Mercedes-Benz uses the GL prefix for its extensive range of SUV vehicles with the third character in the name indicating the passenger car model on which it’s based. So GLA is based on the A-Class, GLB on the B-Class, etc.
The GLA was first sold here in 2014 with the latest update arriving in July with a more characteristic SUV look than the previous hatch-like model. It is taller, wider and has a longer wheelbase but is actually shorter in overall length with shorter overhangs.
This together with some protective cladding, a subtle power dome on the bonnet and optional AWD give it a more rugged look and some moderate off-road credentials.
Two models are available now, GLA 200 and GLA 250, with two high-performance Mercedes-AMG variants, GLA 35 and GLA 45 S to follow later this year.
The extra 122 mm of body height ensures that there will be plenty of headroom, front and rear, for all but the tallest of passengers. Even with the standard panoramic sunroof in the GLA 250 that we tested we were able to raise the driver’s seat to its highest setting and still have plenty of overhead clearance.
The reduced length is more than compensated by the longer wheelbase with rear seat legroom increased by 114 mm.
The dashboard is dominated by twin 10.25-inch colour screens that butt up against each other within the same chrome surround to give the impression of a single screen that spans about half the width of the car.
The left hand screen has the Central Display Touchscreen with a wide range of entertainment and information features. The right hand screen behind the steering wheel is the Instrument Cluster Display.
There are five turbo-style ventilation outlets in the front and two in the rear.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The new Mercedes-Benz GLA comes with the choice of two quite different drivetrains. Both have turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines. The GLA 200 has a 1.3-litre unit with outputs of 120 kW and 250 Nm while the GLA 250 gets 165 kW and 350 Nm from its 2.0-litre engine.
The GL 200 is front-wheel drive with a seven-speed 7G-DCT automatic transmission. The GLA 250 has 4MATIC all-wheel-drive and an 8G-DCT eight-speed auto.
A previous diesel option was dropped at the end of 2019.
The gear selector is the familiar stalk behind the steering wheel set-up. Not a feature that we like but no doubt owners will adapt easily enough. One that we do like is that whenever the driver’s side door is opened and ‘park’ was not been selected it is automatically set and the parking brake activated.
The GLA 250 4MATIC’s AWD system includes Benz’s Off-Road Engineering Package for improved traction on slippery surfaces as well as hill descent control.
Standard equipment in both GLA models includes nine airbags; Active Brake Assist with semi-autonomous braking; Active Lane Keep Assist; Blind Spot Assist with exit warning assistant; Cross Wind Assist; Traffic Sign Assist; Pre-Safe accident anticipatory system; and automatic de-activation of the front passenger airbag when the seat is not occupied.
An optional Driving Assistance Package adds Active Lane Change Assist; Active Distance Assist; and Route Based Speed Adaptation.
The MBUX infotainment system can be controlled through the touchscreen or the touchpad in the centre console as well as by voice commands.
The Mercedes me system provides a link between a smartphone and the car’s large number of connected services for assistance with satellite navigation, safety and service, and comfort.
Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and DAB+ Digital Radio are all standard.
Covid-19 restrictions meant that we were limited to a one-day test of a single version of the new Mercedes-Benz GLA in lieu of the usual extended media launch. Our car was the 250 4MATIC which is primarily driven through the front wheels
The extra height makes entry into the compact GLA much easier than before helped by the doors that reach over the sills, a feature that also provides extra impact protection in a side collision.
The ergonomically-designed sport seats in the GLA 250 are comfortable and supportive.
Around town the higher driving height and stockier body makes it more practical and easier to park although these same features do detract slightly from the sportiness of the outgoing sleeker model.
Steering is very precise while the suspension is firm without being uncomfortable. Throttle response is fast and smooth with gear changing all but seamless through the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
On our brief test we averaged 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres compared to the listed 7.5 L/100km. We’ll get a better idea when we conduct our week-long test.
The new GLA now looks much more like an SUV than before. It drives well and has a long list of features although, as is the case with most premium brands, many of them only come within a series of option packages.
For a limited time, the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 and GLA 250 4MATIC can be specified with the exclusive Edition 1 package, which has additional features as well as several distinctive cosmetic enhancements including a number from AMG.
AT A GLANCE
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200: $55,100
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 Edition 1: $62,090
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250: $66,500
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 Edition 1: $72,490
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC 2.0-litre turbo-petrol five-door wagon)
Capacity: 1.991 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 165 kW @ 5500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 350 Nm @ 1800 rpm
Fuel Type: Premium unleaded
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.5 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 170 g/km
DRIVELINE: Eight-speed automatic
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4417 mm
Wheelbase: 2729 mm
Width: 1834 mm
Height: 1615 mm
Turning Circle: Not provided
Kerb Mass: 1525 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 51 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Five years / unlimited kilometres