Good: stylish, comfortable, mostly refined.
Not so good: very slow in this guise.
When the Mercedes-Benz GLA was first launched in 2014, it was, in most formats, an apologetic SUV. From not a long distance, the variant we tested that year could have been mistaken for a Mercedes A-Class. And at the time, we surmised that that's no bad thing. After all, few buyers of crossovers and SUVs need off road ability, and the GLA turned out to be more comfortable and spacious than the A-Class it was based on, if a bit 'soft' looking. Only a short few years later, the car world is a rather different place. SUVs and crossovers (and wannabe takes on both) proliferate the whole new car price spectrum, and it's all about increased ride height, a high up seating position and, more than ever, chunky styling. Enter the revamped Mercedes GLA range.
The aesthetic updates on the outside are quite minimal, but also effective. Previously bi-Xenon headlights are replaced by LED unit, the bumpers have been tweaked, there are new alloy wheel designs available, a new paint colour (not shown...) and other detail changes to the rear lights and door mirrors to improve the GLA's aerodynamic performance. I reckon the specification of our test car, 'Urban', should be considered to be the entry-point. It comes with five-spoke 18-inch alloys as standard, along with anodised aluminium roof rails and more chromed components than the entry-level GLA Style. A stylised twin-exit exhaust system also helps the Urban's case, while all cars get a chunkier looking radiator grille design. On top of all that, the updated GLA sits 30mm higher up than before, which has a larger effect on its image than you might realise.
That means an even higher-up driving position; not that you'd pick up on it immediately. The rest of the cabin is relatively unchanged, save for the addition of new trim and material choices. Most of the switchgear feels of high quality, if not as impressive as that found in more expensive Mercedes models. Saying that, the three-spoke leather steering wheel and the five circular air vents are design and tactility highlights in equal measure. Meanwhile, the GLA Urban features bright upholstery that is part man-made leather ('Artico') and part 'Maringa' fabric. The high-set infotainment display is not a touchscreen, instead operated by a small rotary control between the front seats. It works fine once you find your way around it, and can be fitted with all the latest technology - for a price.
Speaking of which, the Mercedes GLA starts art €32,420 including a six per cent discount currently being offered across the range. That price is for the GLA 180 Style, powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine. The entry-level diesel is the GLA 180 d Style, priced from €34,795. Trim lines are Style, Urban and AMG Line, while all front-wheel-drive cars are offered with the choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Mercedes 4Matic four-wheel drive is standard in the AMG GLA 45 and for the GLA 220 d, while the GLA 200 d tested here can be specified with 4Matic, too. Note: all four-wheel-drive GLAs have an automatic transmission as standard.
If you're looking to buy a GLA on PCP (Personal Contract Plan) finance, Mercedes has its STAR offering:
Select your Mercedes-Benz model, pay your deposit and in 37 months either:
Trade-in for a brand new model
Acquire your model by paying the outstanding balance
Return the car and walk away
In summary, PCP finance on the GLA starts at €354.69 a month for the GLA 180 Style, which is on an offer rate of 3.9 per cent APR. The GLA 200 d Urban auto under test here would cost from €451.71 a month as it (and all other versions of the GLA) attracts a rate of 5.49 per cent APR - following a deposit of €11,956.50 and leaving a GMFV (Guaranteed Minimum Future Value) of €15,144.90.
And is it the one to go for? It really does depend on your requirements. The engine is distinctly lacking in get-up-and-go, despite what the technical specifications say, and it's a little loud when cold. Away from the motorway, I found myself defaulting into the Sport mode for the automatic transmission to help it along. Even then, I used the manual gearchange paddles a few times when preparing to overtake slow traffic. If you're the sort of driver that mostly stays in and around town, I'd recommend the petrol alternative. Nonetheless, the venerable 2.1-litre turbodiesel engine settles down well at a cruise and used an average of 6.3 litres/100km in our 500 or so kilometres of mixed driving in the car. The suspension set-up is a high point, too, as the GLA is very comfortable over all kinds of road surfaces and yet when you push it on, the initial lean from the body soon stabilises and the car clings on gamely.
But that's not what most buyers of crossovers and SUVs care about. They'll like the enhanced appearance of the GLA and the fact it has a prominent three-pointed star on the front. It makes no apologies for that.