According to Mercedes, this GLA-Class model is ‘ready to take you where no one has ever gone before’. It’s certainly taking its brand into a market segment it’s never seen before, that of the compact Crossover.
At first glance, a sportier variant like this one really doesn’t look very much different from the A-Class hatchback it’s based upon, even though it’s actually 127mm longer, 24mm narrower and 59mm taller. Partly that’s because the 50mm of ground clearance that would usually set this GLA apart from its lesser stablemate has been reduced by a sports suspension set-up lowering the car by 15mm.
So it’s probably better to go with the flow and simply see this as an A-Class with an added dose of attitude, a role much closer to its comfort zone thanks to this raked-back windscreen and a front end that sports big air intakes, the flutes in the bonnet and these smart smeared-back headlights. Smart GLA-specific touches include the way the stylists have teased out the wheel arches, adding muscularity to the look, and the sleek integration of the aluminium roof rails.
Inside you can find yourself sitting up higher than you would in a comparable A-Class model, which means a more commanding view out-front from a driving position easily perfected by wide adjustment possibilities for seat and steering wheel aided by plentiful head and shoulder room.
As with most of Mercedes’ current compact models though, rearward visibility is compromised by the swoopy roof design and the angled tailgate, hence perhaps the decision to equip this car with a reversing camera as standard.
The cabin architecture of all Mercedes’ smaller models is pretty much identical these days, which fortunately is no bad thing in terms of what you end up with. You get the same deeply-cowled twin-dial instrument binnacle viewed through a lovely, grippy nappa leather-trimmed three-spoke multi-function steering wheel. There are five chrome-trimmed SLS supercar-style air vents decorating a dash split into upper and lower sections. The upper part’s dominated by the iPad-style 5. 8-inch free-standing infotainment screen that’s been placed in the middle of it, controlled by a little rotary dial positioned where the handbrake would normally be if it hadn’t been replaced by one of those fiddly electronic ones with a switch hidden away beneath the fascia.
Overall though, the finished effect is certainly a step up from anything others offer at this level and, as you’d expect from Mercedes, build quality is faultless. Overall, I’d say that this is probably the most interesting cabin in the segment, a classy effort with plenty of showroom feelgood factor. In terms of practicality, as well as spacious door bins and a reasonably-sized illuminated glove compartment, there are storage boxes beneath the front seats and a place for your sunglasses in the overhead control panel.
Mercedes is confident this GLA is arguably the best compact car the brand makes. And that makes it very significant indeed.