We don’t know who made the decision, probably close to a decade ago now, not to engineer the 2008 Mercedes GLK – Daimler’s original compact SUV – for right-hand drive, but we can assume he’s no longer in his job.

It’s true that back then it would have been hard to foresee the surge in interest in these upmarket, relatively affordable, added-practicality family cars that has come to pass.

But these cars have become vital to brands such as Mercedes and are equally popular in places such as the UK, Australia, South Africa and Japan as they are elsewhere.

By failing to spend a relatively small sum to re-engineer a four-wheel drive system back then, Mercedes must have missed out on a much larger windfall of sales since. An oversight? Yeah, just a small one.

The new Mercedes GLC, the GLK’s successor, corrects that oversight and gives us Brits a Mercedes to rival the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Porsche Macan, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Range Rover Evoque and Jaguar F-Pace.

All of a sudden, in a class where choice was once limited, there’s now an abundance of it.

Curvaceous styling, active and passive safety, refinement and 4x4 capability are the reasons why  Mercedes is hoping you’ll opt for the GLC. They further enhanced this theory by following their Bavarian rival's by producing coupé shaped SUVs to rival the BMW X4 and X6, in the shape of the GLC and GLE Coupé.

Built on adapted C-Class underpinnings, the GLC is the only full-size SUV in the Mercedes’ model line-up produced in Europe (excluding the A-Class-based GLA crossover and super-niche G-Class).

Available in other markets in four-cylinder petrol and plug-in hybrid forms, the GLC comes to us with four-cylinder diesel power only, while permanent four-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic gearbox are standard and height-adjustable air suspension is an option.

Mercedes says the latter is a unique selling point in the class. It’s not, but the car isn’t without other lures to tempt new customers in from the cold.

Top 5 Crossovers

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Citroën C4 Grand Picasso
    First Drive
    26 August 2016
    The Citroën Grand C4 Picasso gets tweaked styling, improved tech and new personalisation options to keep it ahead of rivals
  • Car review
    26 August 2016
    Wolfsburg celebrates the GTI’s 40th with its most extreme version yet
  • Kia Optima Sportwagon
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    New Kia estate looks the part, has good space and handles tidily, but its engine's flexibility and refinement let it down
  •  Kia Optima PHEV
    First Drive
    25 August 2016
    Plug-in hybrid Optima is a practical, tax-efficient PHEV that undercuts rivals and fulfils its main remit well, but keen drivers need not apply
  • Lamborghini Huracán LP610-4 Spyder
    First Drive
    24 August 2016
    Awful driving position aside, drop-top Huracán handles UK roads well. It's more dynamically rounded than its rangemates, but lacks rivals' handling bite