What is it?
This is the replacement for a car that embodied the style-over-substance phenomenon of crossovers in the first half of the 2010s.
When the Mercedes-Benz GLA landed on the scene in 2014, it wasn’t exactly mould-breaking. Here was a tall hatchback deemed different enough from its Mercedes-Benz A-Class relation to warrant a new name in line with the brand's fully fledged SUVs. In reality, though, it was effectively an A-Class with a rugged styling pack and a bit more space between the wheels and arches.
It was a commercial hit regardless. But at that time, the premium competition was either mediocre or notable for its absence. Jaguar, Lexus and Volvo weren’t really in the market then, while the first Audi Q3 and BMW X1 are unlikely to be looked back on with wistful nostalgia in years to come.
This time around, however, there’s no room for a half-hearted effort. Those cynical bulked-up German hatchbacks have been replaced by fully fledged small SUVs, while all three of the aforementioned no-show brands now have competitive entrants of their own. Mercedes has doubled its compact sector offerings in response, with the boxier, retro-inspired Mercedes-Benz GLB muscling in alongside the more straight-laced GLA.
As before, the fundamental mechanical relationship between A-Class and GLA is a strong one. Both share the same platform, technology and engines, including the range-topping 220d diesel we’re driving here.