Mercedes GLA Test Drive Review
06 August 2014
The recent extreme weather has caused many company car drivers to consider one of the current crop of small SUVs as their next vehicle. Fortunately, this burgeoning sector now offers huge choice, not just from mainstream manufacturers, but also from premium brands. BMW has the X1 and Audi its Q3; now Mercedes is joining the party with the GLA.
As per its rivals, Mercedes has chosen to base the GLA on its C-segment hatchback offering, the A-class. There's a range of one petrol and two diesel engines, as well as the hot, 360hp GLA45 AMG.
It's the entry-level GLA200 CDI model that'll be of most interest to fleet drivers, though, and this comes as a manual (with an automatic optional) and only with two-wheel drive. The rest of the range is four-wheel drive and auto only.
The 136hp 200 CDi is one of the cheapest in its class to run. Combined fuel consumption is a respectable 62.8mpg, and CO2 of 119g/km gives it a benefit-in-kind rate of 18% - on par with the BMW X1 sDrive 20d Efficient Dynamics, which has a higher P11D value. Audi's Q3 1.4 TFSi offers a lower P11D, but a higher BIK of 19% and combined emissions of 47.8mpg, while diesel Q3 models are even more costly to tax and can't match either the GLA's or the X1's fuel consumption. That said, the Audi's RVs are by far the best of the bunch, with the Mercedes' slightly better than the faster-depreciating BMW's.
Tempting as it is to pick the GLA200 CDI over its rivals for its low running costs, it does have a caveat, and that's the driving experience. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, but it doesn't particularly shine either. Ride comfort isn't bad, but nor is it entirely settled. It feels rather sluggish, too, and at motorway speeds there's more wind noise than you'd expect. Fortunately, the manual gearbox is slick; the automatic, too, shifts smoothly, and doesn't incur any CO2 penalty.
At least the GLA has plenty of visual appeal. The cabin, compact but not cramped, is trimmed in classy materials and built as well as you'd expect. The exterior is also suitably appealing, its squat, crossover-like profile and A-class design cues more cohesive than the X1, and classier than the Q3.
If you like these aspects of the GLA, we wouldn't deter you. A GLA200 CDI certainly seems to stack up financially. But if you can live with the looks of an X1, you'll probably enjoy driving it more, although in cost per mile terms, an equivalent version is 7.8ppm dearer than the Mer