SUV looks with hatchback performance, but at a price
- Chunky off-roader appearance
- Diesel offers low running costs
- AMG offers high performance
- Three-pointed star badge appeal
- Few real advantages over A-Class
- Poor ride quality
- Not that capable off-road
- Lacks rivals’ practicality
Closely-related to the A-Class hatch it’s based on is the Mercedes-Benz GLA SUV. It’s a small crossover that’s the brand’s first foray into the compact end of the market, and rivals cars such as the Audi Q3, the BMW X1 and the Infiniti QX30 with which it shares its underpinnings.
It’s not as tall as some of its rivals and even compared with the A-Class you don’t sit a great deal higher up in the GLA. It feels broadly similar to drive, too, which may place the Mercedes at a disadvantage for those buyers seeking something more obviously SUV-like.
More comfortable than the A-Class, far from perfect
Usefully, the GLA has a bigger boot and a wider opening than the A-Class, with an extra 140 litres of space, although it’s not really a car you’d describe as being super-practical.
Gains in passenger headroom over its hatchback sibling are fairly negligible and the relatively low roof means it’s not particularly easier to get in and out of.
What the GLA is, however, is more comfortable and refined than the A-Class, albeit not anywhere near as cosseting as its rivals. It’s quiet on the road – although engine noise from the diesels ekes into the cabin. Standard equipment levels are generous and, for some buyers, the chunkier styling may give it an extra layer of appeal.
Two diesel and three petrol engines
Pair the lower-powered version with the optional 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic transmission for the best economy in the line-up: Mercedes claims an average of 67.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 108g/km.
Those who prefer petrol have a wider choice, with a range of turbocharged four-cylinder powerplants. The GLA 200 features a 1.6-litre producing 156hp, while the GLA 250 pumps out 211hp.
Topping the range performance-wise is the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45: it too has a turbocharged 2.0-litre but its cranked up to deliver 381hp to all four-wheels, ensuring a 0-62mph time of just 4.4 seconds.
All versions except for the GLA 200 petrol and GLA 220 d diesels in SE trim or with manual transmission have the 4Matic four-wheel drive system as standard.
Selection of six trim levels
It’ll come as no surprise that the GLA’s trim level structure is also closely aligned to the A-Class – in fact, behind the wheel, you’d be hard-pressed to tell which one you were sat in.
SE grade is only available with the lower-powered petrols and diesels, with the line-up fleshed-out with Sport and AMG Line. Joining the GLA range in spring 2017 was White Art Edition, with a restricted range of white-themed colour and trim combinations.
The performance flagship AMG GLA 45 is effectively a standalone specification, although it was joined by the Yellow Night Edition version around the time of the range’s light facelift.
That 2017 makeover consisted of tweaked bumpers, revised grille designs, LED headlights and a few more chrome touches inside the GLA. The previously optional Off-Road Package became standard fit, giving the crossover 30mm of extra ride height.
Model-for-model, the GLA typically costs £2,500 to £3,500 more than the equivalent A-Class, with a larger boot, taller bodywork and a slightly more comfortable being the primary benefits.
Configure your Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class here.
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.
The Parkers Verdict
For those after the SUV look but without much in the way of extra off-road talent, the GLA-Class could be the car for you.
However, our testers don't think it offers much more than a regular A-Class, so keep that in mind when you're shopping.