Road Test: Mercedes-Benz GLA 220 CDI 4MATIC AMG Line
Sector: Crossover Price: £29,295 Fuel: 55.6mpg CO2: 132g/km
Mercedes-Benz is the last of the ‘big three’ German premium brands to enter the C-segment crossover pack, but the GLA should make for a very desirable part of the range.
Given the meteoric rise of crossover sales, the three-pointed star has been notable by its absence until now. Especially considering it has the GLK-Class in its arsenal, which would’ve been a good way to steal Q5 and X3 customers had it been engineered for right-hand drive.
Perhaps the likely sales success of the GLA-Class will lead to a change of heart next time. Despite its bulked-up hatchback styling, this is longer and taller than the A-Class and, at 4.4 metres, sized to take on the Audi A3, BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque.
The potential hurdle here is styling. This isn’t as clearly defined as a crossover as its closest rivals, particularly in SE trim and when viewed from the back. Moving up to the AMG Line, which adds £1,000 to the price, adds deeper bumpers to make it look much more like a downsized ML-Class. For the upgrade in on-road presence, it’s worth every penny.
DNA from the A-Class is also found inside. The two cars share their dashboards and tombstone-shaped front seats, complete with red-stitched artificial leather, and passenger space is almost identical.
But, were it not for the short gap between the two launches, you’d be excused for thinking that this has learned from the A-Class’s shortcomings. The rear windows sweep up to improve visibility, there’s an extra 20mm of headroom in the back and the boot space is 41% larger than the hatchback, accessed through a tailgate which opens wider and without intrusion from the rear lights.
The GLA-Class has launched a slimmed-down version of the range offered in the A-Class. This means the excellent 103g/km 1.5-litre Renault-Nissan diesel isn’t available yet, the most efficient 200 CDI engine is manual only, and the only diesel-auto version is the 220 CDI which mandates 4MATIC four-wheel drive.
Then again, this is in the same tax band as the equivalent two-wheel drive X1 with an automatic gearbox, and it’s in line with the Evoque and Q3, both of which add four-wheel drive when they lose their clutch pedal. Plus those claimed figures seem entirely realistic on the motorway, albeit requiring a steady right foot.
The downside is that it’s not the most polished drivetrain, considering the badge on the grille. That 2.2-litre diesel engine is coarse at low speeds, the gearbox is slow to respond from a standing start and the AMG Line’s sports suspension isn’t as soft as the ride height suggests.
However, engine grumble is barely audible at motorway speeds and, once moving, the gearbox is quick and smooth when changing between its seven ratios. 4MATIC versions feature hill descent control and an off-road mode as standard, should conditions get tricky, and 170bhp is plenty of power in a car of this size.
Ultimately, though, this is a segment where style counts and – though it’s definitely worth the upgrade to AMG Line spec – the GLA-Class has plenty in its favour.
Already an appealing package, the GLA-Class will become an incredibly desirable crossover once the 180 CDI engine joins the range. But launch figures are competitive, and it’s only drivetrain grumbles which let the newcomer fall short.