The Mercedes GLA combines A-Class engineering with fashionable crossover SUV styling

The Mercedes GLA is essentially an A-Class with more rugged styling, a raised ride height and a higher driving position. That lets it target the seriously lucrative premium crossover segment, although other cars of this type - like the BMW X1 or Audi Q2 - are more convincing. A range of minor updates in 2017 did little to change its position, either.

Venture up the range or start getting too familiar with the options list, and you'll end up with something priced against far more capable machinery - although competitive finance deals make it easier to swallow. 

There are fast models (like the storming GLA 45 AMG), while boot space is reasonable and cabin quality is mostly up to the expectation of the badge. Yet the interior is smaller than most rivals, and it falls short when it comes to standard equipment. The driving experience is nothing to write home about, either.

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Mercedes GLA 220d 4MATIC Sport

The Mercedes GLA is a small crossover that's more of an extension of the A-Class hatchback (albeit the previous generation model) than a proper small off-roader. It's been for sale since 2014, so it's one of the earlier examples of the breed, and also means it's more of a high-riding hatch than some rivals.

It even has a model line-up that's similar to the A-Class, with Urban Edition and AMG Line models offered, while the AMG 45 model offers hot hatch pace in a high-riding body. With this generation of GLA due to be replaced in 2019, Mercedes has reduced the engine range somewhat. You can now only get petrol power, with the GLA 180, GLA 200 and GLA 250 being the only versions offered, with no diesel or AMG 45 variants on the price lists.

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Go for the GLA 180, and you get a 120bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine with front-wheel drive and either a 6-speed manual or a 7G-DCT twin-clutch auto. The GLA 200 has the same 1.6-litre motor but tuned to make 154bhp, and it has the same option of manual or auto boxes. At the top of the range, the GLA 250 has a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine making 208bhp with the 7G-DCT auto as standard, and it's the only version of the GLA to come with 4MATIC four-wheel drive.

The Mercedes GLA is available with a choice of engines - but it's merely average to drive
The entry-level GLA is cheap to run, although it's more expensive to buy than its rivals
Sharp looks help the GLA to stand out from the crowd, although it's smaller than most of its rivals
There's a lot of storage space in the GLA's cabin, although passengers may find the car a little cramped
Owners rate Mercedes' reliability and build quality highly, and the GLA has a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating

Diesel power came in the guise of the GLA 200 d and GLA 220 d models, both powered by the same 2.1-litre diesel with different power outputs. This engine was pretty old and noisy, so it's no surprise that it was quietly dropped from the range in 2019.

All cars come well equipped, with LED headlights, an 8-inch infotainment screen, auto wipers and a reversing camera coming as standard on all models. The AMG Line gets a slightly sportier look, while both versions of the GLA can be upgraded with Plus packs that offer a host of extras bundled into one package for better value.

Since the Mercedes GLA arrived, the small premium SUV class has changed shape, and there are a lot of rivals for it that offer a more SUV-like experience. Market leaders include the Volvo XC40, the BMW X1/X2 duo and the Audi Q2. Elsewhere, buyers might like to choose slightly larger cars such as the Range Rover Evoque, while the Lexus UX and Mazda CX-3 are also contenders in the class.

Last updated: 
5 Jun, 2019