GLA crossover raises the game for Mercedes

2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA

2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA - Credit: Archant

Fresh from taking on premium hatchbacks with its A-Class, Mercedes-Benz is now tackling the sport utility crossover segment with the GLA, says Matt Joy, of the Press Association.

What's new?

It's a whole new model range for starters. This is the smallest Mercedes-Benz with any kind of off-road leanings, and arguably it's also the first proper crossover from the German company. If you hadn't guessed already it's based on the A-Class hatchback which means it's compact rather than a giant 4x4.

It shares an obvious visual link with the A-Class too. There's a prominent Mercedes grille up front and the hatchback rear, but with the addition of body cladding all around the sills and a raised ride height to give it the sport utility vehicle (SUV) look.

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Looks and image

The GLA sits higher on the road compared to the A-Class by 50mm, while the driving position itself is fractionally raised too. There are differing looks depending on the specification. The SE version has 18in wheels with chrome details, while the AMG version adds a discreet bodykit to the mix. It has a pleasing mix of ruggedness and modernity, and if you like the A-Class's look then the GLA is just as appealing.

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Space and practicality

The GLA is no bigger inside than the A-Class hatchback but the amount of space on offer is still good. Front seat occupants can relax in comfort with good space all round, while in the back there's also good space – only taller adults might find legroom a little lacking if the person in front is tall too.

Sitting behind the wheel you do feel a little higher than standard but not full-on SUV height – giving some useful extra visibility and presence but without turning into a hulking 4x4.

Behind the wheel

Out on the road the GLA feels unsurprisingly similar to the A-Class, except that on SE models in particular the ride quality is significantly better. More compliant suspension may mean a little more body roll in corners but not so that you feel uncomfortable, and most of the time you'll be happier that bumps are smoothed away so effectively.

The engine choice also gives plenty of options for a range of needs. The entry-level 2.0-litre petrol motor is turbocharged and surprisingly rapid – a 143mph top speed is plenty but there's the fire-breathing AMG version above that. On the diesel side, the base 200 CDI is thrifty but lacks a little punch, whereas the more powerful 220 CDI has the best blend of performance and economy.

Value for money

The standard specification is good, with just the SE and AMG Line to choose from. All models have kit like Bluetooth, DAB radio and a handy reversing camera as standard, and prices start at £25,850 for the entry-level 200 CDI. If you want more kit though you need to be prepared to pay for it, and the ideal-specification 220 CDI model has four-wheel-drive and starts at £30,030.

Who would buy one

If you find the standard A-Class a bit youthful then the GLA has a bit more maturity about it. It's also a little bit easier to use – that raised ride height means the ride is more comfortable and it's easier to get in and out of, which is useful however old you are.

Badge snobs will love it of course, and although it's not a mighty off-roader it's sufficiently handy to cope with muddy fields and tricky slopes if that's your kind of thing.

This car summed up in a single word – hardy.

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