Where once it was a bit of a niche-busting oddity, the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 is now an entirely legitimate proposition if judged with the perspective of the wider market.
Back in 2014, when the outgoing car was launched, the European SUV boom was - although firmly on the radar - in its relative infancy. Performance SUVs, particularly smaller ones, were a novelty. The GLA 45 went up against the characterful Audi RS Q3 and (bar the larger, slightly pricier Porsche Macan) not much else.
Now everybody's at it. BMW's sporting division has given the M-lite treatment to the X2, Volkswagen has the T-Roc R and there are countless others. The formula was so successful with Seat's Ateca Cupra that an entirely separate performance brand was launched off the back of it. There's a clear appetite for a category that many enthusiasts continue to sneer at today.
Back to the car at hand. As we saw with our first UK drive of the standard, second-generation Mercedes-Benz GLA, this is now a fully fledged compact SUV rather than an Mercedes-Benz A-Class that’s been hanging around the gym too often. It can now match the RS Q3 on practicality terms as well as performance. But does that size increase dampen its appeal relative to the smaller, lighter Mercedes-AMG A 45?
Let's get the elephant in the room out early: the GLA 45 is a long way from a value offering. Its £59k base price is enough to raise eyebrows, but our European-spec left-hand-drive test car (driven in the UK, with international launches not on the cards for now) featured the German equivalent of the Plus pack. That's a £6000 fee for an extra inch of wheel diameter (now 21s), the aero-boosting bodykit, multibeam LED headlights, an upgraded hi-fi, electric sports seats and additional driver assist tech.