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Merc's first compact crossover might enter at the premium end of the class, but it faces tough competition from established entries like the Nissan Qashqai

It’s easier to take a brand downmarket than to move one upmarket.

That’s a long-accepted rule of marketing and one recently applied so widely in the car industry that every premium car maker is diversifying into niches that, a decade ago, they wouldn’t have dreamed of – or hadn’t yet dreamed up.

Mercedes' new compact SUV takes on the likes of the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q3

The likes of Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW would never admit that by introducing all-new smaller, cheaper models in greater numbers than larger, more expensive ones, they are moving downmarket. But that, over time, is precisely what’s happening.

The latest area seemingly ripe for expansion is the crossover SUV sector, which Mercedes-Benz is dropping into with this, the GLA – a car based on the same architecture as its A-Class hatch and CLA saloon. Call it necessity.

The old A-Class had a super-intelligent platform that allowed the car to be brilliantly and uniquely packaged; this one lets Mercedes make more models and more money. A theory Mercedes has applied to the GLC.

Those spawned models, though, haven’t entirely convinced us so far. Will the GLA prove to be any different? We’ve dedicated this review to finding out.

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