Mercedes GLA

Mercedes GLA review

The Mercedes GLA is a premium compact SUV that offers high levels of comfort and refinement, while on-board tech is good too

Mercedes has refined the GLA in all the right places. Compared to the original model, it’s more practical, offers advanced driver-assistance tech and is a comfortable place in which to travel. When you add in a strong range of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains, plus powerful AMG versions, along with the improved quality of materials throughout the cabin, the GLA has noticeably come of age.

Despite these obvious plus points, the downside is that the GLA is pricey compared to the competition and, if you make the decision to purchase, the running costs are also a little steep. However, it remains a genuine contender for families seeking a small, premium SUV.

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About the Mercedes GLA

The first Mercedes GLA SUV was launched in 2014 to a rather modest fanfare. Although it was a supposed premium product, designed to take on the likes of the BMW X1, Volvo XC40 and Audi Q3, it fell short in a number of key areas. The interior was a little cramped, the ride wasn’t particularly comfortable and the bland styling didn’t inspire a sense of desirability.

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It was telling that the original GLA design was often referred to as just an ‘A-Class on stilts’, which points directly to the perception of it as more of a high-riding hatch than a well-rounded compact SUV. This time around, the car gets a more individual design to set it apart from the A-Class and it feels more like a fully fledged SUV, just like its rivals do.

Mercedes has clearly decided to challenge that perception with the second-generation GLA. It’s a full 11cm taller than the previous model and, with the wheelbase extended by 30mm, the manufacturer claims there’s now more interior space. There’s also a bigger boot which means the GLA can compete on a practical level with the rivals mentioned above, while providing more load space than the Mazda CX-30, Lexus UX and even the Range Rover Evoque. We think it delivers a great all-round package and named the GLA our 2022 Small Premium SUV of the Year.

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Performance is well taken care of with a range of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engine options, although the 134bhp 180 and 221bhp 250 petrol versions are no longer available on the GLA price list.

The 161bhp GLA 200 is powered by a 1.3-litre petrol unit, while those completing higher mileages might want to opt for one of the 2.0-litre diesels: the GLA 200 d with 148bhp, or the GLA 220 d which produces 187bhp. The 220 d comes with with Mercedes’ 4Matic four-wheel-drive system as standard, and all cars use an eight-speed automatic transmission, with the exception of the GLA 200 which has a seven-speed auto ‘box.

The most efficient GLA is the 250 e plug-in hybrid, which combines 1.3-litre petrol power with an electric motor to deliver a total output of 215bhp. High-mileage drivers may still be better off with a diesel as once the battery is flat the GLA 250 e has similar running costs to a normal petrol model. Meanwhile, the Mercedes EQA is heavily based on the GLA and is fully electric, yet costs not much more than the plug-in hybrid GLA 250 e.

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Mercedes hasn’t forgotten those who desire plenty of pace to go with the SUV practicality, however. At the top of the GLA range sits the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 with 302bhp and the extreme 415bhp GLA 45 S, both using a 2.0-litre petrol powerplant and turning in some serious performance figures.

Starting with the Sport Executive models, the range moves through AMG Line Executive to the bolder-looking AMG Line Premium and Premium Plus Night Edition cars, while the Mercedes-AMG variants boast further luxury kit and specific trim and tech enhancements.

Used and nearly new

The Mercedes GLA went on sale in November 2013 as a jacked-up and slightly more rugged A-Class. A facelift in 2017 made it feel more like a compact SUV, but the GLA came of age in 2020 with the launch of the improved Mk2 version.

Mercedes GLA history

Mercedes has refined the GLA in all the right places. Compared to the original model, it’s more practical, offers advanced driver-assistance tech and is a comfortable place in which to travel. When you add in a strong range of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains, plus powerful AMG versions, along with the improved quality of materials throughout the cabin, the GLA has noticeably come of age.

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The first Mercedes GLA SUV was launched in 2014 to a rather modest fanfare. Although it was a supposed premium product, designed to take on the likes of the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, it fell short in a number of key areas. The interior was a little cramped, the ride wasn’t particularly comfortable and the bland styling didn’t inspire a sense of desirability. It was telling that the original GLA design was often referred to as just an ‘A-Class on stilts’.

 Mercedes GLA review - Engines, performance and drive

The GLA comes with a choice of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engines, while the Mercedes-AMG versions offer plenty of performance

Mercedes has ensured that the GLA delivers premium levels of comfort and refinement. The SUV’s extra ride height and additional suspension travel, compared to the A-Class hatchback, means that it soaks up road imperfections easily and offers a comfortable drive.

The inevitable trade-off is that the GLA isn’t the most engaging steer, although if you fancy your compact SUV with a bit more shove, then there's always the Mercedes-AMG models to consider.

The GLA employs the second generation of Mercedes’ Modular Front-wheel-drive Architecture (MFA2 platform), which is also able to incorporate the manufacturer’s 4Matic four-wheel-drive system. This can send 50 per cent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels for extra grip, if needed.

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When we tested the GLA 220 d 4Matic we found it pulled strongly, with maximum torque achieved from just 1,600rpm. The eight-speed auto transmission works well and doesn’t hold onto revs too long before changing gear. There’s little engine drone and it all contributes to a quieter, more relaxed experience when pushing on than in the old GLA.

Both the entry-level GLA 180 (no longer on the GLA price list) and more expensive 200 versions use a 1.3-litre petrol engine, with 134bhp and 161bhp, respectively. The base car is able to deliver a 0-62mph dash of 9.6s and a maximum speed of 124mph, which is probably more than enough performance for most tastes.

However, moving up the range does add extra spice, with the GLA 200 trimming almost a full second off the 180’s sprint time, before motoring on to a 130mph top speed. The GLA 250 2.0-litre petrol variant no longer features on the GLA price list, although was the quickest car in the range below the AMG variants. With a potent 221bhp, it’s capable of 0-62mph in 6.9s and tops-out at 149mph.

Diesel power comes in the form of the 2.0-litre GLA 200 d and 220 d models, which offer good pace as well as improvements in CO2 emissions and fuel economy. The 148bhp 200 d is available with front-wheel-drive, completing 0-62mph in under nine seconds and offering a top speed approaching 130mph. The 187bhp GLA 220 d 4Matic is four-wheel-drive only, but is noticeably quicker, posting a sprint time of 7.3s.

If you’re after a mix of performance and superior economy, then Mercedes may have the answer in the shape of the GLA 250 e plug-in hybrid. It uses a 1.3-litre petrol unit, along with an electric motor to achieve 215bhp and a 7.1s 0-62mph time.

Mercedes GLA review - MPG, CO2 and running costs

The GLA petrol plug-in hybrid version is the most efficient choice, but make no mistake, running any Mercedes isn’t cheap


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Mercedes has given customers a choice of refined petrol and diesel engines for its smallest SUV, but for those seeking the lowest running costs, the GLA 250 e plug-in hybrid model should be at the top of the list.

Priced from around £42,000, the 250 e offers a claimed all-electric range of around 38-39 miles, with combined fuel consumption of up to 201.8mpg. However, to achieve this impressive figure, you’ll need to ensure you keep the battery topped up and plug-in to recharge whenever possible. CO2 emissions of just 32g/km also mean there’s no first-year road tax to pay, while company car drivers will benefit from a low BiK tax rate.

Since the GLA was launched, Mercedes has also introduced the EQA. It’s a similar size and has many of the same styling cues as the GLA, while it doesn't cost too much more to buy than the plug-in hybrid model. The EQA manages up to 264 miles between charges and accelerates up to 62mph from a standstill in a reasonably brisk 8.9 seconds.

The petrol GLA 180 and 200 models both offer a maximum 42.8mpg on the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions from 151g/km. Opting for the more powerful GLA 250 means more time spent at the fuel station, as it only returns 37.2mpg. It’s CO2 emissions are also higher at 172g/km.

The diesel versions obviously perform better than their petrol counterparts in terms of economy - the 200 d achieves up to 53.3mpg. The 220 d is still reasonably competitive with a maximum of 50.4mpg, and CO2 emissions of 148g/km.

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Insurance groups

The entry-level GLA 180 Sport is in insurance group 27, so premiums are going to be on the high side. The 250 petrol variant is in group 36, while the Mercedes-AMG cars occupy groups 41 to 44.

Equally, there’ll be no insurance bargains if you opt for an oil-burner, with the base 200 d Sport in group 31. The top-spec 220 d AMG Line Premium Plus sits in group 37.

Depreciation

You’d expect sound residual values from a premium manufacturer such as Mercedes, and the GLA doesn't disappoint. Over an average ownership period of three-years and 36,000 miles, the GLA holds onto around 62 per cent of its original value. The plug-in hybrid model performs slightly better than average at around 67 per cent.

Mercedes GLA review - Interior, design and technology

Mercedes has brought the GLA bang-up-to-date with sharper styling and the latest on-board tech

The first-generation GLA didn’t really hit the mark for being the best-looking small SUV, and was missing the crucial sense of style that customers desire - particularly from a premium brand.

The revised car offers much more kerb appeal, with the interior including quality materials and a focus on a new digital environment. Outside of the Mercedes-AMG performance models, customers now have the choice of four core trim levels.

Sport Executive versions include 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a reversing camera and dual 10.25 digital screens - one controlling infotainment and the other a digital driver's display. Upgrading to AMG Line Executive adds 19-inch alloy wheels an AMG-styling kit, rear privacy glass and sports seats with upgraded upholstery.

Moving further up the price list brings Premium and Premium Plus Night Edition trim levels which include extras such as a park assist system, interior ambient lighting and a panoramic glass sunroof.

The GLA’s infotainment system is great. The built-in sat-nav can feature augmented reality if you tick the right box, which means it will overlay directional arrows onto a live picture of the view ahead displayed on the 10.25-inch touchscreen. It’s clever tech, but you have to take your eyes off the road to benefit from it, so it has its strengths and its flaws.

Of course, if you’d prefer you can use one of the standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functions. You’ll have to plug in your phone, but there is also wireless charging if you don’t use either of these functions.

Otherwise, the graphics on the Mercedes setup are super-sharp and the touchscreen responds quickly; you can use the touch-sensitive pad on the transmission tunnel, but it’s a bit tricky at times. The menu layout removes a lot of the complexity though, because it’s so simple to navigate.

Mercedes GLA review - Practicality, comfort and boot space

The GLA has grown into a genuine small SUV, with a bigger boot and a focus on increased comfort

As well as providing the GLA with a sharper look and new on-board tech, Mercedes has also focused on levels of comfort and practicality. The standard powered tailgate opens to reveal a larger boot space, while the seats are trimmed in Artico man-made leather - which is much easier to clean after travelling with the kids.

A reversing camera is offered on all cars to make parking manoeuvres that bit easier, while there’s also a keyless start function so you can get on the move with the minimum of fuss. Up front there are two cup-holders and a large central storage bin, along with USB ports to connect a smartphone.

Size

At 4,410mm in length, the second-generation GLA is slightly shorter than its predecessor, although it is 30mm wider. Where the new model has changed significantly is in its overall height, which has increased by 110mm to 1,611mm and gives the GLA a proper SUV stance.

For reference, the Volvo XC40 rival is a bigger car all-round with an overall length of 4,425mm, width of 1,863mm and standing 1,658mm tall.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Space up-front in the GLA is more than adequate, although rear-seat passengers may find things a bit tighter. Rear leg room is just about okay, but head room could be an issue due to the sloping roofline. The rear seat backs do recline though, which may offer some help in getting more comfortable.

Boot

The GLA petrol models have a 495-litre boot capacity, although the diesel versions offer ten litres less load space. We think it should just be enough to accommodate the luggage of a family of four. One downside if you opt for the 250 e plug-in hybrid is that its packaging means it only has a 445-litre boot.

Mercedes GLA review - Reliability and safety

Mercedes GLA customers should feel reassured by good levels of safety and decent reliability

The GLA finished in 58th place on a 75-car list in our 2022 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, down from 54th position in the previous year. Mercedes itself has showed signs of improvement in recent manufacturer polls, moving up from 2020's 28th place (out of 30 brands), to a more encouraging 13th spot in 2021. However, the upward movement was shortlived as the premium German automaker was back down to 23rd position in 2022.

Safety is an area where Mercedes customers can feel reassured. While the latest GLA hasn’t yet been safety tested by Euro NCAP, the A-Class hatchback scored five stars in 2018, with adult and child occupant protection receiving scores of 96 per cent and 91 per cent, respectively.

With lots of standard safety equipment, we would expect the new GLA to perform just as well. It includes kit such as a lane-keeping assist system, Active Brake Assist, cruise control, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers. The Premium Plus versions also feature Traffic Sign Assist which is able to recognise speed limits and road sign information and display them to the driver.

Warranty

Mercedes’ warranty is a three-year/unlimited-mileage package. This is identical to the package supplied with Land Rover and BMW models, but goes one better than the Audi warranty, which limits cover to three years and 60,000 miles.

Servicing

Mercedes offers its ServiceCare plans to help with scheduled servicing costs. Prices start from around £30 a month, and you can pay either in monthly payments, or as a one-off upfront fee.

autoexpress.co.uk

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