The GLA is taller than most conventional small family cars but it’s pretty dull to drive and its small windows mean it’s not particularly easy to see out of
You can get the Mercedes GLA with two diesel and three petrol engines including a 381hp turbo petrol in high-performance GLA 45 versions.
Pick the GLA 200 1.6-litre petrol model if you spend most time driving around town. It’s quieter and smoother than the diesels and doesn’t grumble when you accelerate. It’s also the cheapest engine to buy but only returns around 30mpg compared to Mercedes’ claimed 47.1mpg.
The GLA 200d 2.1-litre diesel will be a better bet if you do lots of motorway miles. It’s not quite as smooth and not as quiet as the petrol but it’ll have no trouble keeping up with fast-moving motorway traffic. Mercedes claims it’ll return 67.3mpg but you can expect to see around 55mpg in normal driving conditions.
More powerful 220d diesel and 250 petrol models come with four-wheel-drive as standard for a little extra grip in slippery conditions but they’re more expensive to buy and will cost noticeably more to run than two-wheel-drive models.
The GLA might look like an A-Class wearing high heels but it’s actually slightly more comfortable to travel in than its low-slung cousin
They do, however, come with an automatic gearbox as standard. This seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box is a £1,600 extra in 200 and 200d versions but well worth the extra cash – it’s smoother and easier to use than the annoying standard manual gearbox and helps take the stress out of long drives and stop-start traffic.
If you’re looking for sports-car thrills from your small SUV, there’s only one model that fits the bill – the AMG-tuned GLA 45. This high-performance crossover shares its 381hp turbocharged petrol engine with the A45 hot hatch and can sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.4 seconds – that’s almost as fast as a BMW M3. It will set you back more than £46,000, however.
The Mercedes GLA is taller than most small family cars so you get a slightly better view out over the road ahead. Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. Its sweeping roofline and the thick pillars between the front doors and windscreen create a sizeable blindspot at junctions.
On the plus side, its controls are very light and you get a reversing camera as standard so it’s not particularly difficult to park. You can even get a £675 system called Park Pilot that’ll steer you into parallel and bay spaces and a 360-degree surround-view camera system for £330.
The GLA’s raised ride height means it’s slightly more comfortable than the A-Class on which it’s based. It irons out potholes fairly well at slow speeds and doesn’t wallow or bounce over bumps on the motorway.
You’ll hear a little more tyre noise in the Mercedes than in either the Audi Q3 or BMW X1 but it’s still pretty relaxing to drive for long periods – especially with the optional Driving Assistance pack. This £1,695 option is well worth the extra cash, especially if you’re a high-mileage driver. It comes with blind spot warning, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control that’ll adjust the car’s speed to maintain a safe distance to other cars before returning to a preset speed when the road’s clear.
The GLA earned a five-star safety rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP back in 2014 but these assessments have been made much stricter since then. For a little extra peace of mind, the Driving Assistance pack also comes with automatic emergency braking that’ll attempt to stop the car automatically if it senses an obstacle ahead.