound system and GLA buyers can add a 12-speaker, 590-watt Burmester sound system.
The least expensive vehicle in this comparison is the Volvo XC40 with front-wheel-drive, which starts at $34,695 (incl. destination). The other front-drive option in this discussion, the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250, starts at $37,225 (incl. destination).
The Audi Q3 is the least expensive of the all-wheel-drive models, starting at $35,795 (incl. destination). This is especially impressive when you consider the longer list of standard premium features mentioned above. The all-wheel-drive XC40 starts at $36,695 and the all-wheel-drive GLA 250 4Matic starts at $39,225. To get an XC40 with similar features to the base AWD Q3, adding the panoramic roof and Climate Package, the all-wheel-drive Volvo starts at $39,915. Upfitting a Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 to match the key standard luxury features of the Q3 includes the Premium Package, heated front seats, and the panoramic roof, which lift the price to $40,795.
Finally, the AMG GLA 35 starts at $47,550, so while it is the most powerful, it starts roughly $10,000 higher than the rest of the vehicles in this comparison. This price still includes MB-Tex rather than real leather, but the AMG does come standard with the larger screens. However, if you want a high performance, small luxury crossover, the AMG is by far the best choice among these three models.
If you want the most features at the lowest price point, the Audi Q3 offers the most standard luxury, all-wheel-drive and solid power output for the best price. The “base” Q3 costs thousands less than the other two vehicles in AWD base form, but it comes with far more standard equipment and just as much turbocharged torque. While the Volvo has a slight horsepower advantage, the difference isn’t significant enough for most drivers to notice.
If your main concern is performance and you aren’t worried about price, the Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA 35 is the best option, but even that model doesn’t include as many standard premium features as the base Q3.
Finally, if you are focused the most on interior space, the Volvo XC40 has the advantage over the other two. The Volvo is the lower-priced of the front-drive models and the middle of the three with all-wheel-drive, while including an impressive level of standard technology.
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