Although this range is the smallest of the Mercedes SUV family, even the lightest GLA has a kerb weight of 1480kg, so makes a sensible match for lightweight caravans.
There is a choice of petrol, diesel, hybrid and high-performance AMG models, which means the GLA should appeal to a broad range of needs and budgets.
More space, more tech
Compared with the previous GLA, the new model is a little shorter, but considerably taller. Inside, it promises greater headroom in the front and more legroom in the back. The driving position is higher than before – think proper SUV proportions, rather than jumped-up hatchback.
Boot size increases, too, offering a capacity of 445 to 495 litres with the back seats upright, depending on the model. However, that’s beaten by the Audi Q3’s 530-litre capacity.
While improving the GLA’s space and practicality, Mercedes has added more high-tech features and driver aids. Gadget lovers will be keen on the ‘Hey Mercedes’ virtual assistant – think of it as the in-car equivalent to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. ‘Mercedes me’ allows owners to access data about the car on their smartphone, including a handy reminder of the vehicle’s location, checking how much fuel is left in the tank, and switching on climate control so the cabin is already at a comfortable temperature when you start your journey.
Mercedes has been one of the leaders in driver assistance systems, which steer and brake the car under driver supervision.
For £1495, buyers can add the Driver Assistance package, which includes a suite of driver aids, including Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC and Active Steer Assist. These will maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front, and steer the car so that it stays in lane. However, this package can only be specified on the high-spec AMG Line Premium Plus model.
Engines and towing ability
The GLA is available with a wide choice of petrol and diesel engines.
Petrol-powered models start with the GLA 180. An official combined figure of 40.9-42.8mpg means that it’s reasonably economical for an SUV. However, with 136bhp and 148lb ft of pulling power, this is likely to be a steady performer with a caravan in tow. A kerbweight of 1480kg gives an 85% match figure of 1258kg, well within the 1600kg legal towing limit.
On paper, the more powerful GLA 200 looks the better choice for tow car drivers who prefer petrol to diesel. It uses the same 1.3-litre engine, but in a higher state of tune, putting power up to 163hp and peal torque to 184 lb ft.
It also has a higher kerbweight (1540kg), 85% match figure (1309kg) and legal towing limit (2000kg). Economy is unchanged from the GLA 180’s.
The GLA 250 ups the ante yet further, with 224 hp and 285 lb ft. The torque figure in particular is impressive, and bodes well for towing performance, as does the car’s 1680kg kerbweight.
The high-performance Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 and GLA 45 are overkill for towing, with 0-62mph times of 5.2 and 4.3 seconds respectively. But they are the only petrol models with 4Matic four-wheel drive.
There’s no such limitation with the two diesels – the GLA 200 d offers front-or four-wheel drive. The more powerful 220 d is only available with four-wheel-drive.
The two-wheel drive 200d’s kerbweight of 1615kg gives an 85% match of 1373kg, well within the 1800kg towing limit. This is the most economical non-hybrid, with an official combined figure of 51.4-52.3mpg. With 150hp and 236 lb ft of torque, it should easily cope with a well-matched tourer.
The 4Matic is less economical, with an official combined figure of 49.6-50.4mpg. The kerbweight increases to 1670kg and the legal towing limit rises to two tonnes.
Despite an increase in power (190hp) and torque (295lb ft), the 220 d 4Matic achieves 49.6mpg on the combined cycle. Kerbweight and towing limit are unchanged compared with the less powerful diesel.
A quick note about gearboxes – all GLAs have a seven- or eight-speed auto.
Plug-in hybrid power
We’ve yet to mention the most interesting model – the GLA 250 e plug-in hybrid. Unlike some plug-ins, the Mercedes isn’t hampered by a low towing limit: it can legally pull up to 1800kg. With a kerbweight of 1775kg, it has an 85% match figure of 1509kg, the highest of any in the range.
It should have the performance to cope with a mid-sized caravan, with the petrol engine and electric motor producing a total of 218hp. The engine has 170lb ft of torque, and the motor has 243lb ft.
Whether you get close to the official combined figure of 188.3-201.8mpg depends on how often you can recharge the car. It should travel up to 37 miles on a charge, and recharging from 10-100% can take as little as 105 minutes from a wallbox.
Price and value
Upmarket small SUVs tend to be expensive for their space and size, and the GLA is no exception. You’re looking at £31,460 for the entry-level petrol. The most affordable diesel is £33,785, while the plug-in hybrid costs at least £39,995.
Spec levels start with Sport, rising to Sport Executive, AMG Line, AMG Line Executive, AMG Line Premium Plus. The 250 e has three spec levels of its own – Exclusive Edition, Exclusive Edition Premium and Exclusive Edition Premium Plus.
Even the most basic cars have 18-inch alloy wheels, climate control, keyless entry, heated front seats and a reversing camera, although you need Sport Executive trim or above for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
With more space and high-tech features, the new GLA looks an improvement over the old model, and a tough rival for the likes of the Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40. The plug-in hybrid is especially tempting.
The car to beat: Audi Q3
With its good looks, classy interior and efficient engines, the Audi Q3 will be the benchmark vehicle for the Mercedes GLA to beat. Price From £32,460.
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With a choice of petrol, diesel, hybrid and high-performance AMG models, the GLA should appeal to a range of budgets