This second generation GLA model redefines what a compact Mercedes SUV should be, thinks Jonathan Crouch
The GLA is the starting point for Mercedes SUV ownership and in this second generation form, is as classy as you'd expect a premium 'C'-segment family hatch-based crossover model ought to be from the Stuttgart brand. Thorough engineering borrowed from the Mercedes A-Class means that that there's plenty to like beyond the badge, primary selling points focusing upon quality and efficiency. In short, it's a car that suits its fashion-conscious segment.
Mercedes has one of the widest ranges of SUVs available and the line-up starts with this GLA model, this being the second generation version of this design. It competes in the premium part of the SUV 'C' sector and, like all models in this segment, is based on family hatchback underpinnings, in this case those of the fourth generation version of the Mercedes A-Class. The original MK1 'X156'-series Mercedes GLA, launched back in 2014, won't go down as one of the more remarkable models in the Stuttgart brand's history but it sold well, shifting nearly a million units over a six year production run which ended with the introduction of this second generation version in early 2020. This 'H247'-series car is the eighth Mercedes model to be spun off the brand's current compact car 'MFA2' platform.
In its mainstream guises, the GLA is available with a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines. The GLA 200 uses a 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol powerplant with an output of 163hp mated to 7G-DCT seven-speed automatic transmission. All other engines use the brand's 8G-DCT eight-speed auto gearbox. The GLA 250 uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine which can generate up to 224hp and 350Nm. There's also a clever GLA 250e petrol plug-in hybrid which uses a little 1.33-litre four cylinder engine mated to a 15.6kWh lithium-ion battery for a total output of 218hp and a WLTP-rated EV driving range of up to 38 miles. The diesels use the company's usual 2.0-litre unit, which develops either 150hp in the GLA 200d or 190hp in the GLA 220d. You have to have a diesel to get the option of the brand's 4MATIC 4WD system, which might be a little more use on light tracks now that ground clearance has been raised by 9mm to 143mm. There are two performance-orientated Mercedes-AMG variants, both using engineering we've already seen in the A-Class. The GLA 35 4MATIC offers a 306hp 2.0-litre petrol turbo engine mated to AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 8G dual-clutch auto transmission. And the GLA 45 4MATIC+ flagship variant uses an engine more bespoke to AMG, a tuned 2.0-litre unit putting out a thumping 387hp - or as much as 421hp in uprated 45 S form. So the oily bits are generally pretty familiar; as is most of the other engineering on offer here. The suspension features McPherson struts up front and either a torsion beam or multi-link arrangement at the rear, plus variable damping control is optional. Cornering traction should be aided by a track width increase of 46mm. Four-wheel drive models can also be ordered with an off-road package. While offering no additional increase in ride height, this adds an off-road headlight function and an extra off-road driving mode called Downhill Speed Regulation.
There's a bit more of a 'want one' factor with this second generation GLA thanks in part to the fact that its proportions and stance are more clearly defined than its predecessor. The car measures in at 4,410mm long, 2,020mm wide and 1,611mm high, making it 14mm shorter and 2mm narrower, but 104mm higher than the previous model. Larger wheel arches accommodate rims ranging from 17 to 20-inches. Inside, as expected, this 'H247'-series GLA switches to the same cabin layout as has featured in all other recent compact Mercedes models, featuring a dashboard with a free-standing digital display panel. With standard models, this gives you two 7.0in screens - one in front of the driver for the instruments and a centre-dash one for the infotainment functions. Pay extra and you can have both these displays uprated to 10.3-inches in size. The monitors are operated via Mercedes' MBUX operating system, which supports both touchpad and voice control. A colour head-up display can also be ordered. To give more of a crossover feel, the front seats are positioned 140mm higher than in the A-Class and there's 22mm more head room up front than in the original GLA. That previous car was a little cramped in the back: this one's better, thanks to a 30mm longer wheelbase, though a little disappointingly, rear head room has been reduced by 6mm. The addition of an optional sliding rear bench is useful - it can be slid fore and aft by up to 140mm, giving up to 116mm more legroom than before. Plus you can vary the angle of the backrest - which helps with boot space too. That's one reason why the quoted cargo capacity figure has risen by 14-litres to 435-litres.
Trim levels start with either base 'Sport' or 'Sport Executive'. Most buyers though will ideally want one of the 'AMG Line' variants. There's 'AMG Line', 'AMG Line Executive', 'AMG Line Premium', 'AMG Line Premium Plus' and 'AMG Line Premium Plus with Driving Assistance'. Prices start at just under £33,000 for the entry-level GLA 200 'Sport' petrol model and run up to around £45,000 for a GLA 220d 4MATIC with the top trim level. Even entry-level 'Sport'-spec (offered only on the 200 and 200d variants) gets you quite a lot, including as standard 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, LED headlights and aluminium roof rails. Inside in a 'Sport' variant, there's heated front seats and Thermatronic two-zone air conditioning. Infotainment's taken care of by a couple of 7-inch screens that feature the MBUX multimedia system with its 'Mercedes me' connectivity and the 'Hey Mercedes' voice-activated virtual assistant. 'AMG Line' trim adds 19-inch AMG 5-twin-spoke alloy wheels, privacy glass, an AMG body styling kit, ARTICO/DINAMICA sports seats with red contrast stitching and carbon interior trim. Disappointingly, you have to stretch to pricier 'AMG Line Executive' spec to get basics like front and rear parking sensors and smartphone integration, a trim level that also includes wireless charging and a 10.25-inch central media display.
Let's get to the figures all of which are WLTP for fuel and NEDC for emissions. The GLA 200 emits 129-137g/km of CO2 - depending on specification - and can deliver up to 43.5mpg. The GLA 250 delivers up to 38.2mpg and emits 148-153 g/km of CO2. The diesel-powered GLA 200d can deliver up to 53.3mpg and emits 121-126g/km (or 51.4mpg and 130-138g/km for the GLA 200d 4MATIC). The GLA 220d can achieve up to 51.4mpg and emits 133-140g/km. If you want to do better, you'll need the GLA 250e plug-in hybrid petrol model, which can put out WLTP-rated CO2 emissions of just 38g/km and can be charged from a 7.4kW wallbox in just 1 hour and 45 minutes. For those who don't really care about efficiency, the Mercedes-AMG variants beckon. The GLA 35 puts out CO2 emissions of between 170-171g/km. The Mercedes-AMG 45 variants put out CO2 emissions of between 209-212g/km. What else? Well, residuals will be strong, providing you don't go mad on the options list. As you'd expect, the Mercedes after-care package is comprehensive, with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty that's notably better than the restricted three year / 60,000 deal that rivals Audi offer. Most owners will also want to take advantage of a 'Service Care' option that spreads the cost of routine servicing, guaranteeing the price of parts and labour for up to four services and covering the cost of all recommended service items such as brake fluid, spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters and screen wash. As mentioned elsewhere in this film, the 'Mercedes me' connect services package comes with a self-diagnostic feature, enabling it to monitor wear and tear items and alert your local dealer to let you know if something needs seeing to.
The GLA competes in a very different market today to the one it was launched in back in 2014 and this second generation model will offer stiffer opposition to key rivals like the Audi Q3, the BMW X1 and the Volvo XC40. That's primarily because it's improved in the two main areas the old model fell a little short. That car looked a little unremarkable and it was a little cramped in the back. Both those issues have been thoroughly addressed here. Plus it'll be of considerable importance that this car - in its plusher forms anyway - has been equipped and finished with a silken thoroughness typical of the Three-Pointed Star. And in summary? Well every compact SUV in this class claims to take concept of sense and sensibility and add to it something of an adventurous streak. This GLA does that too, but with a bit of extra polish. We can see why you might like it.