Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Two petrols and two diesels initially available
  • GLA 220 d and GLA 250 are both strong performers
  • Mercedes-AMG versions arrive later in 2020

The GLA range currently comprises of two petrol and two diesel models with more to follow. The plug-in hybrid and Mercedes-AMG models arrive later in 2020. Although the entry-level GLA 200 delivers adequate performance, moving up to a GLA 250 will feel like money well spent, as it's significantly quicker and doesn't seem much less economical.

As for the diesels, we suspect the 200 d will turn out to be all you need, based on how impressive it is in the A-Class. However, in the GLA, we’ve so far only tried the more expensive 220 d, which pulls strongly throughout its rev range and generally feels in tune with its standard eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The current range-toppers in European markets are the 2.0-litre Mercedes-AMG GLA 35, which packs 306hp and 400Nm, and its even faster GLA 45 sister cars. These are significantly quicker than the rest of the range, taking 5.1 seconds (GLA 35) and 4.4 seconds (GLA 45) to crack the benchmark 0-62mph sprint, but also considerably thirstier. You can order them now, with deliveries later in 2020.

How does it drive?

We've only driven the GLA 250 so far. But this one is impressive – the 350Nm of torque on offer is delivered at 1,800rpm, making it feel strong and responsive to throttle pedal inputs. This punch does begin to wear off at 4,000rpm though, well before the engine's redline. Helping manage things are the brilliant eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission - and this has a shorter first and a taller top gear than before. What does this mean? Well, the GLA feels faster off the line and uses less fuel at high speed.

Select Comfort mode from the car's DNA drive mode system and you may need matchsticks to keep your eyes open. At the other end of the attention scale is Sport mode and a manual setting for the gearbox, which won't shift up automatically and makes the car feel more fun to drive.

Handling

  • If you can, specifiy your GLA with 4Matic
  • Agile handling, refined at speed
  • Off-road handling of 4Matic surprisingly good

The GLA delivers fine competence on the road combined with good refinement. The latest incarnation of the 4Matic four-wheel drive system offers better control thanks to electrically operated clutches (rather than the mechanical ones previously) in the four-wheel drive system.

In the Individual drive mode setting of Dynamic Select, the driver can tune the suspension, steering, throttle response and gearbox action to his or her personal preference. Sport unlocks the engine's upper revs, Eco introduces a sedative touch, while Comfort offers a mix of both.

Opt for 4Matic and it’s largely front-wheel drive, with the system deciding when it needs to push drive to the rear axle. We reckon it's worth consideration due to the enhanced traction and more involving feel it lends to the handling.

What's it like off road?

Although we accept that few GLAs will be going off-road, it's good to know there's the ability if it needs to. All 4Matics come with an off-road package, which means hill descent control plus engine and gearbox controls designed for rugged use. That's largely because in a bid to underline its new, proper SUV, status, our time in the GLA was somewhat limited, and largely off-road.

Off road, you have surprising ability, certainly significantly more than any GLA buyer will ever need, proving it can scramble up and down slopes you’d not walk up, at least without ropes.