Premium, compact and stylish the GLA ticks all the right boxes. Some may see it as a slightly raised A-Class and that isn't a bad thing, but we think it is so much more. It might share the same underpinnings as the A-Class don't be fooled, it is a purpose-built SUV, which is also unmistakably Mercedes Benz.
People like their SUVs to look a little bit tough - so that’s what Mercedes did when creating the original GLA back in 2013. And it’s continued (and refined) the formula with the second-generation car.
There’s some protective black plastic cladding around the wheel arches, and the raised suspension means it’s around six cm taller than the A-Class.
Some models enhance that off-roader appearance by adding large roof bars that are in theory for carrying all your expedition kit. In reality, you’re more likely to find a snowboard or surfboard up there.
Scrolling through the range you’ll soon discover there is a trim level to suit most needs, the GLA appears with ever-larger alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights and privacy glass, as well as smatterings of chrome and even some door sill protection.
It does a great job of blending the chic looks of the A-Class hatchback with the purposeful SUV style buyers are after. Although it looks less like a dedicated SUV than major rivals such as the Audi Q3 or BMW X1.
It does a great job of blending the chic looks of the A-Class hatchback with the purposeful SUV style
What’s it like to drive?
The Mercedes GLA drives with easy around town, and parking is helped by the light steering and slightly loftier viewpoint the raised suspension affords you.
Yes, the ride can feel a touch firm. You can mitigate this by choosing an example with smaller alloy wheels. Any body movement, though, is well controlled along a backroad or over speed bumps.
The diesel engines are keen to avoid refuelling stops, and work best when paired with the automatic gearbox, which is smooth to change and helps keep the revs low, at which point the engines are at their quietest.
If your driving involves mostly town work, the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine in the GLA 180 is sweet. If you’re looking for hot hatch action, you can’t go far wrong with the Mercedes-AMG A45, which is a bit of a firecracker.
The Mercedes GLA drives with easy around town.
As you’d expect from a premium brand such as Mercedes, the inside of the GLA is a sumptuous place to sit, because many models come with man-made leather trim as standard. All the plastics and chrome-effect trims look and feel rather classy. You’ll barely notice you’ve moved from the sofa to the car seat, it’s so comfortable.
There are four trim levels to choose from on the first-generation model – SE, Sport, AMG Line and Executive. Even the entry-level SE cars comes with air-conditioning, a reversing camera, manmade leather trim, 17-inch alloy wheels and automatic emergency braking – they know how to spoil you at Mercedes.
If you move up to Sport, you’ll get aluminium roof rails, automatic lights and wipers, climate control and privacy glass to up the luxury factor. The alloy wheels are an inch larger in diameter, too. Top spec AMG Line or Executive cars come with even larger 19-inch alloy wheels, wrapped in run-flat tyres and full leather trim.
The second generation of GLA, launched in 2020, is even better equipped, with LED headlights, 18-inch alloys and a central touchscreen on entry-level Sport models. Moving up the range to Sport Executive brings a 10.25-inch touchscreen, wireless charging and parking sensors at both ends.
The latest sat-nav system also brings the benefit of augmented reality, as long as the first owner has chosen that extra. This displays directional arrows over a camera view of the road ahead, which is cool.
The GLA may look like an SUV but it has the space of a large hatchback inside. While you can sit one strapping adult behind another, they might end up hoping the journey isn’t too lengthy.
Some versions have an adjustable rear-seatback, allowing you to sit upright or recline as you see fit. This also allows you to vary comfort or boot space as required. This holds true for the current-shape GLA, which has loads of room up front, and slightly less for those behind.
The boot capacity starts at 485 litres in the diesel models, which will easily swallow the weekly family shop whole. Petrol models offer 495 litres. The plug-in hybrid GLA 250 e model has its batteries beneath the boot floor, so luggage capacity is reduced to a still-reasonable 445 litres.
Both versions of the GLA have numerous cubbies and storage bins dotted around the cabin, so you’ll always have places to put stuff.
Running costs and reliability
There’s a vast range of petrol and diesel engines, starting with the GLA 180 1.6-litre petrol that manages an average of 41mpg and is nippy enough to be ideal if your life consists of urban motoring.
If you travel farther afield on a regular basis, you’ll want a diesel. The GLA 200d works well with the optional automatic gearbox, and will get from 0-60mph in just over 9.0 seconds. It’ll do an average economy of around 49mpg. This is also ideal for long motorway trips, because it’s more than strong enough to keep up with traffic.
What we love
The Mercedes brand has that element of subtle class, which is why people love them. Add in the fact people are flocking to SUV-style cars and the Mercedes GLA has plenty going for it. The petrol engines are smooth and quiet, and the diesels are strong and thrifty, so there really is something for everyone.
It’s the sort of car that perfectly suits young families, because it’s practical and safe enough in everyday life, and it looks great on the school run. Just make sure the rear seats have enough space for your brood.
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The Mercedes GLA is a good-looking SUV that has a suitably rugged appearance with all the classy, slick attributes buyers in this marketplace love. Add in the fact that the GLA has a maximum five-star rating from crash test experts Euro NCAP and you can see it’s a great car for you and your family.
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