Rivalling the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque, the production GLA closely follows the Concept GLA seen just four months ago. It will go on sale in the UK in December ahead the first deliveries early next year.
It is the fourth member of Mercedes’ new small compact family based on its front/all-wheel drive MFA platform, joining the A-class, B-class and CLA. The MFA line-up will be completed next year with the launch of a shooting brake version of the CLA.
The looks of the Concept GLA have been toned down for the production car, particularly at the front and rear ends and with some of the surfacing. But the result is still one of the sportiest and most dynamic-looking cars in the class, with a look clearly in line with the rest of the models in the MFA family.
It is 4417mm long, 1805mm wide and 1494mm high, which makes it slightly longer, narrower and lower than the concept version. The dimensions closely match those of its big three premium compact crossover rivals. It is also 125mm longer than the A-class on which it is based, the pair sharing the same 2699mm wheelbase.
In the UK, the GLA will be offered with a range of transverse four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines equipped with either front or four-wheel drive.
Front-wheel-drive models include a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol with 154bhp in the base GLA200 and a 134bhp 1.8-litre turbodiesel in the GLA200 CDI.
Engines offered with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive system include a 168bhp 2.1-litre turbodiesel in the GLA220 CDI and a 208bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol in the range-topping GLA250.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on the front-wheel-drive models and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic on the all-wheel-drive variants. The automatic is optional with the front-wheel-drive models.
The 4Matic all-wheel drive system defaults to a front-wheel drive set-up in normal conditions, but it can send up to 50 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels when driving conditions require it.
The take-up for all-wheel drive is expected to be as many as eight out of 10 buyers in the UK, compared with about seven out of 10 buyers in Europe opting for front-wheel drive. About three-quarters of GLAs sold in the UK are expected to be diesel.
As with the other MFA models, fuel economy figures are expected to be impressive. The most frugal model, the GLA200 CDI, is tipped to average 65.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of 114g/km.
The usual array of fuel-saving tech features, such as automatic stop-start, make it on to the GLA, but its aerodynamic body also plays a role in its fuel-sipping ability. Features such as active radiator grille shutters and a streamlined body result in a drag coefficient figure of 0.29.
Inside, the GLA adopts a significantly higher driving position than the A-class’s. The seat height in the A-class is 276mm and in the GLA it is 549mm. The look of the cabin is instantly recognisable from the other MFA cars, with the three circular central air vents, centre console design, infotainment screen, steering wheel and instrument binnacle all carried over from the A-class, B-class and CLA.
The cabin has five seats and the rear-most three can be folded flat and reclined. The boot space is a maximum of 421 litres with the rear seats up, rising to 836 litres with the rear seats folded down.
The GLA does have some off-road ability, although it’s likely to be far short of the Evoque’s. But with four-wheel drive and features such as all-round body cladding and an under-ride guard, the GLA has typical SUV traits. Mercedes says the GLA can cope with sandy or loose surfaces and sharp gradients.
A Downhill Speed Regulation function is standard on all-wheel-drive versions. As the name suggests, this helps the driver control the speed on sharper downhill gradients. The transmission also has an off-road mode, which alters shift points and throttle characteristics. Models with an infotainment screen can also view an off-road display with real-time transmission information.
A whole host of safety features are offered on the GLA, including the drowsiness-detecting Attention Assist, a Collision Prevention Assist that works from 4mph, and a more advanced Collision Prevention Assist Plus system that, in combination with the optional Distronic Plus cruise control, provides autonomous braking at speeds of up to 124mph. This system can also prevent rear-end collisions and collisions into stationary vehicles at low speeds.
The GLA is also well stocked for infotainment features, with full iPhone integration, internet connectivity, apps such as Facebook and Twitter, and street view on the navigation system all offered.
Standard equipment on the base SE trim is likely to include 18-inch alloy wheels, comfort suspension and DAB digital radio. An AMG Sport version is set to be the range-topper, with sports suspension and 19-inch alloy wheels.