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First drive: Mercedes-Benz GLA

Date: 24 December 2020   |   Author: Simon Harris

The second-generation Mercedes-Benz GLA looks a more accomplished performer than its predecessor.
Standard equipment:
Alloy wheels, LED headlights, heated front seats, aluminium roof rails, MBUX multimedia system and 'Mercedes Me' connectivity with 'Hey Mercedes' voice-activated virtual assistant and services, including free music subscription and find parking facilities, 7in touchscreen media display, 7in digital cockpit, two-zone air conditioning system
Petrol: 136hp 1.3, 163hp 1.3, 224hp 2.0
Diesel: 150hp 2.0, 190hp 2.0
Plug-in hybrid: 218hp 1.3 petrol plus electric motor
Equipment grades:
Sport, AMG Line, Exclusive Edition
Six-speed manual, seven-speed DCT auto, eight-speed DCT auto

Mercedes-Benz, while extremely successful, has mis-stepped a little when it comes to finding the right product for the right audience on a few past occasions.

The original A-Class, while capturing the zeitgeist of late-1990s curiosity with MPVs, found itself competing with mainstream rivals and looked rather pricey.

Audi had launched a conventional hatchback in the A3, and eventually Mercedes-Benz underwent a rethink for the third-generation A-Class, and followed the A3 template.

With the third-generation A-Class came the GLA, trying to offer an equivalent model to the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque. But the GLA merely looked like an A-Class hatchback with a bit of extra ground clearance and some rugged plastic cladding.

And alongside its larger siblings, the GLC, GLE and GLS, looked like it was a traditional hatchback in disguise.

The replacement for the first GLA arrived in the UK during the coronavirus lockdown, so a few would be finding their homes during the past few months, and it seems Mercedes-Benz has made a greater effort to give the GLA its own identity, despite being related to the A-Class.

It's more or less the same length as its predecessor, but is substantially wider and taller, and has a much longer wheelbase. This is good news for anyone who overlooked the first GLA because of its size, unless you're quite tall as headroom has actually been reduced slightly, although it's most noticeable in the rear. 

This is partly due to the more upright driving position, which is more common in an SUV, but the benefit is improved visibility. Although you still wouldn't buy the GLA because of its spaciousness - others in this class are more accommodating.

The entry-level grade in the GLA is Sport, which is quite well equipped. Some versions (and all Sport grades) also only come in front-wheel drive configuration. It is possible to add a number of packs, and many might find the Sport with the £1,500 Executive Pack added gives them enough extra equipment (front and rear parking sensors, mirror package, Smartphone integration with wireless charging and a 10.25-inch central media display). The AMG Line upgrade is also £1,500 and largely cosmetic, so the Executive Pack might be valued more by drivers.

The AMG Line variants are also available with the Executive Pack and the Premium Pack for extra equipment.

We took to the roads in a GLA 220d 4Matic AMG Line, which comes with a 190hp 2.0-litre diesel and eight-speed dual-clutch auto transmission. It's also available with a 150hp diesel, with front-wheel drive as standard or 4Matic four-wheel drive as an option.

Petrol choices (excluding the Mercedes-AMG variants) are front-wheel drive only, and have 136hp or 163hp versions of a turbocharged 1.3-litre in the GLA 180 and GLA 200, with a 224hp 2.0-litre in the GLA 250.

Since we tried the GLA it has also become available as a plug-in hybrid, combining the 1.3-litre with an electric motor, achieving 218hp. This variant comes in a high-specification Exclusive Edition and has CO2 of 32g/km as well as an electric vehicle range in excess of 30 miles.

This will clearly be the preferred choice of company car drivers, but the 220d is still a great option for those who don't mind paying a bit more tax each month.

The power is smooth and refined, while the GLA feels almost as agile as the A-Class, with excellent body control, despite its taller stance compared with its predecessor.

Overall, the GLA is a much more satisfying prospect than its predecessor, with much stronger fleet appeal.

Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d 4Matic AMG-Line 

P11D: £38,490

Residual value: 41.5%

Depreciation: £22,507

Fuel: £6,444

Service, maintenance and repair: £2,802

Cost per mile: 52,9p

Fuel consumption: 49.6mpg

CO2 (BIK band): 148g/km (32%) 

BIK 20/40% a month: £205/£411

Boot space: 485 litres

Engine size/power: 1,950cc/190hp


  • Comfort
  • Quality feel
  • Not especially roomy