First Review Mercedes GLA: How Much of an SUV is in the GLA?

Mercedes GLA
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With the GLA, Mercedes launches the right car at the right time: a crossover that combines the advantages of a compact model with those of a compact SUV. First impressions from Granada, Spain.

In 2013, Mercedes sold 371.399 compact models like the A-Class, the B-Class and the CLA, over 50% of the A-Class clients coming from other brands. The compact range is completed by the GLA and subsequently by the next CLA Shooting Brake. The GLA could become the star of this range, because, for the past 20 years, the only sector that has been gradually increasing across Europe is that of the SUVs (from 2,6% in 1991 up to 11,4% in 2012) and especially that of the compact SUVs.

Mercedes comes up with a surprising approach of the sector, an approach that made us entitle this article: How much of an SUV and how much of a compact model is in this GLA?

When the BMW started this sector with the X1 (a model manufactured at the request of the BMW sindicates), we were saying that the X1, with its 1545 mm height, is actually more of a highly raised break than of an SUV. But the GLA only goes up to 1494 mm, which makes it by 49 mm shorter than the X1. But up against the Audi Q3, the height difference is of 112 mm.

But the BMW went up like a bomb, even though the X1 design is not that elaborate and customized. By comparison, Mercedes is coming up with a much more attractive offer, at least when it comes to design. Even though, as for the proportions, the GLA does not make us think of an SUV, it actually looks like one by design.

The flared fenders, the profiled hood with two louvres, the simulated shield at the front, that drives into protections for the whole front bumper, but also for the wheels passage, the side line going up to the rear and the sculptural shapes confirm that we are having, right in front of our eyes, an SUV, but not any SUV. Just one for the lifestyle, that can look down even to Range Rover Evoque.

 The GLA is a lifestyle crossover that competes not only against the X1 and Q3, but also against the Range Rover Evoque.

Not only the design make us think of an SUV, but also the structure of the range. Excepting the basic GLA 200 and GLA 180 CDI, all three other versions (see the technical details chart) can be linked to the new 4-wheel drive system launched together with the CLA. The 7-speed double clutch automatic transmission is standard for the GLA 220 CDI, the GLA 250 and all the versions with a 4-wheel drive.

  • The elegant crossover design
  • The availability of the 4-wheel drive for almost all versions
  • Tempting price for a front wheel drive Mercedes
  • Effective 2,1-liter diesel engine
  • Off-road skills better than those of the competition


  • Relatively significant roll unless the Dynamic Handling package is ordered
  • Less knee and headroom in the back then in the rivals
  • High price for the 4-wheel drive and automatic transmission versions

Mercedes did not need to compromise much for this really special design. The standard volume of the boot is 421 liters (the X1 and the Evoque – 420 liters the Q3 – 460 liters). For ordering the Storage package, the rest of the back seats can be tilted in different angles and the volume of the boot grows by 60 liters up to 481 liters (the package also includes reversible front passenger seat and also a 12V socket in the boot).

The maximum volume of the 1235-liters boot is slightly smaller than that of the competition, but the fact that the GLA will not bear an extra bag couldn’t make us care less (X1 – 1350 liters, Q3 – 1365 liters). But the three quarters visibility is quite restrictive, so we would recommend that includes the parking assistance system.

Mercedes-Benz GLA (X156) 2013

If we should compare, the rear space is less generous than that of a Q3 or an X1, especially regarding the inside height. Passengers of 1,80 meters high would not have much kneeroom left. Obviously, the GLA would not be suitable for a big family. Those who require more space, should choose the GLK.

The interior is similar to that of the A-Class and of the CLA: the solid manufacturing quality, the five generous outlets with original adjustment, the gear lever on the right side behind the steering wheel column, making space on the central console (for automatic versions) and control buttons set on the doors, for the adjustment of the electrical seats. More than 70% of the parts come from the CLA, including the seats with in-built headrests (optional) and the speedometer graded up to 260 km/h for the test GLA 250 4Matic, equipped with a 2-liter and 211 HP turbocharged petrol engine.

This engine that would surely fit under the hood of any respectable hothatch, is refined, quiet and more powerful. It goes up from 0 to 100 km/h in only 7,1 seconds and can reach 230 km/h. But during testing, the computer humped over 10 l/100 km, which does not make it attractive enough for the European clients. The most desired engines, in Europe, will be the two GLA 200 CDI and GLA 220 CDI engines, especially because both of them can be completed with the 4-wheel drive.

The low driving position doen’t gives the impression that we are behind the steering wheel of an SUV, with all the profit coming out of it. Low driving position and the driving feeling make us think that we are behind the wheel of a compact model, more than in the driver’s seat of an SUV. Mercedes standardly offers a comfort suspension, but one can optionally order a sports suspension (together with the AMG Line or the Dynamic Handling package), that lowers the ground clearance by 15 mm, or an off-road suspension elevated by 30 mm (optional). During the off-road drive test in Spain, the GLA with a sports suspension and the off-road package (it includes modified response for the throttle, the gearbox and the ESP, off-road display with a compass, steering wheel angle, side and longitudinal bending) proved to be more comfortable than the Evoque and more skilful then its crossover looks could show.

 Also optional, a 20% sharper steering at a steering angle between 5 and 90 degrees can be offered. But there are comfort differences between the front wheel drive versions and the ones with a 4-wheel drive that we tested. As in the CLA, the rear multilink axle with four arms is detached from the body shell with a flexible support, which gives more comfort than in the front wheel drive versions, of which the front axle is rigidly tied up to the body, like in the A-Class.

Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC (X156) 2013

Driven to the limit, the “comfort” suspension and standardly steered GLA angles pretty much, but for a 4-wheel drive derived from a front wheel drive, it doesn’t understeer too much, and the acceleration along the path is transcendent. Those who desire a more aggressive GLA should buy the Dynamic Handling package, standardly available in the AMG package, or optionally available for the other versions, which include the sports steering and the lower sports suspension.

 With the off-road package, the GLA can do more than its show low body shell, unusual for an SUV

Drive test Mercedes GLA  33

The entrance fee in the GLA world is worth 29.303,75 euros, but for the money, you only get the 1,6-liter turbocharged engine, with a front wheel drive and a 6-speed manual transmission. The cheapest 4-wheel drive model – the GLA 200 CDI – is 36.509,20 euros and it includes the 7-speed automatic dual clutch transmission.


This is where the equipement lines saraband begins, as the Mercedes has many customizing options to give: the Style package (17-inch alloy wheels, black bars on the roof, a combination of Artico leather and cloth and the comfort seats which we recommend, more than the sports ones that have in-built headrests), the Urban package (18-inch alloy wheels, sports seats), the AMG Sport package (18-inch alloy wheels, AMG exterior kit, Dynamic Handling package and sports seats). You can also choose some design lines: Night, Exclusive or AMG Exlusive. The former two have heated front seats, covered up in leather and Artico leather with red seaming on the upper part of the dashboard at AMG Exclusive. And the options list is just as long and it includes the panorama sliding sunroof and an intelligent light system.

The Verdict

By the looks and by the philosophy, the GLA makes the X1 and Q3 look obsolete. The GLA is a modern crossover, that can be customized in so many ways, not only when it comes to design, but also to the driving train. It can be both sporty and skilful in the off-road. Considering all these, we can skip the rear narrow space. It is a lifestyle model, not a carriage.

Technical data Mercedes GLA EU version

ModelGLA 200GLA 250GLA 250 4MaticGLA 180 CDIGLA 200 CDIGLA 200 CDI 4MaticGLA 220 CDI220 CDI 4Matic
Engine typeL4, turboL4, turboL4, turboL4, turbodieselL4, turbodieselL4, turbodieselL4, turbodieselL4, turbodiesel
Displacement (cmc)15951991199114612143214321432143
Max. power/revs(CP/rpm)156/5300211/5500211/5500109/4000136/3400-4000136/3400-4000170/3400-4000170/3400-4000
Max. torque/revs(Nm/rpm)250/1250-4000350/1200-4000350/1200-4000260/1750-2500300/1400-3400300/1400-3400350/1400-3400350/1400-3400
Transmissionman. 6 sp./aut. 7 sp.aut. 7 sp.aut. 7 6 sp./aut. 7 6 sp./aut. 7 sp.aut. 7 sp.aut. 7 sp.aut. 7 sp.
L/l/h (mm)4417/1804/14944417/1804/14944417/1804/14944417/1804/14944417/1804/14944417/1804/14944417/1804/14944417/1804/1494
Wheelbase (mm)26992699269926992699269926992699
Boot capacity (l)421-1235421-1235421-1235421-1235421-1235421-1235421-1235421-1235
Kerb weight (kg)1395 (1435)(1455)(1505)1440 (1470)1505 (1535)(1595)(1535)(1595)
Maximum speed (km/h)215 (215)(235)(230)190 (190)205(205)(200)(215)(215)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s)8,9 (8,8)(7,2)(7,1)12,0 (11,9)10,0 (9,9)(9,9)(8,3)(8,3)
Combined fuel consumption (l/100 km)5,9 (5,8)(6)(6,5)4,0 (3,9)4,3 (4,4)(4,9)(4,4)(4,9)
Emission CO2 (g/km)137 (135)(141)(151)105 (103)114 (114)(129)(115)(129)
Price (euro with VAT, GER)29.303,7535.283,5037.496,9030.553,2532.13036.509,2037.038,7539.252,15

Values in brackets for automatic versions

Technical data Mercedes GLA USA version

ModelCLA 250 4Matic
EngineL4, turbo
Displacement (cc)1,991
Max.power/revs (HP/rpm)208/5,500
Max. torque/revs (lb-ft/rpm)258/1,250-4,000
Transmission7 speed automatic
L/l/h (in)173.9/71.0/60
Wheelbase (in)106.3
Curb weight (lbs)3,384
Trunk capacity (cu. ft)43.6
Acceleration 0-60 mph (s)na
City fuel consumption (mpg)na
Highway fuel consumption (mpg)na
Price (USD)33,300