Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
While we’re still to try the entry-level GLA 180, this 1.3-litre engine is no ball of fire in the A-Class hatchback and is likely to struggle in the bigger, heavier GLA. By contrast, the GLA 200 could well be the sweet spot of the range; admittedly we are yet to sample it in the GLA, but it’s our pick of A-Class lineup, providing effortless oomph for relaxed cruising. In the GLA it dispatches the 0-62mph sprint in 7.1sec – quicker than the 7.6sec a BMW X1 20i can muster.
If pace is truly important to you, though, you’ll want to look at the GLA 250; it’s hot hatch-fast, and its plentiful low-rev urge helps it to feel pleasingly brisk even when you’re not thrashing it. There’s also an eco-friendly plug-in hybrid, called the GLA 250e, which uses a version of the 1.3-litre petrol engine but pairs it with an electric motor which significantly boosts its performance. In fact, it’s only fractionally slower than the GLA 250. What’s more, official figures suggest it can take you 37 miles on pure electric power alone – further than its 31-mile X1 xDrive25e and 28-mile Volvo XC40 Recharge T5 plug-in hybrid rivals.
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. However, in the GLA, we’ve so far only tried the more expensive 220d, which pulls strongly throughout its rev range and generally feels in tune with its standard eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Suspension and ride comfort
Ride comfort is impressive, even on the relatively large 19in wheels and lowered suspension fitted to AMG Line models. No, the GLA doesn’t breeze over ripples and expansion joints quite as effectively as the Volvo XC40, but it suffers less from side-to-side sway and still takes the sting out of potholes.
The optional adaptive suspension, which stiffens or softens depending on which mode you're in, feels like an unnecessary expense.
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 GLA feels more controlled than a Range Rover Evoque or Volvo XC40.
More of an issue is the steering, which is a bit numb just off centre, although after this it improves greatly, letting you place the front wheels with confidence. You can also make it more weighty and reassuring by putting the car in Dynamic mode, while in Comfort the steering is super light and well suited to town driving.
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 range-topping GLA 250’s petrol engine combines smoothness at low speeds with a sporty rasp at high revs. 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 1.3-litre petrol engine in the GLA 250e, meanwhile, sounds coarse when worked hard, but then blissfully quiet in electric mode. The transition between those two power sources is mostly smooth, however this plug-in hybrid version suffers from inconsistent brake pedal feel compared with non-hybrids in the range – this can make stopping smoothly a challenge.
Some wind and road noise enter the GLA on the motorway, but it isn’t excessive. There is quite a bit of suspension noise over lumpy roads, though.
The automatic gearbox is mostly slick, but downshifts can be a little jerky at lower speeds.
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