The first Mercedes-Benz GLA Class was launched in 2014 to critical acclaim. Top Gear’s very own Richard Hammond called it “youthful and useful”. Some of us asked questions – at this size, is the Mercedes GLA an SUV? And what does GLA stand for in Mercedes-Benz?
The sensible answer to the first one would be to call it a compact SUV. Four years later, it’s still just that, but for all its compactness, it can feel like it lacks a little on the practicality side of things.
GLA is an amalgamation of German word 'geländewagen' ('suv' in English) and the A for A -Class, in case you wondered.
So, four years into development, what can we expect from this latest SUV?
We’ve got our pick of the bunch when it comes to configurations, starting with the entry level GLA-Class SE, progressing to the GLA-Class Sport, the GLA AMG Line and the AMG GLA 45.
Within the entry levels, we also have the Mercedes GLA Urban Edition, which comes with slightly larger wheels than the SE, 18.5-inch alloys as opposed to the SE’s 17 inches. It’s also the cheapest in the range with a UK price of £23,875.
That might sound very reasonable for an A-Class Mercedes, but bear in mind this is the bottom of the range. At its most expensive, just how much is the Mercedes GLA? The top of the range premium GLA 250 4Matic White Art Edition will set you back £37,795 – but in exchange, you will get a 0 to 60 time of 6.6 seconds, a top speed of 143 MPH and 43.5 MPG.
Alternatively, the Mercedes GLA lease price starts at around £262.72 per month including VAT (for the Urban Edition model), which will get you up to 60 MPH in 9 seconds and offers 49.6 MPG.
There’s a little bit of a discrepancy between the selection of prices across the range in comparison to what they offer – for example, you’ll get a great fuel economy for the middle-of-the-range 200d AMG Line 5dr Auto with 67.3 MPG, but this comes with a lower top speed of 125 MPH for your £30K.
Similarly, there are certain questions that are not so black and white – is the Mercedes GLA a 4-wheel drive, for example? It is if you bag yourself the GLA 250, which comes with a 2-litre engine and 4MATIC 4-wheel drive.
So, how does it feel to drive?
The new dimensions of the GLA make it 50mm higher than the Mercedes A-Class hatchback from which it derives its inspiration.
This allows for greater road visibility and presence on the road, which is underpinned by bigger tyres and more forgiving suspension.
At 40kg heavier than the A-Class however, it doesn’t handle quite as smoothly, so at best we can call the grip and cornering run-of-the-mill.
It simply does not feel as refined or comfortable as a competitor like the Nissan Qashqai, with a notable lack of added security from the dampers.
On the upside, Mercedes have accounted for off-roading with the recent release of the off-road suspension upgrade, which will allow for 30mm of ground clearance. This might make it a little more fun to drive in corn fields rather than the somewhat slow body movements on traditional roads.
Aesthetically, the wheel buttons somewhat stick out like a cheap sore thumb amongst an otherwise luxury interior that we’d expect from a small Mercedes.
When it comes to driver and passenger comfort, by all means there’s room for two adults in the back, but no more than you’d expect from a small SUV.
One bonus is the Mercedes GLA boot space, however – depending on the kind of trim you choose, you can even adjust the backseat angle, which will add an extra 60 litres of boot space to the already generous 421. Fold the seats down and you’ve got yourself 836 litres – ideal for those long trips.
On the infotainment side of things, you’ll be pleased to hear that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes as standard across all trims. 7-inch screens become 8-inch on the Sports models and up, but other than that, there’s nothing hugely exciting about the onboard technology.
The Mercedes GLA is by no means an offensive compact SUV, but it’s also not particularly ground-breaking either.
If you’re looking for a family SUV, then fill your boots – otherwise, there’s a bit more fun to be offered by its competitors.