The GLA is based on the previous-generation Mercedes A Class (sold from 2013-2018) and really is starting to feel its age when it comes to ride and handling. Every GLA comes with 'comfort off-road' suspension as standard, but, while we haven’t tested it off the beaten track, ‘comfort’ seems a misnomer on the road.
Urban ruts and bumps cause the GLA to shimmy restlessly, while even a smooth-looking motorway will have the car bobbing around. It doesn’t feel too baggy over humps and compressions, though.
The steering is unnervingly vague when you begin to turn in to corners, but body lean is kept reasonably well in check. Cornering grip is strong enough, too, and you can swing the GLA through bends with confidence. You only need to opt for four-wheel drive if you’re adamant that you need all-weather peace of mind or extra towing capacity. The GLA 250 4Matic can tow an 1800kg braked trailer; that’s 400kg more than the most powerful front-wheel-drive GLA can manage.
The GLA 180 and GLA 200 both use a 1.6-litre petrol engine, producing 121bhp and 154bhp respectively. Front-wheel drive is standard, with a six-speed manual or optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox. We haven’t tried the 180 yet, but the 200 delivers brisk enough performance, although you do have to rev it quite hard to get the best from it.
The AMG Line-only GLA 250 uses a 208bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine, with an automatic gearbox and 4Matic four-wheel drive. It feels much more rapid than the 200 but isn’t as fun as you might hope, given its greater power and hefty price.
The engines are quite hushed at a steady cruise; on a long journey, you’ll be more disturbed by a level of road and wind noise that’s far higher than that of the Audi Q3.