Mercedes GLA SUV review
"The Mercedes GLA is now a real contender in the small SUV class but it’s not cheap"
- More SUV-like than before
- Great interior
- Good to drive
- Rivals have bigger boots
- BMW X1 is more fun
The second-generation Mercedes GLA is a much more well-rounded model than the previous one, looking far less like an A-Class on stilts and enjoying its own distinct design and personality.
The latest Mercedes GLA is slightly shorter but wider and much taller than its predecessor, making it look much more like an SUV – a handsome one at that. You won’t mistake it for the boxier GLB which sits a size up in Mercedes’ SUV range and is aimed squarely at the Land Rover Discovery Sport. The Mercedes GLA should appeal to young professionals after a car with a little more road presence than the A-Class hatchback. This presence is heightened with the muscularity of the GLA 35, which comes with a more aggressive front bumper, ‘Panamericana’ grille and rear spoiler.
Underneath, the GLA is very much based on the A-Class but that's no bad thing. It gets sophisticated adjustable suspension and a range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines that are powerful for the class. Most come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and entry-level models come with front-wheel drive. Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive system, known as 4MATIC, can also be specified and comes as standard on models higher up in the range. This clever four-wheel-drive set-up is advanced and comes into its own when extra grip is needed.
Fuel-economy is generally around the 40-50mpg range for the petrol engines, which is average for a small SUV. The plug-in hybrid GLA 250 e, however, officially claims over 200mpg and more than 30 miles of electric range. If you make lots of short trips and are able to keep the battery charged, it will easily offer the lowest fuel consumption in the range. That's unless you go for the all-electric Mercedes EQA, of course, which is directly related to the GLA. Meanwhile, the AMG 35 with the 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine is quick enough to outrun most hot hatchbacks, taking 5.1 seconds to get from 0-62mph, while the AMG 45 is even quicker.
The interior is a major selling point, thanks in large part to the class-leading MBUX digital instruments and infotainment system. It offers the latest in-car technology, with excellent connectivity and impressive features like augmented reality sat-nav. Extra driver aids such as adaptive cruise control and a self-parking system can also be added. Quality impresses too, with lots of attractive materials on the steering wheel, dashboard and around the cabin. The interior also comes with 64-colour ambient lighting and Mercedes' trademark round air vents which give the GLA an upmarket feel.
Not only has the latest GLA’s size increase given it a more imposing look, it has also allowed for much more space on the inside compared to the previous model. Passengers in the back have more legroom than before and the rear seats now slide and adjust by up to 140mm to make space for occupants and luggage. The boot has also grown to 495 litres - although this is still less than the boot space offered by the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
The GLA's ride and handling has been improved without making the car too firm, so long as its wheels are sensibly sized. Perhaps the biggest sticking point will be price, because while the GLA is a very desirable package, speccing one in an attractive trim and ticking a few options sees the price get eye-wateringly high, and increase your tax bill for the first five years. A highly-specced AMG Line Premium Plus 220 d 4MATIC costs well over £40,000, which may come as a surprise for shoppers who've heard there's a 'baby SUV' from Mercedes.