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 has arrived and it's a much more well-rounded model than the previous one, looking far less like an A-Class on stilts and enjoying its own distinct personality.
Slightly shorter, but wider and much taller than the previous GLA, the latest version looks much more like a traditional SUV, and a very handsome one at that. You won't mistake it for the far boxier seven-seat Mercedes GLB that's aimed squarely at the Land Rover Discovery Sport, either - the GLA should appeal to ‘young professionals’ looking for a vehicle with more road presence than a hatchback. This presence is exaggerated by the muscularity of the GLA 35, with its menacing 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 the diesel can be equipped with clever 4MATIC four-wheel drive that activates when extra grip is required. Fuel-efficiency generally hovers around the 40-50mpg range, which is average for a small SUV. The plug-in hybrid GLA 250 e, however, officially claims 176mpg and 34 miles of electric range. If you make lots of short trips and are able to keep the battery charged, it will easily be the most economical model in the range. Meanwhile, the 2.0-litre turbo petrol AMG 35 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 setup. It offers the latest in-car technology, with excellent connectivity and impressive features like augmented reality sat-nav. Quality impresses too, with lots of attractive materials, 64-colour ambient lighting and Mercedes' trademark round air vents giving the GLA an upmarket feel.
As well as making it look more imposing, the GLA's growth spurt has also liberated quite a bit more space inside. Back seat passengers get more legroom, and the rear seats now slide by up to 140mm to adjust 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 too 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. A highly-specced AMG Line Premium Plus 220d 4MATIC costs well over £40,000, which may come as a surprise for shoppers who've heard there's a 'baby SUV' from Mercedes.