Mercedes GLA buyer’s guide

Mercedes GL A FROM £17,000 SUV has per­for­mance, equip­ment and is fine to drive, but it’s pricey

Auto Express - - Contents - Richard Dredge

What you need to look out for on big-sell­ing cross­over

MERCEDES is no stranger to the SUV sec­tor; it in­tro­duced its le­gendary G-wa­gen al­most four decades ago, in 1979. While that car was dis­tinctly util­i­tar­ian, Mercedes has since in­tro­duced more road-bi­ased SUVS and one of the more re­cent is the GLA, which is, in ef­fect, a jacked-up A-class.

As a re­sult the GLA shares most of that car’s char­ac­ter­is­tics such as the ba­sic shape, in­te­rior pack­ag­ing and cabin de­sign. There’s plenty to like, but it all comes at the pre­mium prices that Mercedes charges. That hasn’t stopped the GLA be­ing a new-car hit though – so should you take the plunge?

His­tory

THE GLA went on sale in Novem­ber 2013. The range kicked off with the 136bhp 1.6-litre GLA200 and 211bhp 2.0-litre GLA250, the lat­ter com­ing in front or four-wheel-drive (4Matic) forms.

Diesel fans could choose be­tween 136bhp GLA200 CDI or 170bhp GLA220 CDI edi­tions, both fea­tur­ing a 2.1-litre en­gine. The more pow­er­ful unit was also avail­able with a 4Matic trans­mis­sion.

While the GLA200 and GLA200 CDI had a six-speed man­ual gear­box as stan­dard, a seven-speed dual-clutch trans­mis­sion was fit­ted as stan­dard to the GLA250, GLA220 CDI and any car with 4Matic.

The 355bhp 2.0-litre GLA45 AMG ar­rived in spring 2014, three years be­fore a re­vised GLA reached show­rooms.

Which one?

ALL GLA en­gines have four cylin­ders; the diesel should be more re­fined than it is, but it still makes the most sense be­cause it of­fers plenty of mus­cle with the po­ten­tial for 55mpg econ­omy in the real world.

The man­ual gear­box is fine to use but the seven-speed au­to­matic makes driv­ing the GLA very re­lax­ing, which is why it’s the trans­mis­sion to go for; it’ll also make the car much eas­ier to sell on. All GLAS are well equipped, but the op­tions list is ex­ten­sive, with lots of packs avail­able, so es­tab­lish the ex­act spec of any po­ten­tial pur­chase. The key trim lev­els are SE, Sport and AMG Line; the GLA45 AMG gets its own equip­ment list.

Al­ter­na­tives

WHILE the orig­i­nal BMW X1 wasn’t a very con­vinc­ing car, the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion model that ar­rived in 2015 is a crack­ing cross­over with ef­fi­cient en­gines, ex­cel­lent build qual­ity and an invit­ing driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Like the GLA, it’s no bar­gain.

The Audi Q3 is also very ac­com­plished and while its driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and cabin de­sign are rather clin­i­cal, it’s an easy car to rec­om­mend with its strong, re­fined en­gines and de­cent re­li­a­bil­ity record. A Mazda CX-3 is a less ob­vi­ous al­ter­na­tive that’s great to drive, has a very high-qual­ity feel and ex­cel­lent en­gines. While its prac­ti­cal­ity is com­pro­mised, it’s very good value.

The age­ing Range Rover Evoque is worth a look, too, now that prices have dropped.

Ver­dict

IT’S easy to see why the GLA has been such a suc­cess for Mercedes, be­cause it has loads of show­room ap­peal.

Most mod­els have plenty of per­for­mance, a lot of stan­dard equip­ment, and can cover long dis­tances with ease, but the GLA has short­com­ings, so you need to make sure that this is the right car for your needs.

It’s not as prac­ti­cal as it should be and it doesn’t have the el­e­vated seat­ing po­si­tion of some ri­vals. Prices are steep and while it’s fine to drive, the han­dling is in­ert. Still, the GLA should im­press your neigh­bours.

Buy­ing cars “Most GLA mod­els have good per­for­mance, a lot of stan­dard kit and can cover long dis­tances with ease”

OUR VIEW

ALTHOUGH the GLA didn’t get into the 2017 Driver Power sat­is­fac­tion sur­vey, the third-gen­er­a­tion A-class did. It just fin­ished 69th, beaten by the Audi Q3 (13th), Kia Sportage (12th) and Volvo XC60 (ninth). Own­ers rated the A-class’s run­ning costs and re­li­a­bil­ity, but not its en­gine, gear­box and safety kit.

YOUR VIEW

DAN Bur­ridge, from Craw­ley, owns a GLA220 CDI. He says: “I do a lot of long-dis­tance mo­tor­way trips and the GLA is ideal; it’s sta­ble at speed, for­ward vis­i­bil­ity is good thanks to the raised seats and econ­omy is ex­cel­lent. It could be bet­ter er­gonom­i­cally, but the car has been fault­less and the cabin feels like it’ll last for­ever.”

In­te­rior

Fit and fin­ish are good, but the busy dash takes fa­mil­iari­sa­tion and the after­mar­ket-look of the mul­ti­me­dia sys­tem also po­larises opin­ions. Seats are sup­port­ive and rear space is good, but a high win­dow sill makes it feel cramped. Boot space is av­er­age at 481 litres, or 1,235 litres with the seats down.

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