Mercedes GLA review

Category: Family SUV

Family SUV is classy, comfortable and well equipped, but some rivals are cheaper and more practical

Mercedes GLA front right driving
  • Mercedes GLA front right driving
  • Mercedes GLA interior dashboard
  • Mercedes GLA boot open
  • Mercedes GLA interior infotainment
  • Mercedes GLA right driving
  • Mercedes GLA front cornering
  • Mercedes GLA rear right driving
  • Mercedes GLA front right static
  • Mercedes GLA rear right static
  • Mercedes GLA alloy wheel detail
  • Mercedes GLA rear lights detail
  • Mercedes GLA interior steering wheel
  • Mercedes GLA interior front seats
  • Mercedes GLA interior back seats
  • Mercedes GLA front right driving
  • Mercedes GLA interior dashboard
  • Mercedes GLA boot open
  • Mercedes GLA interior infotainment
  • Mercedes GLA right driving
  • Mercedes GLA front cornering
  • Mercedes GLA rear right driving
  • Mercedes GLA front right static
  • Mercedes GLA rear right static
  • Mercedes GLA alloy wheel detail
  • Mercedes GLA rear lights detail
  • Mercedes GLA interior steering wheel
  • Mercedes GLA interior front seats
  • Mercedes GLA interior back seats
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Introduction

What Car? says...

There's a definite truth to the saying "clothes make the man" – or, indeed, the car. You see, under the surface, the Mercedes GLA is very similar to the A-Class hatchback, but you wouldn’t necessarily guess that to look at it because it wears family SUV clothing.

Indeed, if you ever see a GLA parked next to a Mercedes A-Class you'll see that it has a distinct character of its own.

The difference is less clear on the inside, but we consider that a positive. The GLA shares the A-Class's eye-catching details and user-friendly MBUX infotainment system.

Likewise, it has a similarly diverse range of engines, with a mix of petrols and diesels as well as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and a hot AMG version.

The original GLA was little more than an A-Class in outdoorsy attire, and while it failed to outshine its rivals in key areas, it sold well. Mercedes appears to have put more effort into this second generation model, so has it paid off?

This Mercedes GLA review will tell you what it's like to drive, how practical it is and how much it will cost you to run. Plus, we’ll reveal how it compares with key family SUV rivals, including the Audi Q3, the BMW X1, the Range Rover Evoque and the Volvo XC40.

Mercedes GLA rear cornering

Overview

Classy, comfortable and well equipped, the Mercedes GLA is one of the better prestige family SUVs, but some rivals are cheaper and more practical. The GLA 200 petrol is enough if you tend to drive mostly town, but the 220d diesel is a better all-rounder if you carry a car full of occupants or cover long distances. The 250e is best suited to company car drivers.

  • Forgiving yet well controlled ride
  • Interior feels special
  • Good luxury and safety kit
  • A bit on the pricey side
  • Panoramic roof eats into rear head room
  • Closely related A-Class has below-par reliability
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

The range starts with the Mercedes GLA 200, which uses mild hybrid technology to bolster performance and fuel economy from its 1.3-litre engine. With 161bhp and an official 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds, it gives you enough poke to get you around town, but requires working hard to get up to motorway speeds.

The automatic gearbox does a pretty good job of keeping you in the right gear to maintain momentum, but it’s not the most relaxing way to make progress.

Want something even faster? You’ll need the AMG version: the GLA 35. It uses a 2.0-litre engine to produce 302bhp and trims the 0-62mph time to 5.2 seconds. It’s also the only petrol with 4Matic four-wheel drive.

There’s also a PHEV, the 250e, which uses a version of the 1.3-litre petrol engine paired with an electric motor that significantly boosts its performance to produce 215bhp. That’s enough for a 0-62mph time of 7.9 seconds, and official figures suggest it can take you up to 48 miles on electric power – further than the PHEV Range Rover Evoque (38 miles), but not as far as a PHEV BMW X1 (55).

As for the diesel engines, we suspect the 200d will turn out to be all you need, based on how impressive it is in the A-Class. The extra low-down muscle it has over the equivalent petrol should make it more effortless to drive.

Mercedes GLA-Class image
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So far only tried the pricier 220d with four-wheel drive. It pulls strongly throughout its rev range and feels in tune with the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Suspension and ride comfort

Ride comfort is decent, even on the relatively large 19in wheels and lowered suspension fitted to AMG Line models.

The GLA doesn’t breeze over ripples and expansion joints as effectively as the Volvo XC40, but it’s well controlled and suffers less from side-to-side sway and still takes the sting out of potholes.

Handling

A high ride height never helps a car’s handling, so it’s no surprise that the GLA’s body leans over a fair bit in corners compared with the A-Class. Fortunately, this happens progressively enough that it isn’t unsettling, and the car feels more controlled than a Evoque or the XC40.

In Comfort mode, the steering is super-light and well suited to town driving. You can make it more weighty and reassuring by putting the car in Sport mode, and while it’s still a bit numb just off centre, the natural response lets you place the front wheels with confidence. 

The Audi Q3 grips the road harder in corners, but the GLA gives you plenty of warning before it begins to slide.

Noise and vibration

The GLA 200’s petrol engine emits a distant drone when being worked, but fades into the background as soon as you settle down to a cruise. And while the diesel GLA 220d is rougher sounding and sends some vibrations through the car when you’re slowing to a halt, it’s still pretty refined for a four-cylinder diesel.

The GLA 250e, meanwhile, is blissfully quiet in electric mode, but sounds coarse when you work its 1.3-litre petrol engine hard. The transition between those two power sources isn't especially smooth either, and brake pedal feel isn't as consistent as it is in non-hybrid GLAs, which can make coming to a gentle stop a challenge.

There’s a minor level of road noise on models fitted with 19in wheels. Wind noise is more noticeable from the side windows on the motorway, but it isn’t excessive. There is quite a bit of suspension noise over lumpy roads, though. And while the automatic gearbox is mostly slick, downshifts can be a little jerky at lower speeds.

"Developed as part of an eight-strong Mercedes compact car line-up, the GLA has the necessary design and engineering capabilities to be rounded and talented family SUV," Neil Winn, Deputy Reviews Editor

Driving overview

Strengths Comfortable ride; neat handling; fairly hushed at a cruise

Weaknesses Petrol engine needs working hard; some suspension noise

Mercedes GLA interior dashboard

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Driving position and dashboard

The Mercedes GLA’s dashboard is almost identical to the A-Class’s, but its driving position is much higher – as you'd expect in an SUV. The Range Rover Evoque and the Volvo XC40 place you even higher, though.

You’re unlikely to have much difficulty getting comfortable behind the wheel, because there’s a wide range of seating adjustment, including four-way lumbar support. Plus, the sports front seats in the AMG Line cars support you in all the right places.

The only issue some may find is that the steering wheel could do with a touch more reach adjustment to prevent some drivers sitting too close to the pedals.

A 10.3in digital instrument cluster is standard and sits alongside the equally large infotainment screen, making it appear that there's one giant widescreen across more than half the width of the dashboard. Meanwhile, a row of physical buttons for the ventilation system make it easy to tweak the temperature when driving.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

Forward visibility is excellent, thanks to slim windscreen pillars and the raised driving position. You can also see more of what’s behind you than in an XC40 because the GLA’s window line doesn’t rise as dramatically towards the rear.

To remove any guesswork when manoeuvring, all models come with a rear-view camera as standard, but you’ll need to pay for high-spec AMG Line Premium Plus for a 360-degree one.

 

Sat nav and infotainment

All Mercedes GLAs have a 10.3in touchscreen with a DAB radio. There’s also Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, and all trim levels except entry-level Sport Executive come with wireless phone-charging.

Sat-nav is included as standard, and AMG Line Premium trim adds an augmented reality function that shows a live video of the road ahead with arrows overlaid. It’s a bit of a gimmick because it’s still not that clear to read and requires you to take your eyes off the road for longer.

Using the touchscreen is generally fine if you're parked, but with a lot of swiping and sub-menus to get through, it can be distracting while driving. In theory, you can use touch-sensitive pads on the steering wheel to navigate around the infotainment system, but it's very fiddly.

That said, pretty much all the GLA’s rivals have the same set-up, including the BMW X1 and the Volvo XC40. The GLA’s screen is mounted a little higher than some rivals, making it easy to glance across, but you need to stretch further out to reach it than in the Audi Q3 and the Range Rover Evoque.

You also get a Siri-style personal assistant as standard. To wake it up, you say "Hey Mercedes" then, in theory, you can control various aspects of the car, from the sat-nav to interior temperature, by speaking to it.

There’s also a USB charging port in the front and two USB type C ports in the rear, so the kids can keep their devices charged up on long journeys – assuming you have the necessary adaptor cables.

Quality

If there’s one thing about the Mercedes GLA that we'd award an A-star grade, it’s the look of the interior. It’s flamboyant and more in keeping with a luxury saloon than a family SUV thanks to lashings of shiny piano-black plastic, leather, wood and metal.

The jet-style air vents lift the overall impression, especially at night when they glow like afterburners. So, visually, the interior eclipses all rivals'.

However, where the GLA falls down a little is its outright build quality. It's generally good, but it doesn’t feel as plush or as sturdy as most rivals. There’s some flex in the climate control panel, while the odd trim panel will buzz and vibrate, which causes it to lose a star compared with the more robust-feeling X1 and XC40.

"The GLA gets powerful LED headlights as standard, while adaptive LED headlights, which can remain on main beams without blinding other drivers, are standard on AMG Line Premium Plus trim," Dan Jones, Reviewer

Interior overview

Strengths High driving position; front seats offer lots of adjustment; interior has plenty of visual appeal

Weaknesses Doesn’t feel as robust as some rivals

Mercedes GLA boot open

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Front space

You’re unlikely to grumble about space in the front of the Mercedes GLA, even if you tower over most of your friends and colleagues. The seats slide back a long way and there’s plenty of head room, even on higher spec cars with the panoramic glass roof.

To add to the practicality, the door pockets are big enough for a 500ml bottle of water and there are two suitably deep cupholders. A decent glovebox, a handy cubby at the base of the dashboard and some storage under the centre armrest complete the list of stowage spaces.

Rear space

Rear leg room in the GLA is similar to in the Audi Q3, so you won’t find your knees are jammed up against the front seat backs. There’s plenty of space for your feet under the front seats (more than in an Evoque).

There’s enough head room to spare when two 6ft occupants sit in the back seats, provided you avoid cars with the panoramic glass roof – partly due to the way the roof curves downwards at the sides. With it, children and smaller adults will still be fine, but six-footers are likely to feel a bit confined.

The raised centre section of the seat base will push a middle occupant’s head close to the roof lining, though. A central rear passenger will have to place their feet either side of a raised tunnel, too, although the big footwells mean this isn’t too restrictive.

Seat folding and flexibility

The GLA's rear seats fold in the more versatile 40/20/40 arrangement, in the same way those in the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 do. As is the case in those cars, the GLA’s backrests lie pretty much flat, with no step up from the boot floor.

Boot space

The Mercedes GLA’s official boot capacity varies depending on the engine, with 485 litres for the A200 petrol and 487 litres for the diesels. Either one is down on the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1, but slightly more than you get in a Range Rover Evoque or Volvo XC40.

Regardless of the model, the GLA boot is a practical square shape so you'll have no trouble fitting a folded baby buggy into it. You also don’t need to heave heavy items over a load lip, while a powered tailgate is also standard on all trim levels.

"If you choose the GLA 250e PHEV, the boot space is 40 litres less because the battery occupies space under the floor," Darren Moss, Deputy Digital Editor

Practicality overview

Strengths Space for tall adults in the front and back; plenty of storage cubbies

Weaknesses Panoramic roof eats into head room; doesn’t have the biggest boot

Mercedes GLA interior infotainment

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The Mercedes GLA’s prices are a little on the steep side. It costs more to buy outright than its key rivals, the Audi Q3 and BMW X1, but less than the Range Rover Evoque. And while it should hold its value well against depreciation, the competition tends to excel in that area too. 

On the other hand, the two diesel engines are impressively efficient – a little more so than equivalent versions of the Q3 and the Evoque – as proved in our real MPG tests on other Mercedes models that use the same engines as the GLA. Meanwhile, we saw around 37mpg from the A200 petrol, which isn’t far off the official figures.

As a bonus, those engines are RDE2 compliant, which means there's no 4% penalty to add to its benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax ratings. But really, the clear choice for company car drivers in this line-up is the plug-in hybrid GLA 250e. It has very low CO2 emissions and because it can travel for more than 40 miles on electric power alone, it sits in a lower BIK tax bracket than the Range Rover Evoque P300e.

Equipment, options and extras

The entry-level Sport Executive model is pretty well equipped, giving you 18in alloy wheels, keyless ignition, climate control and heated front seats.

Our preferred AMG Line Executive adds 19in wheels, privacy glass, keyless entry, additional ambient lighting and sportier styling. 

The next step up, AMG Line Premium, adds two-zone climate control and an upgraded 225W sound system.

Range-topping AMG Line Premium Plus adds even more luxuries, including larger (20in) alloys, adaptive LED headlights, electric front-seat adjustment and a panoramic sunroof.

Reliability

The GLA didn’t feature in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey but the closely related A-Class did badly in the family car section, finishing 26th out of 29 models.

Mercedes didn't do brilliantly as a brand either, finishing 24th out of 32 car makers. That’s still above Audi, but BMW finished higher.

Safety and security

To help you avoid accidents, all Mercedes GLAs come with automatic emergency braking (AEB), a driver drowsiness monitor, and systems that stop you drifting out of your lane and can display the speed limit on the instrument panel.

Mid-spec AMG Line Premium models and above add blind-spot monitoring.

"The GLA is a classy family SUV that handles well, but it looks pricey next to its main rivals," Steve Huntingford, Editor

Costs overview

Strengths Well equipped; relatively frugal engines

Weaknesses High entry-level price; reliability could be a concern

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FAQs

  • It's a good option for some buyers. The Mercedes GLA isn't the most commodious family SUV but it is comfortable and good to drive without feeling as bulky as its boxier rivals.

  • Yes, the GLA is wider, longer and much taller than the Mercedes A-Class.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £2,250
Target Price from £34,160
Save up to £2,250
or from £387pm
Swipe to see used car deals
RRP price range £35,660 - £71,235
Number of trims (see all)5
Number of engines (see all)7
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)diesel, petrol, petrol parallel phev
MPG range across all versions 217.3 - 52.3
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / No mileage cap
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £632 / £5,145
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,264 / £10,290
Available colours