Car Review: Mercedes GLA crossover flatters to deceive

GLA doesn’t quite deliver on its promise and lacks of sparkle in terms of looks

Make: Mercedes-Benz

Model: GLA

Year: 2014

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: April 21, 2014

Sun, Apr 27, 2014, 22:19


When Mercedes said it was going to be the world’s biggest premium brand by 2020, there was a general rolling of eyes and the odd snigger within the automotive world. BMW and Audi were similarly committed to taking top spot at the dawn of the new decade.

BMW has been top dog for some time now but is gripped in a full-on battle with Audi, which has the backing of the VW Group, its muscular parent.

In comparison to these two, Mercedes seemed a minnow. Its top-end models may reign over their rivals but the big volume battle has been taking place at the entry end of the market and in various crossover niches.

Models such as the Q3 or X1, the 1-Series and A1 were designed to lure newcomers from the mainstream to the premium brands. Empty-nesters looking to treat themselves after a life of financial restraint,or well-heeled twentysomethings with buoyant career prospects.

Up against the BMW/Audi models, Mercedes had the high-roofed A-Class and boxy B-Class. Both looked drab and dull beside their rivals.

While entry-level premium models are supposed to lure young buyers to the brand who will then buy ever-larger models as their careers progress, the A-Class, for example, was mostly attracting retirees looking for a treat, with no interest in moving up to an E-Class or ultimately an S-Class in the future.

Then the eye-rolling stopped when Mercedes released its redesigned A-Class in 2013. Suddenly the madcap claims started to stand up to some scrutiny. After this came the sharp looking CLA coupe and now, to complete the trilogy, this crossover GLA.

Billed as something of a supermini/SUV, in reality it looks little more than the A-Class on high springs, with bigger wheels added for effect. In the metal it doesn’t look very rugged or roomy. Thankfully that’s just an illusion as
its surprisingly spacious inside.

While the A-Class is rather cramped in the back, with limited legroom the rear seats in the GLA do seem a lot more user-friendly. Add in the panoramic glass roof – admittedly another €2,200 on our test car – and the cabin feels airy and bright. Up front there’s the ever-improving Mercedes switchgear and fittings.

So all is relatively bright for the three-pointed star. At least until you turn the key. Then the rattle of a cold diesel tarnishes its lustre. And things don’t really get better when the engine warms up.

With the right engine this car would no doubt be a bit of a star. But this doesn’t seem to be it. This 2.1-litre diesel is used across the Mercedes range. Yet in recent times the focus has been on making it ever more and . This is done in several ways, but particularly when it comes to tuning the automatic transmission, which leans towards conserving fuel and keeping the rev range down rather than getting the best out of the engine. The problem is that it’s a millstone round the driveshaft of the GLA.