The quickest of the bunch is a super-sprinter with a 4.8 seconds 0-62 mph...
Mercedes-Benz has been steadily expanding its range to add more ‘niche’ models, filling gaps in its line-up that might otherwise lose customers to other marques. The GLA-Class is a recent example. What this car effectively comprises is a Mercedes A-Class fed on steroids to pump it up into a slightly taller, beefier model. It is styled to look a bit more butch, to woo buyers wanting something a little loftier and more rugged than an A-Class. The result is a ‘soft road’ compact crossover, a halfway house between hatchback and SUV.
To showcase its mildly rugged credentials, Mercedes devised a bold launch for the GLA, with a driving route deep underground, 500 feet down in Britain’s largest salt mine beneath the Cheshire countryside. It was a dramatic way of setting the car just a little apart from all its rivals. It was a necessary attention-grabber because others are way ahead of Mercedes in having this kind of model in their ranges. The most obvious rivals are BMW’s X1 and Audi’s Q3.
Beneath its muscled exterior, the GLA rides on the same modular chassis as the A-Class, and it shares the same basic mechanical structure, but with some significant modifications. It has an elevated ride height, chunkier bumpers, and the kind of roof rails you would expect to see on an estate car.
There is a choice of versions with either front-wheel-drive or Mercedes’ 4Matic four-wheel-drive. The available engines are 2.1 litre diesel with power outputs from 134 to 168 bhp, and 2.0 litre petrol with either 208 or 355 bhp. Both manual and automatic transmission models are available.
Prices for the GLA-Class start at £25,850 for a 200 CDI SE with a 134 bhp diesel engine and two-wheel-drive, and rise to a thumping £44,595 for a GLA 45 AMG 4MATIC with a 355 bhp two-litre petrol engine and four-wheel-drive.
Depending on which version of the GLA you go for, the performance varies from strong to sizzling. Even the slowest version will sprint to 60 mph in 10 seconds, with a 134 mph top speed. The quickest of the bunch is a super-sprinter with a 4.8 seconds 0-62 mph acceleration time, and its top speed is 155 mph.
Our test car comes in at the lower end of the GLA performance scale, but has very adequate pace and feels lively through the gears. With a very respectable ten seconds acceleration time, it still manages a combined fuel economy figure of 62.8 mpg, and the CO2 output at 119 g/km is good for a car of this type. It is in band C for road tax, while Benefit-in-Kind company car taxation is at 18 per cent.