Currently reading: First ride: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA prototype
We strap in for an early look of the upcoming A-Class-based compact crossover and to experience its off-road credentials

Mercedes isn't a car maker that we automatically associate with compact cars, such as this latest Mercedes GLA. We should, though.

Almost every fourth car it has sold worldwide in 2019 so far is a compact car – technically identified by the fact that it uses a transverse engine and offers the choice of either front or four-wheel drive.

The success of its small cars in many global markets – including the UK – over recent years was behind a decision by Mercedes earlier this decade to expand its line-up to the point where it presently offers seven different models off its latest small car platform, the MFA II.

The latest is the Mercedes GLB, which adds a new dimension to the line-up with seven-seat capability next to the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, A-Class Saloon, Mercedes-Benz B-Class, Mercedes-Benz CLA and CLA Shooting Brake.

95 Mercedes gla prototype ride 2019 cornering front

Now the firm is preparing to introduce an eighth model in the form of the second-generation GLA. The new five-seat crossover is a vitally important car for the company; since its launch in 2014, almost one million examples of the original model have been sold worldwide.

Looking to garner an even greater slice of the premium small SUV market against popular rivals such as Audi Q2 and BMW X2, Mercedes plans to offer the new GLA with the choice of three different powertrains: petrol, diesel and petrol-electric plug-in hybrid. 

We’re still a few weeks away from seeing the new GLA, which will be shown by Mercedes boss Ola Källenius in an online presentation. But ahead of that event, we were given the chance to sample a near-production prototype in a run around an off-road obstacle course at Mercedes' Rastatt plant. The model is currently undergoing pilot production here, ahead of the first UK cars arriving in the second quarter of 2020.

Initial impressions back up what earlier scoop images of the new GLA suggested: that it has been given more upright styling in a bid to provide it with greater interior accommodation, added versatility and a slightly larger boot.


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Mercedes confirms the new model is almost 20mm shorter than its 4424mm-long predecessor. Despite this, the wheelbase has been extended by 30mm to 2729mm, endowing it with greater rear leg room and the scope for an adjustable rear seat similar to that already offered as an option in the B-Class and GLB.

94 Mercedes gla prototype ride 2019 cornering rear

The biggest change in overall dimensions, however, comes with the height. It has been increased by almost 100mm, giving the GLA less of a hatchback-on-stills optic in favour of a more dedicated crossover appearance. It also helps to provide greater head room, especially in the rear, which is now considerably roomier than before.

Inside, the new GLA combines elements from both the A-Class and GLB. With clear and precise digital instruments, a touchscreen infotainment system housed with a single panel and 64-colour ambient lighting, it's big on upmarket appeal. Standard equipment includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, speed limit assistance, driver attention monitoring and keyless ignition.

With our time in the new GLA limited to an off-road course at low speeds, we can’t tell you much about its character just yet. What we can confirm, though, is that it's capable of going places most prospective owners will never consider taking it.

As with other new Mercedes compact models, its optional 4Matic four-wheel drive system has been re-engineered to offer fully variable apportioning of power to either the front or rear wheels. Traction on slippery surfaces is obviously a key strength, allowing it to climb and descend tricky obstacles without much trouble at all.

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Despite Mercedes' insistence on showcasing the GLA's off-road ability, though, it will only be offered with standard bodywork. A more rugged variant in the style of the company’s All-Terrain models isn't on the cards, according to Mercedes representative Markus Nast. He says the new model, which goes under the internal codename H247, will be available exclusively with a standard or, in combination with an AMG bodykit, lowered ride height.

90 Mercedes gla prototype ride 2019 gk talking

The engines for the new GLA mirror those of the other Mercedes compact models. Exclusively four-cylinder, they include 1.3-litre and 2.0-litre petrols delivering 163bhp and 225bhp, plus a 1.5-litre diesel with 114bhp and a pair of 2.0-litre diesels developing 148bhp and 187bhp.

Standard GLA models will retain front wheel drive, while gearboxes are set to be a six-speed manual and a seven-speed automatic Getrag or eight-speed dual-clutch Mercedes unit, depending on the engine. 

A new GLA 250e EQ Power plug-in hybrid will join the new GLA line-up shortly after the beginning of sales in the UK next summer. It uses the same powertrain as the recently introduced A250e EQ Power, with a 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and gearbox-mounted electric motor developing a combined 215bhp. With a 15.6kWh lithium ion battery mounted underneath the rear seat, it's expected to provide an electric-only range of more than 40 miles on the WLTP test cycle.

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Also planned for sale during the second half of 2020 are three 2.0-litre four-cylinder AMG models: the 306bhp GLA 35 4Matic, 387bhp GLA 45 4Matic and 415bhp GLA 45 S 4Matic.

Autocar can also reveal the new compact crossover also forms the basis of the electric Mercedes EQA. Set for launch in 2021, it will challenge the likes of the Volkswagen ID 3 with a range that insiders put at more than 300 miles.

As with the original GLA, the new model will be produced alongside the A-Class and B-Class in Germany, although additional production will take place in Beijing for the Chinese market.  


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New Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 and GLA 45 prototypes spotted

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m2srt 14 November 2019

Wasn't this model supposed to

Wasn't this model supposed to be launched quite a while back but was held back due to WLTP conformity?
si73 14 November 2019

Looks pretty capable on that

Looks pretty capable on that off road course, that steep down hill must be quite daunting from the passenger seat.
Another traveller 14 November 2019

Autocar wrote:

Autocar wrote:

the height. It has been increased by almost 100mm,

Why?! Isn't that what the GLB is for?