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Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class Estate engines, drive and performance

2014 - 2020 (change model)
Performance rating: 4 out of 54.0

Written by James Dennison Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 22 May 2020

  • Three petrols on offer
  • Discontinued diesel versions
  • All-wheel drive and automatic transmission available

While the Mercedes-Benz GLA engine range isn’t as broad as the A-Class hatchback’s, there’s still a reasonable breadth of performance on offer from the all-petrol line-up.

Trio of petrols to choose from

Bottom of the range is the GLA 180, powered by a 1.6-litre engine with 122hp and 200Nm of torque. This takes 9.0-seconds to crack 0-62mph depending if you pick the manual or 8.7 seconds with the automatic.

Packing a 156hp 1.6-litre engine is the front-wheel drive-only GLA 200. Peak torque measures up at 250Nm and is on tap from 1,200rpm, making it a flexible, easy-to-use engine. A manual gearbox is standard, resulting in a top speed of 134mph and an 8.4-second 0-62mph time. Opt for the twin-clutch automatic and, although the top speed remains the same, the 0-62mph sprint drops to 8.1 seconds.

Topping the mainstream engine line-up is the automatic-only GLA 250 4Matic, with a 2.0-litre engine cranking out 211hp and 350Nm of torque from 1,200rpm, making it significantly brisker than you might imagine. It’ll crack the 0-62mph benchmark in 6.6 seconds, before achieving a top speed of 143mph, but be aware it is a bit noisy as you ramp up the speed.

Duo of discontinued diesels

There were two diesel options, both using a turbocharged four-cylinder, 2.1-litre engine but with different power outputs. It was a clattery unit compared with other motors fitted to rivals, but there was enough sound deadening material for it to remain relatively hushed in the cabin. The entry level front-wheel drive GLA 200 d, produces 136hp and 300Nm of torque at just 1,400rpm. The smooth-shifting 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic was your only gearbox choice, giving a 0-62mph time of 9.1 seconds.

Mercedes-Benz GLA driving

Opting for the extra traction of the four-wheel drive GLA 200 d 4Matic – only available with the automatic gearbox – gives an identical 0-62mph time to its front-wheel drive equivalent, yet top speed falls slightly to 124mph. The GLA 220 d 4Matic features 177hp and 350Nm of torque, again from 1,400rpm, but is appreciably quicker with a 135mph top speed and a 7.7-second 0-62mph time.

It was far from convincing in terms of engine refinement – especially at idle – but once you’re underway, it’s well insulated. Performance was adequate rather than thrilling but fuel efficiency and lower emissions benefits as a result.

We found the automatic gearbox to be rather dim-witted on either of the diesels, and had to switch to the gearbox’s sportier setting for it to respond to throttle inputs in a quick enough manner.

Discontinued Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 4Matic

The statistics for the out of production AMG GLA 45 made for impressive reading, packing a 381hp twin-turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.

Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph, but 475Nm of torque at 2,250rpm ensures that it scorches from 0-62mph in just 4.4 seconds. Although it’s four-wheel drive, up to 50% of the torque can be sent to the rear wheels when required to help drive the car out of corners as quickly as possible.

A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is fitted: it’s very tractable and efficient around town, although occasionally it hesitates to choose the correct gear when negotiating steep hills. Paddle-shift controls behind the steering wheel enable you to change gear yourself if desired.

With the optional sports exhaust system the GLA sounds special; almost like a competition car with an impressive repertoire of snap, crackle and pop sounds from the tailpipes when changing gear.

The only criticism – and it’s a very picky one – is that the car gathers speed in such an efficient and undramatic way that subjectively it doesn’t feel quite as fast as you’d expect given the on-paper figures.

How does it drive?

  • GLA is an easy-to-drive SUV…
  • Just not especially enjoyable
  • 4Matic standard on most models

Driving the mainstream models in the Mercedes-Benz GLA range is a fuss-free affair. In Urban Edition trim it has the comfort suspension setup, which means it does a decent job of soaking up bumps, although as a trade-off there’s a fair amount of body roll (when the body leans over on the chassis) when cornering.

As for the GLA’s off-road abilities, clearly it’s no Land Rover. Given its low roofline and relative lack of ground clearance it looks as though it would as useful as slippers on a Snowdon expedition on anything but asphalt, and the reality is it’ll falter on anything other than the simplest off-road terrain – its front overhang is too long to be genuinely capable here.

Mercedes-Benz GLA driving

That Off-road Package was available at extra cost for 4Matic models from summer 2014, and made standard following the facelift in 2017. It increases the ground clearance by 30mm and makes a useful difference to the car’s abilities.

When activated via a button on the centre console, the off-road mode changes the traction control, gearbox and four-wheel drive systems’ settings and activates a display on the multimedia screen to let you know how much the front wheels are turned and how much suspension travel is being used. It also includes a Downhill Speed Regulator (DSR) function via which can take the car down steep slopes at a driver-dictated speed set via the cruise control stalk.