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Mercedes GLA

Mercedes-Benz GLA 2020 road test review - hero front
Mercedes-Benz GLA 2020 road test review - hero front

The original Mercedes GLA of 2014-2020 was an undoubted success from its launch in 2014, with sales that touched the one million mark worldwide. But with all the marketing nonsense that surrounded it stripped away, the high-riding hatchback was in essence not much more than a rebodied version of the third-generation Mercedes A-Class of 2013-2018, and the claim to it being a genuine crossover was somewhat empty in terms of pure function.

This new one is different – and all the better for it. Developed as part of an eight-strong Mercedes compact car line-up, it has been given the necessary design and engineering scope to evolve into a much more rounded and talented rival to the Audi Q2 and BMW X2.

While the mechanical similarities to its lower-riding sibling remain, a whole host of unique touches help not only to provide the second-generation GLA with a more standalone character but also to instil it with the inherent qualities to make it more appealing on many fronts. Before we get into the finer points of the way it drives, though, we should consider its altered form.

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Styling is always subjective, so we’ll sidestep judgement on the new GLA’s bolder appearance. What you should know, however, is that its dimensions have changed: length has been reduced by 14mm to 4410mm, while width extends by 30mm to 1834mm and height is up by a considerable 104mm at 1611mm without the optional roof rails. By comparison, the Q2 measures 4191mm long, 1794mm wide and 1508mm high, while the BMW X2 stretches to a respective 4360mm, 1824mm and 1526mm.

Don’t think the reduction in length has greatly reduced its versatility, though. With a 30mm-longer wheelbase at 2729mm, its interior has actually grown in size, notably in the rear, where it’s now considerably roomier than before.

Understanding the GLA line-up

At its launch, the new GLA will be offered with two different four-cylinder petrol and a single four-cylinder diesel engine across seven different models, although not all are planned for sale in the UK.

The entry point is the front wheel-drive GLA 200, which uses a turbocharged 1.3-litre petrol unit sourced from Renault and delivering 161bhp and 184lb ft. It’s joined by the initial range-topping GLA 250, in front- and four-wheel-drive guises with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine making 222bhp and 258lb ft.

The two diesels, both with the choice of front or four-wheel drive, use the same turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder powerplant but in differing states of tune. It has 148bhp and 234lb ft in the GLA 200d, while it produces 187bhp and 295lb ft in the GLA 220.

The GLA 200 is fitted with a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox supplied by Getrag, while all other new GLA models receive an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox built by Mercedes.

It’s the top-of-the-line GLA 250 4Matic we’re in here, and the similarities to other recent new Mercedes models can’t be denied. Inside, the dashboard, controls and free-standing digital display will be familiar to anyone who has set foot in the latest Mercedes A-Class hatchback, A-Class Saloon, Mercedes-Benz B-Class, Mercedes-Benz CLA, CLA Shooting Brake or GLB.

Our highly equipped test car featured optional 10.2in twin displays along with a multicolour head-up display unit in place of the pair of standard 7.0in displays, giving it a rather upmarket air that’s further accentuated by Mercedes’ latest multi-function steering wheel and lots of brushed aluminium-look trim.

So configured, it’s all fittingly premium in look and feel, and with the latest in conversational voice recognition and touchscreen functions within easy reach of the steering wheel, it’s quite intuitive, too. The response from the infotainment system and MBUX operating system is particularly impressive, making it easy to set commands on the go.

Befitting the GLA’s crossover positioning, its front seats are mounted 140mm higher than those in the A-Class hatchback. In combination with its increased ride height, this provides the GLA with a more commanding driving position. The added height within the body also brings a 22mm increase in front head room compared with the first-generation model. It’s an agreeably airy and relatively spacious driving environment by class standards.

The rear gets a fixed seat as standard but, as with the latest B-Class and the new Mercedes GLB, there’s an optional bench with 140mm of fore and aft adjustment and, crucially, 116mm more rear leg room than before. Longer door apertures with less intrusion from the rear wheels arches also ease entry to the second row, although rear head room has been reduced by 6mm, due to the new GLA’s more heavily sloping roofline.