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.
Even though an off-road bound GLA will be a rarity, all 4Matic GLAs feature standard Hill Descent Control and an off-road setting for the engine and gearbox, in addition to improved ground clearance.
Inside, the cabin is attractively styled and sportily cosy, even if the quality of some materials is rather average on closer inspection. Space on the rear pew is adequate but rather claustrophobic, and you’ll want to avoid the short straw of sitting in the middle. Boot volume is acceptable, but nothing more.