Mercedes GLA Review
It might be the smallest and cheapest SUV in the Mercedes-Benz line-up, but there’s no way you can accuse the GLA of being the runt of the litter. Because with exceptional comfort and a range of engines taking you all the way from sensible to sensational, it’s a worthy rival to the likes of the Audi Q3 and the BMW X2.
The latest edition has been received a boost for 2020, but the first GLA was introduced back in 2014, with at the time many looking at the GLA and accusing it of being something of an enigma. Mercedes-Benz themselves admit that the GLA ‘doesn't fit into one specific category’. After all, it’s based on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and some might say it falls between two stools - that of a hatchback and an SUV.
Unless we’re talking about the Mercedes-AMG GLA - a different beast entirely from the firm’s performance division and costing up to £65,000 - it’s not particularly sporty either. But sometimes occupying the middle of the road is no bad thing when it results in a vehicle that ticks so many boxes for so many people.
The GLA has also been heavily revised for 2020, a facelift making it taller, wider and roomier than ever before, and very much steering it into full-blown SUV territory. Now sitting 14cm higher than the A-Class, you get a commanding view of the road and room in the back for three adults. And the GLA’s real trump card is in its refinement. On the road, plush, rival-dominating suspension means you’ll float over potholes while a quiet, insulated cabin makes the GLA a relaxing place indeed to spend time. Meanwhile, the GLA boasts an interior to make competitors green with envy.
A new state-of-the-art ‘MBUX’ infotainment system is one of the most usable and intuitive on the market. The cabin feels luxurious to the touch and is also pleasing on the eye, replete with eye-catching turbine-style vents and two large digital screens.
Spec levels as standard are also impressive, which includes heated front seats, lane keeping assist tech, dual climate control and a rear view camera.
And while it doesn’t have the biggest boot compared with market competitors, it scores high in the practicality stakes by being a capable off-roader, too.
It is, then, one of the best all-rounders out there, particularly if you’re looking at the more luxurious end of the small SUV market.
Select's rating score* - 3.6 / 5
The GLA, with prices starting from £31,460 on-the-road, received a major update in March this year, with first arrivals hitting the road in the summer.
And there were big improvements on the outgoing model. Firstly, it looks the part.
Mercedes-Benz says the GLA has ‘dynamic proportions’ which ‘make the new GLA compact and functional nonetheless. As a compact SUV, it fits in nearly any open space and yet has room for your entire life.’
It’s 10cm taller than the previous version, as well as being wider, to accommodate adult passengers in comfort. And while it’s actually shorter than the old car, the wheelbase has grown, which means Mercedes-Benz has again been able to improve the space in the interior.
Knee room in the back has expanded by 11cm, for example, and there’s ample width to sit three grown-ups in the back side to side. Initially there were five efficient engines up for grabs - two petrol and three diesel mills. But a plug-in hybrid was soon introduced - the ‘250e’ - which has 218 PS of power and can return up to 201 miles to the gallon.
Another big improvement to the GLA was the addition of Mercedes-Benz new MBUX - or ‘Mercedes-Benz User Experience’, infotainment system, which comes with dual 7 inch screens as standard but can be specced up to 10 inch.
It’s voice activated - you wake it up by saying ‘Hey Mercedes’ - and also uses artificial intelligence to learn your personal preferences, such as taking note of your favourite radio stations and remembering the different routes you like to use.
Meanwhile there’s a ton of equipment included with the GLA as standard - from an electric tailgate to LED headlamps, a reversing camera, aluminium roof rails and heated front seats. All in all, you’re getting an accomplished and extensive package for your cash.
Okay, strap yourself in and prepare to take notes - because this is where things start getting complicated. There are, essentially, six model lines available with the Mercedes-Benz GLA: Sport, Sport Executive, AMG Line, AMG Line Executive, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus. All are married to either an 8-speed or 7-speed auto gearbox.
In standard ‘Sport’ trim you get 18 inch alloys, heated front seats with three settings, keyless-go starting function, as well as Active Brake Assist, Attention Assist to monitor fatigue and Active Lane Keeping Assist.
And all GLA’s also get a quirky ‘Car wash’ mode function – where exterior mirrors fold in, side windows and sliding roof close, windscreen wipers remain switched off and the climate control switches to air-recirculation mode automatically.
Moving up the range from Sport to AMG Line Premium Plus you can expect bigger infotainment screens, 19 inch alloys, illuminated door sills, augmented reality sat nav, an ‘Off Road’ package that includes Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) and a tilting panoramic glass sunroof.
On top of that initial line-up you’ve also got an ‘Exclusive Edition’ which has, among other things, AMG bodystyling, privacy glass and metallic paint as standard. Just to confuse matters, the ‘Exclusive Edition’ also comes in three guises - standard, ‘Premium’ and ‘Premium Plus’, with the range topping model featuring multi-beam LED headlamps as well as the panoramic glass sunroof
Those models span a price range from £31,460 to £42,995. But then you’ve also got a souped-up version of the GLA courtesy of Mercedes-AMG.
Here you can have the AMG GLA 35, which has 306 hp on tap and will cost you from £43,565. Or, should you feel the need for more speed, you can opt for the AMG GLA 45, which boasts 421 hp and can be placed on your driveway for just £58,775.
Getting back to the regular Mercedes-Benz GLA line-up, there’s a good range of engines available, from a 1.3 litre 136hp petrol, to a more gutsy 2.0 litre diesel with up to 190 hp.
Meanwhile the plug-in hybrid engine - the 250e - is only available as part of the Exclusive Edition package.
There really should be a GLA engine to cater for most tastes. At the lower end of the scale you’ve got the GLA 180 - a 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an output of 163 hp and 250 Nm. This mill will accelerate you to 62mph in 9.6 seconds.
The GLA 250 uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine which can generate up to 224 hp and 350 Nm. The 250 will see the first 62mph dispatched in 6.9 seconds. The diesel-powered GLA 200 d – available in either two-wheel or all-wheel-drive - has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of producing 150 hp and 320 Nm and an acceleration speed of 8.6 seconds.
Moving up a notch, the GLA 220 d has a 2.0-litre diesel engine with an output of 190 hp and 400 Nm. And the 220d will get you down the road with an acceleration time of 0-62mph in just 7.3 seconds.
The hybrid 250e - which marries a 1.3 litre petrol engine to a 102 hp electric motor - will cover the first 62mph in 7.1 seconds.
Meanwhile the performance-enthused Mercedes-AMG GLA really ratchets-up the pace.
The top dog GLA 45 4MATIC+ S will do the 0-62mph sprint in just 4.3 seconds thanks to its 416 hp, while the 302 hp GLA 35 hits 62mph with a slightly slower time of 5.2 seconds.
As you might expect, the plug-in hybrid 250e is the pick of the bunch when it comes to keeping your fuel bills low, returning up to 201 miles to the gallon. It’ll also fully recharge when plugged into a domestic wall socket in just 5 hours and 30 minutes. With CO? emissions of 26 g/km or less, it’s plenty environmentally friendly.
The 220d is also particularly frugal, delivering up to 52 mpg in non-all-wheel-drive form. In terms of CO2 emissions, the 220d emits 121 g/km. Meanwhile the 224 bhp, 2.0 litre ‘250’ petrol engine returns up to 37 miles to the gallon while emitting 140 g/km of CO2.
Again, as you no doubt expect, the AMG versions are much thirstier. The AMG 45 will achieve between 29.7–28.8 mpg, while the AMG 35 returns slightly more at between 29.7–28.8 mpg.
All things considered, the GLA boasts one of the best interiors in its class, providing that winning mix of comfort, sophistication and intuitive tech. As mentioned previously, the new MBUX system is a cut above the rest, providing all the apps you’d ever need to your fingertips - although entry level models don’t feature Apple Car Play or Android Auto.
Meanwhile you’ll have to opt for one of the Sport Executive models to get smartphone integration wireless charging and the 10.25-inch dual screens as standard.
Sport Executive also improves on the base Sport models with the addition of electrically-folding mirrors and automatically dimming driver’s side mirror and rear view mirror.
AMG Line interiors feature AMG floor mats, brushed stainless steel sports pedals, metal gearshift paddles, sport seats, and a three-spoke multifunction sport steering wheel in Nappa leather with a flattened bottom section.
AMG Line Premium adds ambient lighting, an upgraded sound system, illuminated door sills and augmented reality sat-nav to the mix.
The Exclusive Editions feature a host of extra goodies such as more comfortable and adjustable seats. Meanwhile the range topping AMG GLA 45 has swathes of leather, carbon fibre-like trim, and performance seats.
Let’s start with the good. An electric tailgate comes as standard in all models and there’s a plethora of USB ports for all - including two in the rear for passengers to keep their gadgets charged.
There’s also a generous room to stow items in the interior, with door pockets that’ll swallow a couple of water bottles. There’s also an easy to use Isofix system in the rear and enough space to swallow a rear-facing child seat.
But while space in the boot exceeds that of the A-Class, the GLA falls short of rivals like the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3. The GLA boasts a 435 litre trunk, while the X1 trumps that with 505 litres and the Q3 leads the way with a 530 litre boot. It is, though, more spacious than the Volvo XC40's 432 litre boot.
Should you want to add a cycle rack, it’ll set you back an extra £120, while a full roof box is an additional £430.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA scores the full five stars in the NCAP safety ratings, scoring high for both adult and child occupant safety. And the GLA also isn’t shy when it comes to driver assistance and safety measures.
As standard there’s a forward collision warning system with autonomous braking intervention, tech that monitors how tired you are, Active Lane Keeping Assist to stop you straying over road markings, and Speed Limit Assist which detects the speed limit and displays it in the instrument cluster.
And there’s also something called the ‘Driving Assistance’ package, a £1,495 option available in conjunction with AMG Line Premium Plus. Here owners will enjoy Active Blind Spot Assist as well as Active Braking Assist with cross-traffic function to help to avoid accidents with vehicles ahead, crossing traffic and also pedestrians.
The package also comes with technology that stops you getting too close to the rear end of the car in front - preventing you from becoming a much-loathed tailgater.
And you also get Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Lane Changing Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Steering Assist, Evasive Steering Assist to ‘support the driver in making evasive manoeuvres’, and ‘PRE-SAFEPLUS’ which, when a rear-end collision threatens, can initiate preventive measures, including warning following traffic and locking the brakes on standstill.
If you like the colour white, then you’re in luck - because it’s the only paint option that doesn’t incur an additional cost. Any other colour barring ‘Polar White Non Metallic’ attracts a premium.
There are seven other paint schemes to choose from, including ‘Patagonia red’, ‘Denim blue’, and the range-topping ‘Mountain grey magno’, which will add a further £1,750 to the GLA’s bill.
Interior upholstery is fairly limited in the Sport/Sport Executive range, with black ‘Flerion’ fabric seats fitted as standard. But there’s plenty of choice with the ‘Exclusive Edition’ and AMG models, including two-tone black and red leather and ‘bahia’ brown.
There are seven different alloy wheels choices up for grabs, but just one 18 inch option and a choice of two 19 inch rims.
The small premium SUV market is a cluttered space indeed, and the GLA needs to get its elbows out to mix it with the likes of the Volvo XC40, the BMW X1 and X2, and the Audi Q3.
The XC40, for example, is a much cheaper option, with prices starting at around £25,000, but it can’t hold a candle to the GLA in terms of luxurious feel and interior space. There is, however, the option of the fully-electric ‘Recharge’ model with the Volvo, which might curry favour with eco-conscious buyers.
The BMW X2 is just as sharp-suited as the GLA, with prices here beginning at £30,415. Like the GLA, there’s also a plug-in hybrid model as well as blistering performance with the BMW X2 M35i.
Meanwhile it’s the Audi Q3 where the GLA will really lock horns. The accomplished, practical Q3 cost from £30,885 in base ‘Technik’ trim, and comes with a choice of two petrol and two diesel engines.
Range-topping Vorsprung models also boast Matrix LED headlights, 20 inch alloys, a 10.1 inch touchscreen, and the option of a 230 PS petrol engine.
With the GLA, then, you’re perhaps paying a premium for that supremely comfortable interior and ride quality.
In previous years, you might have looked at the GLA and likened it to an A-Class on steroids - an SUV that was desperately trying to disguise its hatchback underpinnings.
But with this year’s 2020 facelift, Mercedes-Benz has really nailed it, making huge improvements to the ride height and roominess, turning the GLA into something much more imposing and impressive on the road. Mercedes-Benz has thrown every gadget and gizmo they could at it, as standard, to make owning and driving the GLA more satisfying than ever.
The new MBUX infotainment system is a game-changer, too, with a clear and intuitive display allied to the sort of functionality to make rivals sit up and take notice.
Another major thing going for the GLA is its dizzying array of spec levels, trims and options. There really is an engine to serve most needs - particularly if you want to go like a bat out of hell in the AMG version.
And unless you need the load space the Audi Q3 can offer, the GLA should be well and truly on your shortlist.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top six leading independent car website reviews of the Mercedes GLA.
**Correct as of 21/10/2020. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £3,347.89 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.