Right now, the compact luxury and semi-luxury crossover/SUV market is booming - an interesting development because not that long ago you could count every model on the market on one hand. Just a few that come to mind are the Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q3, Infiniti QX50, VW Tiguan, BMW X3, Mini Countryman, Fiat 500L and the (soon to be tested on his website) Lexus NX. Now it’s station wagons that can be counted on one hand, with only a few makers staying faithful to that configuration compared to years ago.
The entry into this class from Mercedes-Benz is the GLA 250, which is based on the company’s small CLA platform. Now Mercedes has every possible SUV/crossover base covered with the appearance of the GLA. Moving up the crossover/SUV size range, Mercedes now offers the GLA, GLK, M-Class, GL Class and G-Class - an amazing achievement by a company which had virtually nothing in this segment a couple of decades ago. There’s something for every buyer at prices ranging from $37,200 right up to more than $150,000.
The GLA is a very coupe-like rig and at first sight, it’s easy to wonder what it actually is. From some angles it looks like a performance hatchback and from others, a stylish station wagon. Mercedes likes to call the GLA a compact SUV, which certainly fits. I guess that like other crossovers, it fills multiple roles, but it’s good to have all that practicality in such a great-looking package. The roofline is quite low for crossover and the vehicle could even be described as “sleek.” Even so, it’s roomy inside for a compact vehicle and because of its exterior dimensions, it’s very easy to park in a city environment.
Power for the GLA 250 is supplied by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo developing 208-horsepower. In a first for a Mercedes-Benz vehicle, the GLA is front-wheel drive, though the tester I used was equipped with Mercedes’ excellent 4Matic all-wheel drive. A 7-speed automatic transmission gets the power to the road. I found this engine to be well-suited to the compact GLA and thanks to the turbo, it’s quite peppy and responsive. Thankfully, there’s no “turbo lag” and power seems to be delivered very seamlessly and with surprisingly little noise and fuss for a 4-cylinder. I’ve been saying for years that 4-cylinder engines just keep improving and this one is a good example of that trend. Buyers who want something more potent can opt for an AMG version of this model (45 AMG) with 355-horsepower, which must provide quite a thrill in a compact like this one and must be a record for the amount of power that can be culled from a four-banger. It would be nice at some stage to see a diesel available for this model (Europe has one, of course), but we’ll have to wait and see.
The interior looks much like that of other Mercedes-Benz products which means,in a word, wonderful. It’s hard to see any evidence of skimping to keep the price down and all the materials are of the finest quality. The cabin is very comfortable and relaxing and as always with this manufacturer, everything is styled in the best possible taste. Set up properly, there’s 1235-litres of cargo space available in the back and the rear hatch swings high to ensure easy access. Although this isn’t a full-blown SUV, I wouldn’t hesitate to take the GLA onto off-road trails with reasonable surfaces like gravel or loose sand. The 4Matic AWD system is very effective and apart from that, the GLA has very good ground clearance with commendably generous “entry and departure angles,” as off-road enthusiasts term below-bumper clearance.
This is certainly a very desirable little utility vehicle and must be one of the ultimate choices for a young family wanting to get a footing in the vast range of vehicles now available from Mercedes-Benz.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: 4-door/hatch; compact uxury crossover
ENGINE: 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic
PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx 7.1-secs
FUEL ECONOMY: 8.7-litres/100 km combined rating
PRICE: Base GLA $37,200 MSRP