- Pricey options
Matt Joy reviews the new Mercedes-Benz GLA — a soft SUV based on the Merc A-Class platform.
Mercedes-Benz went a little more mainstream with the most recent A-Class, departing from the sandwich-floor template of the old car and aiming squarely at its German rivals with a classy premium hatchback. It’s hardly a surprise then that the company’s taken the next step and spun a soft-roader off the same platform.
The Mercedes GLA is the smallest Mercedes-Benz off-roader to reach the UK and like many of its key rivals it can be had with two- or four-wheel-drive and a choice of petrol or diesel engines as well as a high-performance AMG version. We tried the mid-range GLA 220 CDI SE which costs £30,030.
It is handsome, relatively discreet and very German.If you were tasked with turning an A-Class hatchback into a pseudo off-roader then you’d probably produce something quite like the GLA. Its suspension has been raised by 50mm to give additional ground clearance and there’s some relatively subtle body cladding around the sills and the bumpers. But by and large it’s still mostly A-Class, which means it is handsome, relatively discreet and very German.
If you’re feeling a bit crazy you can jazz it up further with extra blingy wheels and so on, but for most sensible UK buyers the slightly toughened but still civilised look is ideal for the mean streets of your nearest inner city.
“In the back it’s slightly less impressive, as taller folk may struggle with knee room if those up front are reasonably tall too.”The GLA is, usefully, that bit taller than the A-Class, so although the latter is no hardship to climb into the GLA is that bit easier. It’s a similar story with the boot, of course, and while it offers no extra space the fact that the boot floor is higher up makes life easier for everyone.
Inside those up front wont grumble too much about the space on offer, as legroom is good while head and elbow room are more than adequate. In the back it’s slightly less impressive, as taller folk may struggle with knee room if those up front are reasonably tall too.
Performance & handling
“The entry-level diesel engine can feel a little lethargic but the 220 CDI version has a good slug of power.”The GLA performs largely as you would expect from a car of this nature. With its raised suspension there is a greater bias of comfort over handling, on the non-AMG models at least, and this lends itself well to a car that is likely to be bought by people with families or those of more advanced age. Match the diesel engine to an automatic gearbox and you have the perfect recipe for fuss-free motoring.
Push the GLA a little harder and it copes admirably well. The entry-level diesel engine can feel a little lethargic but the 220 CDI version has a good slug of power, certainly enough to get it moving swiftly. It’s not the quietest of units however and is a little noisy when extended although this fades away when cruising.
Despite the raised ride height the GLA doesn’t roll excessively when pressed through a corner and grips very well. The sportier AMG Line means slightly stiffer suspension while the full-house AMG model even more so, but the standard car is well sorted.
Economy & environment
Plumping for an SUV-like car such as the GLA always means a slight compromise in terms of fuel efficiency but, depending on your engine choice, the potential for saving fuel is there. All models come with stop-start as standard while the efficient seven-speed DCT gearbox delivers the same economy and emissions as the equivalent manual model.
The base 200 CDI can hit 62.8mpg and 119g/km, but the more sprightly 220 CDI can still achieve 55.4mpg and 132g/km of CO2 — and that’s with four-wheel drive as standard too. The 2.0-litre turbocharged 250 model is more rapid but is less thrifty at 42.8mpg.
Equipment & value
“Like most Mercedes-Benz the GLA has a lengthy and expensive options list.”The standard specification GLA is SE level and has most of the important things you want; there’s a big display screen, Bluetooth, DAB radio, Mercedes’ Artico leather-like upholstery, alloy wheels and a reversing camera, which is a decent haul of kit.
However like most Mercedes-Benz the GLA has a lengthy and expensive options list, and they tend to be grouped into packages so choosing individual items is discouraged. So you can have a panoramic roof, upgraded parking assistant, heated seats, an electric tailgate and automatic climate control but they come in the Executive package which costs a significant £2,365.
Mercedes has always been big on safety and the GLA is no different. There are nine airbags and ESP as standard, plus an active bonnet for pedestrian impacts, tyre pressure monitoring and useful features like attention assist which monitors and alerts the driver if the car detects they may be falling asleep.
The GLA is a sensible and understandable expansion by Mercedes-Benz into a market that is getting bigger and bigger, and it hits all the right notes for potential buyers as well as bringing the quality and satisfaction you expect from a Mercedes-Benz. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you get 90 per cent of the experience from a regular A-Class however.
The BMW X1 is very similar in many respects although, arguably, is even less of an off-roader, while the Audi Q3 follows a similar vein. In many ways it comes down to looks and image rather than off-road ability, and on this front the GLA is very appealing.