We’re aware that’s somewhat faint praise – and deliberately so. Because dynamically, as well as in other ways, the GLA isn’t quite the distinguished crossover hatch that it ought to be.
In fact, it’s quite a way off the standards set by the true benchmark crossovers and compact 4x4s of this size and price. Whether you’re looking for real poise and response (Ford Kuga, CX-5), refinement and comfort (Q3, Honda CR-V) or just an expertly balanced compromise of both (Qashqai), chances are that you’ll be a bit unimpressed by the generally soft but still slightly brittle, run-of-the-mill way that the GLA conducts itself on most roads.
In isolation, it seems more than acceptable. There’s a consistent, well weighted steering system here, a reasonable balance of grip for cornering and a suspension tune with the compliance to deal comfortably enough with a bad surface. Roll control is also decent enough.
The GLA’s decent balance of grip makes it quite wieldy right up to the edge of adhesion, where a lot of equally high-sided cars default to understeer. Mercedes’ ESP system is more intrusive than many, though.
Turn off the stability control and the handing is quite mobile at the rear wheels when you lift off the accelerator in wet conditions, but it is still controllable. Strong traction and good steering authority allow you to drive the car quickly, even after it starts to slide.