Mercedes GLA buyer’s guide
Mercedes GL A FROM £17,000 SUV has performance, equipment and is fine to drive, but it’s pricey
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?
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.”
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.