A blend between the dynamism of the Mercedes A-Class and the versatility of an SUV, the GLA not only looks good but it drives impressively as well. Visibility is, perhaps, the only concern.
The Mercedes GLA is a good invention. Its muscular lines and great proportions make the GLA intriguing – very intriguing. This is one of the few Mercedes products that looks at ease in a shade of red. Typically, you associate a red Merc with a (loud) tourist on the Adriatic coast. Not in this case however. The Jupiter Red looks surprisingly nice on the Mercedes GLA. The really important thing, however, is something else – you see, we mustn’t consider the GLA to be an SUV version of the A Class. And, to understand this, you have to sit behind the wheel. At this point, it becomes clear that this is not an SUV – this is, in fact, very much like a normal A Class. And this is even more the case if you choose the Premium trim, which has the sport suspension that lowers the car by 15mm. The GLA feels more like an all-road version of the A Class. Of course, it justifies the price hike by offering more boot space and improved comfort. You also have the choice of selecting the off-road package, which will be available soon.
A little higher
Once in the Mercedes GLA, there’s a sense of déjà vu, as the instrumentation and seats are virtually identical to those in the A Class – the introduction of a large aluminium trim piece isn’t enough to make a substantial difference. Even Oscar, the Mercedes crash test dummy who has sat in the driving seat of every Mercedes model produced over the last quarter-century – struggled to find any differences between the GLA and the A Class. You sit only a couple of centimetres higher. The seats are lower than most of its rivals – a dozen centimetres lower than the Audi Q3, for example. Moreover, the lowered seating position is quite a surprise given that a command driving position is a major motivation for many buyers who opt for a compact SUV. As far as the cabin is concerned, the differences are quite limited and are mostly concentrated in the rear of the vehicle where, more than anything else, you gain a few more centimetres of space above your head. Two centimetres may not sound like much – but it’s worth remembering that, in the world of cars, just a few millimetres can completely change the impression of a car’s interior. In this case, it makes a massive difference to accessibility. It’s far easier to get in and get out of the cabin, and it’s one of the reasons why (consciously, or unconsciously) you would choose this over an A Class – which feels more like a coupe, even though it’s a five-door car.
A little less sporty
A similar kind of thing happens when you get behind the wheel, because the GLA is not as ‘sporty’ as its little sister – that immediacy, the incisive response of the A-Class isn’t quite there. So, it’s true – in life, you can’t have everything. This is the price you pay for being able to enjoy more comfort and space. The GLA certainly tackles potholes and bumps better. The four-cylinder engine, however, makes it presence felt more than you would expect. While at speed it’s almost noiseless, the NVH levels could certainly be better at lower speeds.
The 2.2-liter engine makes amends with its overall performance though. The 200 CDI GLA plays its cards right in terms of response, drivability, and the ability to meet the demands of the driver. An added advantage is the excellent fuel economy that can be achieved by the GLA – a mission in which it’s faithful ally, the 7G-Tronic gearbox, plays no small part. Moreover, it’s accurate and fast. What isn’t, however, is the clumsy start-stop system that can take too long to restart once activated.
Of course, you take for granted the fact that there’s room for much more under the hood – the GLA 45 AMG, after all, offers 360 horses. And so the excellent capability of the chassis is never in doubt. The GLA certainly puts a priority on the fun-to-drive quotient. It’s responsive, able to inspire confidence in the driver, and forms a near perfect balance between a machine that’s entertaining and one that’s expected to perform well in a wide range of situations. It’s a very safe car, of course, but not boringly safe – thanks to the good quality of the steering, which makes it quite engaging as soon as it faces a couple of bends.
The AMG styling package provides specific elements, such as the grille and doorsills. It also features a different shape for the lower air intakes
The difference in the interiors over the A Class is more aesthetic than functional, and consists mainly of the aluminium trim on the dashboard. As an option, the metal trim can be replaced by wood
The tester’s opinion
The GLA is very pleasing in all situations, and it’s also great from the point of view of safety. If only it had a little bit more attitude, it would have been perfect… Davide Fugazza
The differences here are clearly evident when compared to the A Class. It’s too bad that the load bay is not flat with the floor, as that would make loading luggage easier
Boot Space - 334litres
1. 44cm, 2. 104-118 cm, 3. 148-174 cm, 4. 81 cm
Consumption: The four-cylinder engine is very efficient. With a full tank of 50 litres, the range is quite impressive.
Versatility: The GLA is a real all-rounder. City driving, long trips, or dirt roads – it can handle them all.
Noise: The engine is too noisy and could be smoother, especially at low speeds.
In the front, the space is more or less same as the A Class (on which it’s based), while at the rear there are a few more centimetres of headroom. The real difference, however, lies in the easy access to the rear seats.
The wide C-pillar means that rearward visibility is poor, and although there are several sensors to compensate for this problem, it isn’t solved in its entirety – especially in regards to rear three-quarter vision.
In a nutshell
In the wide Mercedes range, there was no real need for a new model. However, today to not have a compact crossover would be a risky choice. So, here they are with the GLA – a more practical and functional version of the A-Class. Sure, Stuttgart has entered the game late (both rivals, Audi and BMW, have been around in the compact SUV segment for a long time), and both the designers and engineers have chosen not to walk the usual path – as that would lead to very common SUV. The remarkable result is what you see here – a slightly raised machine, able to compete with sport utility vehicles without really being one of them. In short, it’s another mix amongst genres and models. It does deserve a slightly quieter engine and better rear visibility, but the car on the whole is really very capable. Do you need any more? Well, it’s also quite fuel efficient – a very important criteria nowadays.
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