Mercedes-Benz GLA review
The latest SUV offering from Mercedes-Benz proves to be a classy new variant on the A-Class platform.
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

Published on February 18, 2014

Overall rating: 4/5

Compact SUVs are where it's at right now, and the A-Class-based Mercedes-Benz GLA is the latest. We've driven it in several guises, from the high-performance GLA 45 AMG model to the modest (and likely best-seller in Ireland) diesel-fuelled GLA 200 CDI. It's cheaper than its Audi and BMW rivals too.

In the metal 4.5/5

Jacking the A-Class up has resulted in a well-sculpted machine that doesn't frighten you with its sheer size; in actual fact, it can come across as not much bigger than an A. Whether in basic SE 200 CDI spec or full-on, 45 AMG Edition 1 guise - which, with its white paint, contrasting black roof spoiler, side graphics and red pin striping everywhere, looks very much like the concept version shown at the LA Auto Show late last year - it's pleasing to behold. The Edition 1 won't be coming to Ireland, though, so you can have the AMG version in a more sedate hue, which makes it a very discreet 360hp 4x4.

This exterior compactness does not translate into a cabin that is cramped, though, with decent room in the rear and a pretty big boot floor, albeit the sloping line of the upper part of the hatch cuts down ultimate load space. The dashboard and major controls all feel classy, yet familiar if you've had plenty of exposure to A-Class, B-Class and CLA models, but if you're after an imperious SUV driving position, you might want to consider one of Merc's bigger 4x4 offerings. Even allowing for the fact I like to drive on the floor, the seat position made the GLA feel very car-like, rather than high-riding.

Driving it 4/5

In what could turn out to be the least surprising conclusion to draw from the dynamics, the GLA is very much like a slightly bigger A-Class to drive. The extra weight and higher centre of gravity of the GLA are not readily apparent, especially so in the AMG model, which limits roll extraordinarily well. Go for one of the two diesels - both 2.1 litres in capacity - and you're blessed with a creamy drivetrain coupled to a fantastically composed ride that makes the GLA a real pleasure to waft around in. There's a bit more roll in the diesels, especially in the SE on standard-fit Comfort suspension, but it's not the sort of lean that'll make you feel queasy if you're a passenger and your driver chooses to press on.

If you're after performance, you're probably best avoiding the smooth but uninspiring GLA 250 petrol model and going for the 45 AMG, which uses the same bombastic 2.0-litre, hand-built four-pot as its A 45 and CLA 45 cousins. It drives all four wheels too, although it is predominantly front-wheel drive, but the straight-line urge feels markedly blunt in comparison to the CLA 45 AMG we drove just a few weeks ago. The performance stats don't back this suspicion up, so maybe the test car's engine was just a bit tight. However, the GLA 45 proves to be an entertaining enough drive for an SUV, yet it's unlikely any owners will give it a caning on a regular basis.

We'd say the GLA 220 CDI is the pick of the launch models if you need all-wheel drive, although the front-wheel drive 200 CDI just edges it on quietness and unruffled behaviour. The smaller diesel seems to have lighter steering than the 220, and it works better with a slick manual six-speed gearbox too, rather than the otherwise-fine DCT auto. The 220 comes with DCT as standard and it is, as these dual-clutch units ever are, pretty much faultless.

What you get for your money 4/5

For now, the starting price of the GLA is €35,500. That's for the front-wheel drive GLA 200 CDI model and it undercuts the cheapest models in the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 line-ups. Not only that, but Mercedes-Benz Ireland tells us that it will also introduce a GLA 180 CDI in time, plus the petrol-fuelled GLA 200. Four trim levels will be offered: Style, Urban, AMG and Exclusive, though we do not yet have a full specification list. Buyers won't have to wait long though, as the GLA hits Ireland in March.

Worth Noting

Mercedes laid on a lengthy off-road route for us, which was predominantly along a dry Spanish river bed. It didn't seem too challenging at first but the GLA 220 CDI dealt with it well, not grounding out once and capable of managing 25-degree transverse slopes and 30-degree gravel downhill gradients in a calm manner. OK, it might not be able to scale the Sugarloaf Mountain, but it's nice for all-wheel drive GLA buyers to know they can tackle an arroyo or two should the need ever arise.

Finally, this is the fourth car based on the A-Class platform, but Mercedes was happy to hint that there will be something else yet to come - its precise words were 'prepare for a surprise'. GLB, anyone?


As you may have gathered, the GLA is very much like the A-Class. It's a little bit higher, a little bit chunkier and a little bit more expensive, but whether it's in diesel or petrol format, it proves to be a class act. The entry GLA 200 CDI is particularly impressive, thanks to its serene drivetrain and excellent ride composure. Both petrol engines will be minority interest in Ireland, but the AMG is an impressive creation, if a little redundant when the A 45 and CLA 45 both exist; if you're a keen driver, of the three of them the SUV will be the last resort. However, the GLA feels a premium product no matter what engine, transmission or trim line you specify, and it's sure to be a hit in the competitive small premium SUV market.


Tech Specs

Model testedMercedes-Benz GLA
Pricingstarts at €35,500 for now - GLA 200 CDI
Engine2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol (250, 45 AMG); 2.1-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel (200/220 CDI)
Transmissionsix-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
Body stylefive-door SUV
RivalsAudi Q3, BMW X1, Volkswagen Tiguan
CO2 emissionsfrom 119- to 175g/km (Band A4 at €200 per annum to Band E at €750)
Combined economy37.7- to 65.7mpg (7.5- to 4.3 litres/100km)
Top speed204- to 250km/h
0-100km/h10.0- to 4.6 seconds
Power136hp at 3,400- to 4,000rpm (200 CDI); rising to 360hp at 6,000rpm (45 AMG)
Torque300Nm at 1,400- to 3,000rpm (200 CDI); rising to 450Nm from 2,250- to 5,000rpm (45 AMG)