Mercedes GLA (2014-2020) Review
The Mercedes GLA mini-SUV is stylish and high-tech, but doesn’t come cheap
Strengths & weaknesses
- Comfortable ride
- Distinctive styling
- Slick-looking interior
- Noisy diesel engines
- Limited off-road ability
With its chunky looks, raised ride height and SUV-style plastic cladding, the Mercedes GLA looks like it's ready for anything that the world might throw at it, whatever the weather.
Despite these rough and rugged looks, don’t expect to go any distance off-road in the GLA. This is very much a crossover, where the SUV connection is only skin-deep. This is Mercedes’ smallest crossover, which combines the size and comfort of the A-Class hatchback with the higher driving position of a taller vehicle.
This version of the GLA is based on the 2012-2018 Mercedes A-Class and so shares lots of engines and technology with that model. An updated GLA followed in 2020, two years after the updated A-Class arrived.
Unlike some crossovers, the GLA wasn't raised by an enormous amount, so it's less imposing than alternatives such as the Audi Q2, BMW X1 and Mini Countryman. But this means that it looks and feels similar to the cheaper previous-generation Mercedes A-Class hatchback that it’s based on from behind the wheel, so whether you deem it worth paying for the more expensive GLA comes as much down to its looks as anything else.
The more powerful GLAs also have a similar price to the much larger Mercedes GLC. This is a proper SUV designed to go off road - a little - and appears to be much better value for money in comparison.
To add more price confusion, the BMW X1, Audi Q2 and larger Audi Q3 are all cheaper than the GLA, further questioning the value of the GLA.
At launch, four-wheel drive was standard on all but the cheapest GLA Sport model. This provides greater control in slippery conditions, and the ability to tackle slightly rougher terrain on the off-chance that the GLA is taken off road - although it’s at risk of getting stuck in tough conditions due to its limited ground clearance and road tyres.
A number of two-wheel drive versions followed, however, and these offer the greatest fuel economy and lowest costs, making them the best choice for most drivers.
Thanks to its fat tyres and soft suspension, the GLA is more comfortable and smooth over bumps than the standard A-Class, as well as the Audi Q2 and BMW X1, but feels less sharp and agile in corners.
The story’s a bit different if you opt for the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 performance model, which packs a small but enormously powerful engine under the bonnet. It’s capable of sending 381hp to all four wheels for inredibly fast acceleration - the 0-62mph sprint takes a breathtaking 4.4 seconds.
More practically, there’s a reasonable amount of space in the back for tall adults, as long as you don’t have the panoramic sunroof, that reduces headroom. The large 481-litre boot is much bigger than the 341 litres in the previous-generation A-Class, as well as the 405 litres of the Audi Q2. The BMW X1 is the biggest at 505 litres, though.
Like all modern Mercedes, the interior feels reasonably plush, with chrome air vents and a tablet-style media screen displaying sat-nav and radio functions. It’s controlled with a rotary dial, making it easy to operate without having to take your eyes off the road.
|3 years / unlimited miles
|From B (free for the first year, £20 thereafter) to H (£295 in first year and £205 thereafter)
Best Mercedes-Benz GLA Class for...
Best for Economy – Mercedes GLA 200d
The two-wheel drive, entry-level diesel is not only the cheapest model in the line-up, it's also the most economical.
Best for Families – Mercedes GLA 220 d 4MATIC AMG Line
A more powerful diesel paired with a smooth seven-speed automatic gearbox makes this one easy car to live with. The AMG Line trim also adds plenty of interior niceties.
Best for Performance – Mercedes-AMG GLA 45
A powerful petrol engine, overtly sporty styling and agile handling. Perfect for the enthusiast.
One to Avoid – Mercedes GLA 250 4MATIC
The lower-powered petrol is smooth and refined but it sits in a high vehicle excise duty band and isn't as economical as the diesels. Unless regular short trips are on the cards, the diesel offerings will be cheaper to run.
2014 The Mercedes GLA goes on sale.
2015 The high-performance Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 goes on sale.
Understanding Mercedes-Benz GLA Class names
There are three trims in total (Sport, AMG Line and AMG 45). Each higher level means more equipment and a larger price.
There are two diesel and two petrol engine options in the line-up. The diesel range kicks off with a 134hp GLA 200d and increases to 175hp in the GLA 220d. There's a 210hp petrol engine in the GLA 250 and a powerful 376hp version in the Mercedes-AMG model.
Gearbox 7G DCT 4Matic
Automatic gearboxes are badged 7G DCT, indicating that they have seven gears and a dual clutch mechanism. Having two clutches makes gearchanges faster and smoother. Cars with four-wheel drive also have a 4Matic badge.
Mercedes-Benz GLA Class Engines
GLA 200d, GLA 220d, GLA 250 and GLA 45
0 - 62mph
Mercedes-Benz GLA Class Trims
Sport, AMG Line and AMG 45
Mercedes kept the trim levels simple with the GLA. Two distinct levels - Sport and AMG Line - were available, while the AMG 45 versions get their own sporty appearance. As with many upmarket vehicles, an exhaustive optional extras list was designed to tempt buyers into parting with vast sums of cash for additional bits and pieces. If you’re looking for particular additional features in a used model, it’s worth checking the specification of any individual cars you're considering to make sure these are included.
Regardless, even entry-level Sport models come with an impressive amount of standard kit. The 18-inch alloy wheels, aluminium roof rails, rear privacy glass and twin-pipe exhaust system ensure it turns heads, while the powered tailgate, rain-sensing wipers and slick media interface system make life with the car that much simpler.
Step up to AMG Line and Mercedes draws on its motorsport experience with aggressive body styling, a leather interior with contrasting stitching, special sports seats and a racy flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Naturally, the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 goes wild with the high-octane styling features and customers are treated to 19-inch AMG wheels, high-performance brakes, bi-xenon headlamps with integrated LED running lights, ambient lighting inside, AMG-focussed instrument clusters and an AMG Dynamic Select function that changes the driving mode from Comfort (relaxed steering, lethargic throttle response) to full-fat Sport+ (sharpened steering, suspension and throttle response).
Mercedes also likes to bundle optional extras into specific packages, which is often a cheaper way to improve specification on a car. The Executive Package, for example, adds a Garmin navigation system, parking assist and heated front seats, while a Premium Plus bundle adds ambient interior lighting, a panoramic glass sunroof and bi-xenon headlamps.
Mercedes-Benz GLA Class Reliability and warranty
The three-year, unlimited mileage warranty package is identical to that offered by both BMW and Land Rover, while Mercedes currently manufactures some of the most reliable cars on the road.
The GLA is too new to feature on the 2015 Auto Express Driver Power satisfaction survey, but Mercedes ranked 11th in the manufacturer chart, and owners rated its build quality particularly highly. It finished comfortably above rival brands Audi and BMW, as well as Land Rover.
Used Mercedes-Benz GLA Class
Thanks to its low CO2 emissions, premium finish and affordable running costs, the Mercedes GLA rapidly found homes after launch in 2014, particularly with business, fleet and company car users, meaning it is possible to snap up the occasional bargain.
Company cars are typically specified with all the bells and whistles and are swapped often, so as long as buyers are happy with a few motorway miles on the clock, it is not uncommon to see savings of around 20% on the original list price for low-mileage, nearly new models.
Ensure that the car has been properly maintained thus reducing the risk of mechanical issues.