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What is the Mercedes-Benz GLA?

As the smallest SUV in its range, the Mercedes-Benz GLA may seem like the poor relation to the GLC, GLE, GLS and G-Class models. But the German brand’s first compact crossover is nonetheless an interesting model, lining up to take market share from the likes of the MINI Countryman, Audi Q2 and BMW X1.

The GLA is essentially a high-riding, small SUV version of the A-Class, though the difference in overall height is negligible – the main difference is in its chunky looks. However, the A-Class has since been updated – it’s now in its fourth-generation, while the GLA is based on the third-generation model. That means that compared with the current A-Class it doesn’t really offer much of an advantage – the hatchback is far better to drive and has a much-improved interior.

The GLA isn’t exactly the best-looking compact SUV on the market, either, and even though it is available with 4Matic four-wheel drive it’s not particularly accomplished on the rough stuff. Your money may be better spent elsewhere, such as on the brilliant second-generation Range Rover Evoque, the Volvo XC40 or the new Lexus UX.

Read on for the Parkers verdict on the Mercedes-Benz GLA, including engine variants, trim levels, driving dynamics and running costs.

At-a-glance 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLA specs

  • Top-speed: 124-168mph
  • 0-62mph: 4.4-9.1 seconds
  • Fuel economy: 29.4-46.3mpg
  • Emissions: 147-193g/km
  • Boot space: 481-1235 litres

Which versions of the Mercedes-Benz GLA are available?

The Mercedes-Benz GLA is offered in a single five-seat compact SUV body style, but unless you opt for one of the 4Matic four-wheel-drive models, it offers little in the way of off-road talent. The range kicks off with the GLA 180 Urban Edition – the only model to be powered by a 122hp 1.6-litre petrol engine. SE, Sport and AMG Line trim levels are offered with a 156hp version of the same engine, while the 211hp 2.0-litre petrol GLA 250 4Matic is available in Sport and AMG Line guises.

Mercedes-Benz GLA rear

There’s one diesel engine: a 2.1-litre unit available with 136hp and 170hp outputs, with the diesel mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is available on the GLA 180 and GLA 200 models. At the top of the range, the bahnstorming Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 4Matic is almost a model in its own right.

What is the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45?

The AMG GLA 45 4Matic is powered by the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine as the GLA 250, but with the volume cranked up to 11. With 381hp and 475Nm of torque available, the AMG version will hit 62mph in an astonishing 4.4 seconds, before reaching a top speed limited to 155mph, although this can be raised to 168mph courtesy of the AMG Driver’s package.

If you’ve ever fancied a hot hatch on stilts, the AMG GLA 45 is the car for you. Not that the GLA 250 is particularly slow, completing the 0-62mph sprint in 6.6 seconds.

Mercedes-Benz GLA styling and engineering

Mercedes-Benz treated its compact SUV to the mildest of facelifts in 2017, but you’d be hard-pressed to spot the changes between old and new. At best, the GLA has always looked a little awkward, but from some angles it’s just plain ugly. On the inside, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were sat in the outgoing A-Class, but you do gain an extra 140 litres of luggage space.

There’s also a marginal increase in passenger headroom, but it’s not what you’d call a spacious car. In fact, the GLA feels like little more than a marketing exercise, designed to capitalise on the public’s insatiable demand for small crossovers.

How does the Mercedes-Benz GLA drive?

The GLA does feel a little more refined and comfortable than the A-Class hatchback, especially in Comfort mode, when it does a respectable job of absorbing bumps in the road. The trade-off for the raised ride height is a fair amount of body-roll when cornering, although this is countered in the Sport and AMG Line versions, thanks to the firmer suspension.

Don’t let the chunky styling fool you, because the GLA is unable to mix it with the likes of the Range Rover Evoque when the going gets tough. But the off-road mode – standard following the facelift in 2017 – does at least deliver a modicum of green-lane talent.

The AMG GLA 45 is a curious beast. While it’s undoubtedly fast and not at all like an SUV through the bends, it never feels that exciting. There’s a bucket-load of grip, and the brakes are powerful enough to stop the earth spinning, but a hot hatch will deliver more thrills for a lot less cash.

How much does the Mercedes-Benz GLA cost?

The entry-level GLA 180 Urban Edition has been designed with the fleet business in mind and comes with a relatively low price tag. If you must have a GLA, it might be just the ticket, as it offers 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless-go, reversing camera, smartphone integration and air conditioning.

Other models are more expensive, especially when viewed alongside the new A-Class, which features a range of efficient engines, improved tech and one of the best cabins in the segment. The AMG GLA 4 Matic might offer blistering performance, but it comes with a price tag that will get you behind the wheel of an all-new Porsche Macan.

Find out how GLA drivers rate their Mercedes with our user-generated owners’ reviews.

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class Model History

Current generation Mercedes-Benz GLA SUV model history

November 2013 – A-Class-based GLA SUV range available to order for delivery in April 2014. Initial line-up consists of GLA 200 CDI, GLA 220 CDI 4Matic and GLA 250 4Matic, each in SE and AMG Line specifications. Manual gearbox standard on front-wheel drive models, with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic the sole transmission for 4Matics.

June 2014 – GLA 45 AMG 4Matic available to order, complete with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Power comes from a 360hp 2.0-litre twin-turbo engine.

November 2014 – Sport replaces SE as the entry-level trim.

July 2015 – Mechanically enhanced range available to order with deliveries from September. No visual changes but the naming conventions of particular models are revised: previous CDI diesels now have a simple ‘d’ suffix; previous GLA 45 4Matic AMG renamed Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 4Matic, with power increased to 381hp. GLA 220 d now produces 177hp, while the GLA 200 d is available with 4Matic four-wheel drive.

June 2016 – Entry-level SE specification reintroduced in for GLA 200 d models. Range expanded with the introduction of the GLA 200 petrol in SE, Sport and AMG Line specifications.

January 2017 – Facelifted range with tweaked trim levels available to order for April delivery. White Art Edition and AMG GLA 45 4Matic Yellow Night Edition join the range.

This current model is the first-generation Mercedes-Benz GLA.