We test the small premium crossover on Irish roads
Pros: Spacious inside, economical diesels, low running costs
Cons: Noisy diesels, not an off roader, hard ride quality
The premium crossover segment is flourishing right now, and in Ireland, the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class are among the best-selling models in the class. The Mercedes GLA arrived on the scene in 2014 at a time when the class was in its infancy, and it offers chunky SUV looks, but drives similarly to a normal family hatch. For 2017, it was facelifted with slight styling tweaks, a range of new trims and further updates to the cabin, so we took it for a drive on Irish roads to see how it has improved.
What is it like?
The GLA is based on the same platform as the popular Mercedes A-Class, but it looks more rugged from the outside as it sits higher off the ground, with aluminium roof rails and muscular wheel arches. The GLA blends hatchback and SUV styling together and is quite distinguishable out on the road as a result, although it doesn’t sit as high off the ground as most its rivals. Base specification models are equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, while our ‘Urban’ specification test car has larger 18-inch wheels and chrome exterior detailing for added road presence.
The GLA’s interior design is similar to both the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and CLA-Class, which is a good thing. It boasts soft touch materials throughout the cabin with distinctive dials and air vents up front, and there is plenty of room for four tall passengers to get comfortable on long journeys. Infotainment comprises of a large screen on the centre console which is controlled via a small dial to the left of the driver, and while it’s easy to use, comparable infotainment in rival offerings is more impressive. There is 421 litres of space in the boot (140 litres more than the A-Class) which is ample for most needs, and suitable storage throughout the cabin for everyday items.
We drove the front-wheel-drive GLA 200d with Mercedes’ seven-speed automatic gearbox. The GLA 200d has a 2.1-litre diesel engine with 136 horsepower and it can cover 0-100km/h in around nine seconds, so performance is good, although the engine is noisy at higher speeds. We managed 5.1 litre per 100 kilometres of driving (55MPG) with the GLA 200d, and annual motor tax is listed at €190, so it is a highly-efficient choice. Other engine choices include 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel units (GLA 180) and a more powerful GLA 220d model. Thrill seekers can also consider the top of the range AMG GLA 45, a hot crossover with a 375 horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine!
Out on the road the GLA is easy to drive for an SUV and nimbler than many of its rivals, although it suffers from body roll on tight corners and the ride is firm on less desirable road surfaces. As it sits 50mm taller than the Mercedes A-Class hatchback and uses a softer suspension setup, the GLA is a substantially more comfortable however. Like many of its rivals (discounting the Range Rover Evoque), the GLA isn’t especially-suited to driving off road too. Sport and AMG models are equipped with harder suspension which delivers more agility, but again impacts on overall ride quality.
Prices for the new Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class in Ireland start from €31,875 for the base specification GLA 180 Style. Standard equipment is good with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, heated front seats, automatic climate control, Adaptive Highbeam Assist and many other features as standard. We drove the Urban specification model, which is the next step up in the range, and it gains larger alloy wheels, a twin pipe exhaust system (which looks great) and sports seats to name a few. The range-topping AMG Line model is undoubtedly the most desirable version with AMG body styling and lots of additional kit, but it’s expensive.
Carzone verdict: 3.5/5
The Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class builds on the popular Mercedes A-Class hatchback, with extra ride height, a taller driving position and increased comfort. While it competes against established crossovers such as the Audi Q3 and BMW’s X1, it lacks the tall SUV stance and outright ride quality of these cars. That said, diesel-powered GLAs offer good performance and prove more economical, and the interior quality is among the best in the class. Those who want SUV style with easy driving dynamics should have it on their shortlist.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class 200d Urban
Prices from: €31,875
Price as tested: €39,167
Annual Road Tax: €190
Engine: 2143cc four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Top Speed: 204km/h
0-100km/h: 9.5 seconds
Transmission: Seven-speed Automatic
Body style: SUV
Boot Space: 421 litres