Car review: Utility bill! Make mine a Mercedes GLA

THE new Mercedes-Benz GLA is a premium SUV (sport utility vehicle) big on image but compact in size, writes Steve Berry.

However, this new version has much more space inside than the original GLA and should appeal to smaller families who fancy a posh SUV without spending a fortune.

That’s not to say the baby Mercedes SUV is cheap. Stick with the smaller-engined, lower-spec models then it makes a lot of sense.

If you want a powerful diesel engine and 4-wheel-drive, all wrapped up in a higher trim level, you will be on the wrong side of £40k.

A GLA that can hit 60mph in a shade over 4 seconds, will set you back of £60,000 plus.

For the average buyer though, there’s a lot of choice when it comes to building your GLA with a total of six trim lines available from Sport to AMG Line Premium Plus.

Prices start from £33,335 for the entry-level GLA 200 Sport which boasts a 1.3-litre petrol engine, generating 163 bhp. It emits just 151 g/km of CO2 and can deliver 42.2 combined mpg.

For more oomph there is the GLA 250 AMG Line (from £36,665) which uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine capable of producing 224 bhp. It emits 173 g/km of CO2 and delivers 37.2 mpg.

Diesel-powered models start with the GLA 200 D Sport (from £34,110) – available in front-wheel or all-wheel-drive. This has a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with an output of 150 bhp and 320 Nm. It’ll do 52.3 mpg and emits 141 g/km of CO2.

How about a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) GLA? The GLA 250 e Exclusive Edition can be had for under £39k and promises a 37-mile range on electric only.

The model I drove is the GLA 220 D 4MATIC (all-wheel-drive) AMG Line Premium featuring a 2.0-litre diesel engine with 190 bhp and 400 Nm. It’s capable of 49.6 mpg and 149 g/km of CO2. It starts from £38,760.

A seven-speed DCT transmission is used in the GLA 200, while the 250, 200 D and 220 D come as standard with an eight-speed DCT gearbox.

The new GLA is a vast improvement on the older model which looked like it was a hatchback trying too hard to be a crossover.

The new model is much better conceived. It’s also 100mm taller than the out-going model so interior space and comfort is improved too. 

Inside Story

If the outside of the new Mercedes GLA has been brought bang up-to-date then the interior is futuristic with widescreen displays aplenty.

The seating position is higher than in the older model giving a commanding view of the road ahead. 

Fit and finish is excellent with plenty of soft-touch plastics and faux-leather with red stitching to give this AMG Line Premium model a real sporty feel inside. 

The infotainment system works well and can be controlled by a touchpad on the centre console or by simply saying “Hey, Mercedes” and issuing your commands. 

Climate controls get their own bank of buttons below the three large air vents in the centre of the dash. 

Visibility all round is good with only the narrow rear screen being less than ideal. It’s much the same on all rival models though and with the rear parking sensors and camera, there won’t be a problem when manoeuvring.

Rear passengers get a good amount of space with more headroom too, thanks to the improved height. The two front seats are also elevated so stretching out is easier for rear passengers.

Boot space is down on most of the competition at 485 litres but this is a small price to pay for the extra space rear passengers benefit from.

On the go

This new GLA AMG Line Premium is a sharp performer with the 187bhp diesel unit able to shove you from 0-60mph in just 7.3 seconds.  It feels refined too with no gruffness from the 2.0-litre diesel unit.

The ride is very good, considering the larger wheels and the AMG Line’s ‘lowered comfort suspension.’ 

The handling is nicely flat through twisting bends and there is genuine fun to be had from this compact family SUV.

The GLA really excels on the motorway. Noise-suppression is class-leading and, along with the cabin’s ambiance, the miles fly by easily.

On-board tech helps ease the burden on longer journeys with adaptive cruise-control and active lane-keep assist. The steering is weighted just right and the 4-wheel-drive system adds further confidence should conditions become tricky.

Conclusion

The new Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d AMG Line Premium may not be cheap but neither does any part of it feel so. You certainly get what you pay for when it comes to premium, compact SUVs.

The GLA has the pedigree and the interior wow-factor to convince many would-be buyers. It is a pleasure to drive – and be driven in – as well as being practical.

RATING: *****

AT A GLANCE:  Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d AMG Line Premium 4MATIC
OTR Price: £38,760
Engine: 2.0 turbo diesel
Power: 190 bhp
Transmission: 8-speed DCT Automatic
0-62mph: 7.3 secs
Top Speed: 136 mph
Combined economy: 49.6 mpg
C02: 149 g/km

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