Mercedes-Benz GLA review: prototype ride

Published:14 November 2019

Mercedes-Benz GLA
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Kyle Fortune

CAR contributor and fan of going fast - on four wheels and two skis

By Kyle Fortune

CAR contributor and fan of going fast - on four wheels and two skis

► New GLA on the way
► We take a ride in a prototype 
► Will fight against the X2, XC40 and Q2

An inclinometer, an off-road course and the new GLA. Not an obvious choice for off-road excursions, but then, with the new GLA Mercedes-Benz is keen to underline the SUV-ness of it all. With the current, near outgoing, one it’s all a bit jacked-up hatchback, this, new GLA, which we can expect early next year, being more obviously positioned and proportioned as a conventional SUV. That all makes it an easier sell in Mercedes-Benz’s plentiful compact vehicle offering, and a lot simpler to place against rivals like the BMW X2, Volvo XC40 and Audi Q2. 

But the new GLB’s an SUV, too…?

Correct, the GLB stretches Mercedes-Benz’s MFA2 architecture to the maximum to offer the potential to seat seven, the GLA below it only a five-seater, and despite Merc’s assertions it’s ‘more SUV’, it’s still also saying it’s a more dynamic offering than its rivals. 

That’s clear then

Quite, in Mercedes-Benz’s flurry to produce as many compact models as it possibly can - the GLA is number eight off the same platform - it’s covering every conceivable option, though, in fairness the GLA’s proportions and stance are more clearly defined than its predecessor. Think more B-Class for its interior proportions then, it obvious just looking at it that it’s taller, over 10cm say the engineers, it shortening by 1.5cm at the same time. That higher, more upright shape is to the enormous benefit of interior space and airiness, particularly in the once-cramped rear seats, as well as accessibility.   

Spacious and neat

There’s significantly more room inside, then, and the interior takes a big leap forward in regards to quality and user-friendliness at the same time. Merc’s MBUX being standard fit, and depending on your option box ticking can be had with a pair of 10.3-inch screens, the central one being touch-screen, or, like the configurable instrument screen ahead of you, changed via the touch buttons on the steering wheel or central touch pad. Shout ‘Hey Mercedes’ and you can ask it to do all that, as well asking it what it thinks of rival companies. Not much it seems.

Much the same under the skin?

Nothing much to wow underneath, given the GLA is late to the compact party we’re pretty familiar with the engine and transmissions that will be powering it, everything from a 1.5-litre turbo petrol, a 2.1-litre turbodiesel to a possible 2.0-litre GLA 45 flagship with in excess of 400bhp in its hottest incarnations. That GLA 45 might not arrive, though the GLA 35 is a certainty, as we spotted a couple being built on the test line at Mercedes-Benz’s compact car factory at Rastatt, Germany.

And on the road?

Our seat time in it was limited, and largely around a, surprisingly tough, off-road course, so we’d be lying if we said we could give detailed impressions on how it drives. Both the turbodiesel and petrol examples we were in the passenger seats of were 4Matic model, with an improved electronically controlled system, which can divert drive quicker and ore accurately. Most will be front-wheel drive, but if you option 4Matic it’ll come with an off-road pack as standard. 

That doesn’t mean skid plates, a boot mounted spare wheel and sand ladders on the roof, instead it brings downhill speed regulation and a number of off-road specific screens in MBUX and changes to the engine and gearbox maps accordingly if you’re traversing a particularly precipitous sleeping policeman on your way to work. Joking aside, it’s all rather impressive, the GLA able to tackle uncomfortably steep side slopes and scramble up and down hills that you’d need a rope to help you up if you were on foot. On the road, it promises more refinement, and the sort of predictable, surefooted progress that we’d expect from Mercedes-Benz, mixed in with a suite of safety equipment that’s as good as, if not better than, all its rivals. 

Anything else?

Nobody is admitting it, but the drive to see the GLA was in Merc’s latest plug-in B-Class, so it’s inconceivable that the GLA won’t gain a version of the same drivetrain. If (when) it does, expect the plug-in GLA to offer the same circa 40 mile battery only range, though given the positioning of the battery you’d lose the option of 4Matic. 

When we seeing it?

It’s been seen around for a while now in the swirly disguise here, and they’re ramping up for production, so it’ll be imminent. Expect sales to start early in 2020 of the volume models, with the GLA 35 coming shortly after. 

Given Merc’s charge to electrification we’d expect a GLA 250e EQ Power to join the line-up fairly soon afterwards, too. 

Verdict

Nothing radical with the new GLA, here, just something of a sensible shift into a more clearly defined category than it was in before. More space, greater economy and Mercedes-Benz’s class-leading tech certain to make it an appealing choice among its plentiful rivals.

Specs

Price when new: £0
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Photo Gallery

  • Mercedes-Benz GLA
  • Mercedes-Benz GLA
  • Mercedes-Benz GLA
  • Mercedes-Benz GLA
  • Mercedes-Benz GLA

By Kyle Fortune

CAR contributor and fan of going fast - on four wheels and two skis

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