Mercedes-Benz is hoping to gain a share of the demand for compact SUVs following the March launch of its GLA-Class.
The GLA shares the platform of the A-Class and CLA-Class and uses many interior items familiar to any A-Class early adopter. That familiarity may be useful in encouraging such customers to move up to Mercedes’ newest launch, which looks more like a plumped-up, aerodynamic hatchback than a bulky off-roader.
It has a freshly designed bodyshell and sits up to 8cm higher than the A-Class, but its roofline still falls 10cm lower than a Nissan Qashqai. The GLA-Class also shares engines with its siblings – options include a 208hp 2.0-litre petrol, and two 2.1-litre diesels, with 134hp or 168bhp.
Mercedes said the car is designed to fit into a modern, urban lifestyle, yet face no fears from unsurfaced gradients, beaches or loose surfaces. To illustrate this, the press launch included driving 180 metres below the ground in a salt mine at Winsford.
Expect many of its sales to be to 30- and 40-something executives. Representative monthly payments could be below £400 on Mercedes’ three-year PCP. Lower-powered GLAs get front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but the upper echelons of the range come only with a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel-drive, which can send up to 100% of engine power to the rear wheels. AWD models also get a hill descent control system and an off-road mode for the gearing, although the small increase in ground clearance won’t suit buyers planning to climb mountains.
Every version comes with air-conditioning, 18in alloys, automatic lights and wipers, a digital radio, reversing camera, faux leather upholstery, Bluetooth and a boot 140 litres larger than the A-Class’s. Upgrading from standard SE to higher AMG Line trim brings some AMG bodystyling tweaks, speed-sensitive power steering, sports seats and a dynamic handling package of 15mm lower suspension and firmer springs and dampers.
The GLA is well equipped and keenly priced to do battle in this competitive segment of the market.
What’s been said about the Mercedes-Benz GLA
The GLA isn’t as practical as an Audi Q3 and unless you can live with the slightly sluggish entry-level engine, it’s far from cheap. However it should prove safe, affordable to run, and easy to drive.
The GLA comes as a surprise. While attractive in appearance, quality and road manners, it lacks the outright presence, practicality and space of its keener premium SUV rivals.