What is it?
The new Mercedes-Benz GLA is a premium SUV that is big on image but compact in size.
However, this new version has much more space inside than the original GLA and should appeal to smaller families who fancy a posh SUV without spending a fortune.
That’s not to say the baby Mercedes SUV is cheap though. If you stick with the smaller-engined, lower-spec models then it makes a lot of sense; but if you want a powerful diesel engine and, say 4-wheel-drive, all wrapped up in a higher trim level, then you can find yourself quickly on the wrong side of £40k.
Also, if you want a GLA that will hit 60mph in a shade over 4 seconds, then the super-quick AMG models can set you back of £60,000 plus . . .
For the average buyer though, there’s a lot of choice when it comes to building your GLA with a total of six trim lines available: Sport; Sport Executive; AMG Line; AMG Line Executive; AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus.
Prices start from £33,335 for the entry-level GLA 200 Sport which boasts a 1.3-litre petrol engine, generating 163 bhp. It emits just 151 g/km of CO2 and can deliver 42.2 combined mpg.
If you want more oomph there is the GLA 250 AMG Line (from £36,665) which uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of producing 224 bhp. It emits 173 g/km of CO2 and delivers 37.2 mpg.
Diesel-powered models start with the GLA 200 D Sport (from £34,110) – available in either front-wheel or all-wheel-drive. This has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with an output of 150 bhp and 320 Nm. It’ll do 52.3 mpg and emits 141 g/km of CO2.
How about a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) GLA? The GLA 250 e Exclusive Edition can be had for under £39k and promises a 37-mile range on electric only.
The model I’ve been driving is the GLA 220 D 4MATIC (all-wheel-drive) AMG Line Premium which features a 2.0-litre diesel engine with 190 bhp and 400 Nm. It’s capable of 49.6 mpg and 149 g/km of CO2. It starts from £38,760.
A seven-speed DCT transmission is used in the GLA 200, while the 250, 200 D and 220 D come as standard with an eight-speed DCT gearbox.
The new GLA is a vast improvement on the older model which always looked a little awkward with proportions and angles (especially at the rear) that looked like it was a hatchback trying too hard to be a crossover.
The new model is much better conceived with a “proper” compact-SUV look. It’s also 100mm taller than the out-going model so interior space and comfort is improved too.
There’s a lovely “smooth pebble” look to the new GLA alongside the obvious SUV design cues like a raised ride-height and rufty-tufty wheel arch trim and sills.
18in alloy wheels are standard with 19s on my AMG Line Premium. My model also came with more chrome bling along the sills and on the uprated front bumper which is altogether more aggressive looking than on the entry models.
The Inside Story
If the outside of the new Mercedes GLA has been brought bang up-to-date, then the interior looks like it has warped into the future with widescreen displays aplenty – although you’ll need to step up to the AMG Line models to get the larger screens that really add to the wow-factor.
The seating position is higher than in the older model and feels much more SUV-like, giving you a commanding view of the road ahead. They’re extremely comfy too.
Fit and finish is excellent with plenty of soft-touch plastics and faux-leather with red stitching to give this AMG Line Premium model a real sporty feel inside.
The flat-bottomed sports wheel also feels special, although the fake carbon-fibre running along the centre of the dash and on the doors is little unimaginative.
The infotainment system works very well and can be controlled by a touchpad on the centre console or by simply saying “Hey, Mercedes” and issuing your commands. It worked 95% of the time – even with my broad Lancashire accent.
Climate controls get their own bank of buttons below the three large air vents in the centre of the dash and having the electronic seat controls situated on the door means you can actually see the buttons you need rather than groping around down the side of the seat.
Visibility all round is good with only the narrow rear screen being less than ideal. It’s pretty much the same on all rival models though and with the rear parking sensors and camera, there won’t be a problem when manoeuvring.
Rear passengers get a good amount of space with more headroom too, thanks to the improved height. The two front seats are elevated which means rear passengers can slide their feet underneath them so stretching out is easier.
The transmission tunnel means anyone sat in the middle seat has a large bump to contend with but it won’t be an issue in most cases, especially on shorter journeys.
Boot space is a little down on most of the competition at 485 litres but this is a small price to pay for the extra space rear passengers benefit from.
On the Go
As you might expect, this new Mercedes-Benz GLA AMG Line Premium is quite a sharp performer with the 187bhp diesel unit able to shove you from 0-60mph in just 7.3 seconds. It all feels refined too with no gruffness from the 2.0-litre diesel unit, just smooth, steady acceleration thanks to the excellent auto gearbox.
The ride is very good, considering the larger wheels and the AMG Line’s “lowered comfort suspension”, with only the largest potholes causing a shudder through the chassis.
The handling is nicely flat through twisting bends and there is genuine fun to be had from this compact family SUV although it always errs on the side of comfort rather than sportiness – which is to be expected from such a premium family motor.
On the motorway is where the new GLA really excels though, with a quiet refinement you just don’t get from lesser models. Noise-suppression is class-leading and, along with the cabin’s ambiance, you’ll find the miles fly by easily.
On-board tech helps to ease the burden on longer journeys with the likes of adaptive cruise-control and active lane-keep assist while the steering is weighted just right and the 4-wheel-drive system adds further confidence if conditions should become tricky.
The new Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d AMG Line Premium may not be cheap but neither does any part of it feel so. You certainly get what you pay for when it comes to premium, compact SUVs and the GLA would be a great addition to any family who value quality without paying a fortune.
The GLA has the pedigree and the interior wow-factor to convince many would-be buyers, however it’s not style-over-substance here; the GLA is a pleasure to drive – and be driven in – as well as being practical. Stretch to the Hybrid model and if your commute is around the 15-mile average then it could prove incredibly frugal too.
AT A GLANCE:
Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d AMG Line Premium 4MATIC
OTR Price: £38,760
Engine: 2.0 turbo diesel
Power: 190 bhp
Transmission: 8-speed DCT Automatic
0-62mph: 7.3 secs
Top Speed: 136 mph
Combined Economy: 49.6 mpg
C02: 149 g/km