What is it?
Until the arrival of the nutty GLA45 AMG in June, this petrol-powered GLA250 4Matic is the most powerful version of Mercedes-Benz’s junior crossover-meets-SUV creation you can buy.
To be frank, the GLA is far more crossover than it is SUV, for although it’s substantially different to the A-Class it retains a relatively low stance on the road, with a narrow glasshouse and, to these eyes at any rate, an attractive appearance from most angles.
The ‘250’ is powered by the new-gen, four-cylinder turbo engine displacing 2.0-litres, in this guise pumping out an impressive 208bhp and 258lb ft of torque. A quick comparison with the obvious rivals shows that although Audi’s brawniest 2.0 TFSI Q3 pegs it exactly on power output, the GLA has a clear torque advantage, and easily humbles BMW’s 182bhp 2.0i X1 on both counts.
What's it like?
The engine’s ample torque makes predictably light work of surging the GLA forwards, although its initial overtaking potential is blunted slightly by the mild lethargy of the seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox. It improves in Sport and Manual modes, but is hardly enthusiastic about the task, and you soon tire of using the tiny paddles.
Although possessing a softer basic setup than the A-Class hatchback, the combination of AMG Line ‘sports’ suspension, a 15mm ride height drop and optional 19-inch alloy wheels imbues this GLA with a wooden, agitated ride quality that never settles.
It’s particularly annoying over small ridges in the road, which thwack into the cabin with a tiresome jolt and generate surprising amounts of noise in the process, something unfortunately complemented by plenty of road roar on most surfaces. The trade off dynamically doesn’t add up, for although the GLA has nicely balanced handling, with predictably good traction and well-weighted, accurate – if typically mute – steering, it’s no performance car.
Thankfully, a quick comparative drive in a GLA250 SE with 18inch wheels and standard suspension revealed a car that rides with a relaxed, long-legged gait and much improved bump absorption. Although the torquey motor exhausts the limits of grip fairly easily, and there’s noticeable body roll at times, the overall compromise far better suits the broad mix of qualities and appeal of a crossover.