Mercedes-Benz GLA (2020) Review
Mercedes-Benz GLA (2020) At A Glance
The Mercedes-Benz GLA is the latest posh small SUV to join a class that's bristling with competition from the likes of the BMW X1, Audi Q3, Volvo XC40 and Lexus UX. The GLA is based on the A-Class so its interior looks very similar aside from the fact that it has a lot more space. Engines are also shared with hatchback so you can choose from the same petrol, diesel and hybrid versions as well two fire-breathing AMG models which we’ve reviewed separately.
The Mercedes GLA throws into the mixing bowl everything you like about the A-Class – its posh image, high-tech interior and strong range of engines – then adds a tablespoon of practicality and a dash of SUV ruggedness. The result is one of the best small-but-posh SUVs currently on sale.
Mercedes-Benz's SUV range follows the same Russian doll philosophy as its saloons – they look nearly identical (military-spec G Wagon notwithstanding) but every model is slightly bigger than the last.
That’s a good thing for this new GLA because if there was a criticism of the old model it would have been that it looked too much like an A-Class on raised suspension – a major problem when your target audience is crying out for a chunkily styled SUV. Thankfully, its blunt front-end and boxier profile means this GLA isn’t going to be mistaken for a hatchback.
It is also a lot more practical than the car it replaces. You get plenty of room for four adults and a boot that’s big, usefully square and that closes electrically – handy when you’ve got your hands full.
It’s still based on the A-Class so you get a stylish interior design even if the quality isn’t as consistently rock solid as you’ll find in the Audi Q3 or BMW X1. A visit to the options list can do a lot to brighten things up – you can upgrade everything from the infotainment to the interior trims – so a cheap GLA can look quite different to an expensive one, but at a sizable price.
Running costs are less noteworthy for the right reasons. The GLA comes shaped from the modern SUV mould so while it looks quite rugged, only the top-of-the-range diesel comes with four-wheel drive as standard. As a result, no GLA gulps down fuel like it’s going out of fashion and the 250e plug-in hybrid’s ability to travel short distances on electricity alone could make you some serious savings on your commute.
On longer drives you’ll find all GLAs are relaxing. Sure there’s some wind and tyre noise but it’s nothing like the drone you’ll get from the tyres in a BMW X1 and the GLA's lighter steering, standard automatic gearbox and crystal clear reversing camera makes it ideal in town.
Where the BMW steals a lead is in how fun it is to drive – the GLA can’t match the X1’s responsive steering or well contained body lean but it’s a minor criticism of a car that proves perfectly well mannered.
Factor in that desirable Mercedes badge and it’s easy to see why you’d choose the GLA. It has the premium feel of the A-Class and doesn’t cost a huge amount more to run, but looks more chunky and has a lot more interior space. It could just have hit on the winning formula that was missed by the old model.