Being Mercedes’ first compact crossover, the GLA has no direct antecedent in the brand’s family tree. The 4x4s further up the line-up could be considered close relatives in conceptual approach, particularly the GLK, a C-Class-based crossover unfamiliar to UK buyers because it is left-hand drive only, which has been replaced by the GLC.
Although Mercedes would prefer for you to think of the latest model as its fifth SUV, the GLA is a crossover in the purest sense.
Not only does it share its MFA platform with three conventional, predominantly five-door compact models, but it also uses the same engines and – only where applicable – much the same torque-on-demand all-wheel drive system.
You’d guess as much just from the way that the car looks. Despite a record of designing and building proper, rugged-looking SUVs, Mercedes has styled the GLA – with its potpourri of low glasshouse, slightly raised vehicle height, high beltline and large wheel arches – to be redolent of a generic modern crossover and a current compact Mercedes, declining the opportunity to create something tougher and more striking.
So if your impression is of an inflated, high-riding modern hatchback and not the fiendishly clever, compact G-Wagen that you might have been hoping for, you’re in the same camp as most of us at Autocar.