We’ve already driven the all-wheel drive ‘4Matic’ version, so this is the front-wheel drive version of the diesel-powered GLA. Of course, the GLA is based on the A-class range, but rides higher, has greater headroom and greater ground clearance.
What’s the difference between the four-wheel drive and the front-drive GLA diesels?
The ground clearance, interior space and turning circle are identical in both front- and all-wheel drive GLAs. Both use the same 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel and seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, but the front-drive version has 134bhp against the 4Matic’s 168bhp. It’s also 37lb ft less torque, but the front-driver still offers 221lb ft from 1400rpm.
Interestingly, Mercedes claims the same 1535kg weight for both cars in auto from, but thanks to the lower output, its 62.8mpg heads-off the 4Matic 220’s 55.4mpg claim.
That also means it’s slower – at 9.3sec, it’s a staggering 1.6sec slower from 0-62mph than the 4Matic’s 8.3sec claim. And, at £27,245 for the 7-speed auto, you’ll save £2605 at the dealer if you stick with the slow-and-steady front-driven GLA 200 CDI.
>> Read the CAR review of the Mercedes GLA220 CDI 4Matic here
How does it drive?
It looks like an SUV that’s been dumped on airbag suspension: yet that’s the GLA’s genuine stance. It feels a bit like that behind the wheel, too. It’s not too low, nor too high, and the windscreen feels sleeker than an SUV’s ought to. That’s the idea, perhaps, but the GLA is definitely SUV when you drive it around a corner.
First, though, the straight-line stuff. The driving position is high, and there’s loads of adjustment in the driver’s seat to match the steering. There are shift-paddles for the seven-speed automatic that are plastic, but don’t feel flimsy or cheap. They match the steering wheel, which is chunky and well finished in perforated leather. All-round vision? Good. Headroom? Same again. Control weights? Slightly mismatched.
What’s it like around town?
Let’s begin with the throttle response. In the default Efficiency setting, you’d wonder if this thing is a diesel. It makes all the clatter and chatter of an oiler –make no mistake – but the throttle response is so doughy you’ll think you’ve left the electronic park brake on. It combines with the start/stop to be lethargic, sloth-like and far too docile in eco-mode for quick gaps in traffic, or even in the bun-fight of scooters and cyclists in Central London.
Selecting Sport helps: it gives a much better underfoot feel, brisker take off and you can actually tap into the torque. It’s much more fun and effective as a traffic carver, and more enjoyable to drive. Our test car has the AMG Line pack (not pictured), which costs £1000 and drops the GLA 15mm, adds 19in alloys and loads of exterior gloss.
The suspension is intriguing: the ride is firm, yet its body control isn’t as taut as it could be for the occasionally punishing ride. It’s a bit sloppy on change of direction, which is where it becomes apparent that you’re in a GLA, not an A-class hatch.
You’ll feel every nuance of the road surface through the steering wheel, and it weights up into a corner but there’s no crispness beyond this. The only real standout is the braking, which performs beyond the call of duty.
If you can cope with the firmer ride of our AMG-equipped test car, then this is an easy to live with SUV. The regular suspension is little cushier, but no A-class or A-class derivative delivers a truly premium, comfortable ride like larger Mercedes can offer.
Should you choose it over the 4Matic version? If you’re after a more pedestrian, commuter style of drive, save the running costs as you meander to 62mph; if you’re after a GLA with more punch, the added power of the 4Matic makes the hefty premium worth the stretch. We’ve just been upsold.
>> Would you pay the extra £2605 for all-wheel drive and a faster, slightly thirstier GLA? Add your view in the comments section below