From £26,2208
Mercedes breaks the compact SUV mould with a car that has lots of impressive qualities and a distinguishing twist

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz GLA

This compact crossover has it all to do in a crowded, talented class

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 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 A-class hatchback, but not of the larger B-class hatchback or the 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.

What's it like?

Refined, economical, comfortable and pleasant – albeit not as practical and convenient as some.

Mercedes’ 2.1-litre diesel is a good choice for the GLA, offering a broader spread of peak torque than the 1.8 starting at slightly lower revs, and showing off much better manners under the bonnet of this compact crossover than it does in other applications.

The engine is a little bit clattery at idle and shudders slightly on restart, but is quiet and smooth at normal operating revs, and even revs with a commendable lack of coarseness. It responds more cleanly than the 1.8 too and, hitting peak torque at just 1400rpm, is seldom short on pulling power or insistent on a lower gear to negotiate a short climb or a typical motorway overtake.

Shift quality on the manual gearbox is light and slick, while the car steers precisely, with little effort necessary through the rim, but little feedback flowing through it either. It makes for a relaxed, easy-going driving experience complimented well by ride quality that’s much more supple and absorbent than we’ve found in any of Mercedes’ other new-generation compact cars.

‘Comfort’ suspension comes as standard on ‘SE’-grade cars, and it deals with bumpy and broken surfaces very calmly indeed. Even the ‘Sport’ suspension, fitted as standard to AMG Line models, allows the GLA a considerably better isolated cabin than any A-, B- or CLA-class model – as another test car proved.

The GLA’s driving position is recumbent by SUV standards, and its ride height and visibility relatively ordinary. That low profile makes for quite clean, balanced and wieldy handling; on the flipside of the equation, you’ll find more cabin- and boot space, and a higher access point, available elsewhere in the compact SUV class.

But you won’t find much better fuel economy. From a mixed route taking in mountain roads and motorway, our GLA200 CDI test car returned just over 50mpg. A class-leading drag coefficient and carbon emissions under the 120g/km marker put the car at least two ‘Benefit in Kind’ bands lower than the most fleet-friendly BMW X1 and Audi Q3.

Should I buy one?

Depends if you find the idea of a premium-brand crossover more appealing that that of a more upright compact SUV. This tester suspects many will, once they realise that the Mercedes GLA provides as much space and capability as they really need, combined with impressive performance, efficiency, quality and brand allure.

There’s certainly little wrong with this particular execution of Mercedes’ premium crossover concept, and plenty to like about a car we’d confidently describe as the best yet to come from Daimler’s new compact generation.

Mercedes GLA200 CDI

Price £25,795; 0-62mph 10.0sec; Top speed 127mph; Economy 62.8mpg; CO2 119g/km; Kerb weight 1505kg; Engine type 4cyls, 2143cc, turbodiesel; Power 134bhp at 3400rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 1400-3000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
12

20 February 2014
Sounds like a good all round package but would have to see how it looks in the flesh. Unconvinced by photos at the moment.

Common sense does not always prevail!

20 February 2014
I didn't like the GLA when I first saw the photos (and I'm still not convinced by the styling) but as a car it's growing on me a lot. It seems spacious and well made, rides properly and has sensible tyres (not rubber bands) but still handles well. It has also got a good manual gearbox (can't remember when I last heard such a compliment of a Mercedes manual transmission) and an under stressed diesel with excellent low down torque which will help economy. I even like the black plastic cladding which will shrug off parking scraps. I reckon Mercedes are missing a trick by not bringing in the small capacity petrol though - these cars will spend a lot of time in the town where petrol would be more suitable.

20 February 2014
With the state of UK roads getting worse by the week and a government only interested in throwing money at the banking execs & their cronies in the oil industry I thinking the roads are not going to improve any time soon. So this car should do well especially with it having 4WD.

 Offence can only be taken not given- so give it back!

20 February 2014
Not normally a fan of these cars but I would probably buy the merc.

Simply reason - it looks ok - but I would want the petrol version and do think Merc are missing a trick in not offering it. We would of waited for this car but with no petrol version its hopeless for my wife who does 5000 - 6000 miles a year. A diesel will be destroyed in 3 years of ownership as most her driving is under 10 miles.

20 February 2014
Gazza5 - there is a petrol one (well, two if you include the AMG) - the GLA250.

Personally I'd like to see a GLA250 CDI - it seems a shame not to put the more powerful diesel in the range as that'd probably give very decent performance and sensible fuel economy too.

20 February 2014
I strongly disagree with gazza5's view that a petrol car would be better for town use especially for short trips.

Diesel engines are far more efficient when cold compared to a petrol engine. The efficiency of a diesel engine remains virtually constant throughout it's load range unlike petrol that is very poor in stop start traffic and low speeds.

As for 3 years of 5k to 6k miles per annum destroying any diesel car that is plain wrong. A sister of mine has run a new BMW 118d coupe, motability, for over 2 years now and her total mileage is just over 5k in that time with no problems whatsoever and her trip to work and back of about 0.5 mile, four times a day, has caused no problems.

Mercedes is nor bringing the lower powered petrol version to the UK as very few people buy petrol cars in the UK anymore apart from the very small cheap cars where the additional cost of a diesel engine is a big percentage of the list price.

And those who still think that diesel cars produce too many particulates to be suitable for town use just need to look at the Euro 5 and 6 rules that show the limits are exactly the same for petrol and diesel with both being direct injection engines nowadays. Just look up which cities have the worlds worst particulate pollution, Beijing etc, and note that they have virtually no diesel cars on their roads.

maxecat

20 February 2014
So you've somehow missed all the literature on the problems of modern low mileage diesels? Diesel engines are becoming increasingly complex and expensive in order to comply with emissions regulations. Not everyone wants that complexity or additional expense to save a little fuel, plus there are higher NOx emissions and (admittedly subjective) refinement issues with diesels. I'm not surprised your sister isn't having any problems with that little mileage, and probably won't in the time she has the car, but if she ran the car for long enough there is the significant risk of the DPF becoming blocked because it never has a chance to regenerate (actively or passively), plus doing 4 half mile journeys a day will never allow the engine to fully warm up and lubricate. And as for sales of petrol cars in the UK, in 2013 the SMMT figures show a near 50/50 spilt, slightly in favour of diesel.

jer

20 February 2014
of some diesels is they take time to warm up - thermal efficiency of diesel? It was in Autocar that A.Franklyn's long term CLS economy went off a cliff in winter I had the same experience with a 3.0 BMW and to a lesser extend 3.0 from JLR. In terms of particulate filters I do 6-7k per year in the same engines mostly around town with the odd out of town run and have never had issues .

btw I just checked the GLA250 petrol auto 4wd price starts at 29k before options AMG pack etc. sounds a lot to me. You gain a bit back in depreciation but loose massively in discounts and list price for being a slave for fashion in these soft roaders.

20 February 2014
£29k doesn't seem that bad to me - the C200 saloon is more and doesn't have 4wd.

A34

20 February 2014
So the pick of the GLA range might be this cheapest variant, so why not compare it with a Quashqai 1.6DCi? Given Merc are using some Renault/Nissan engines in their small vehicle line-up (albeit not here) there are some family ties; I expect the comparison would be valid. But not to badge snobs of course... and maybe Merc PR would get a bit huffy?

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