What is it?
The entry-level version of the new Mercedes GLA crossover – and an interesting car for all sorts of reasons, not least because its price positioning puts it in direct competition with the most expensive launch version of the new Nissan Qashqai – one of our highest-rated introductions of 2014.
The new GLA’s closest rivals are the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, but the Nissan Qashqai comparison will be much more helpful if you’re seeking to classify this car. This is a crossover hatchback, not a compact SUV. It has up to 185mm of ground clearance, but the silhouette and driving position of a fairly large family five-door rather than of a typical 4x4 or station wagon.
While other parts of the world get a turbocharged 1.6-litre GLA200 petrol as a feed-in model, Mercedes’ UK distributor has declined to offer that car, and will instead use the GLA200 CDI to kick off with. Available in ‘SE’ and ‘AMG Line’ trim, and with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearboxes, all versions of the GLA200 CDI will emit 119g/km of CO2 until the 4Matic four-wheel drive versions go on sale later this year.
Power comes from a detuned version of the same 2143cc turbodiesel used in the GLA220 CDI, which makes 134bhp and 221lb ft of torque. That mirrors the powertrain line-up of the smaller Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback, but not of the larger Mercedes-Benz B-Class hatchback or the Mercedes-Benz CLA saloon, which use a harder-worked 1796cc turbodiesel to produce the same peak outputs for their ‘200 CDI’ derivatives.
When asked the question, a Mercedes spokesman couldn’t easily explain why two different engines occupy the same notional space in related model ranges, but suggested it was connected to specific demand-defining conditions in various global markets.
There will be no 109bhp 1.6-litre GLA180 CDI since, Mercedes claims, there’s no established demand for such an economy-minded car from a premium brand.