Mercedes has revealed the wildly different GLA SUV. The smallest member of the brand’s family of ‘off-roaders’ is now a fully-fledged SUV rather than a jacked-up A-Class, with a 10cm higher roof, a slightly shorter body and a small package of useful off-road tech.
The shift in body shape has freed up more passenger space, says Mercedes. Despite being 14mm shorter than before, there’s 116mm more rear legroom and a slightly bigger boot, at the expense of 18mm less legroom in the front and a 6mm headroom loss in the rear. The driver and front passenger sit 140mm higher than in an A-Class and 50mm higher than in the B-Class, while the rear seats adjust 14cm fore and aft in conjunction with seat back angle adjustment. The boot has a heigh-adjustable load floor as well, so the whole thing is both impressively flexible and surprisingly clever.
While the GLA can’t match the GLB for rugged handsomeness and chunky charm, it’s not a bad-looking thing. Its one real faux pas is a massive pair of fake front bumper vents, which do look a bit cheap. Also fake are the rock guards beneath the front and rear. Please don’t actually test them on a rock.
On the inside it’s all about screens, but there are three versions. The entry models will have two seven-inch screens as standard, while higher models switch one of those for a 10.25-inch one. We’d bet a pound that the top-spec option, two 10.25-inch screens, will be on the upgrades list for a fee. Happily, standard kit includes navigation with augmented reality, a full colour head-up display and voice control activated by saying “hey Mercedes.” You’ll just need to avoid getting a girlfriend called… well, you get the idea.
As you’d expect, the likes of traffic sign-reading, blind spot monitoring, active speed limit control and lane-keeping assist systems are all available, possibly optional. Among a long list of clever functions the systems will apparently do their best to slow you down when you’re approaching the back of a jam, which will surely only work if the systems are live-updated more or less every second. We look forward to seeing it in action.
A neat extra feature for some people will be the ‘car wash’ mode. Activate it and all glass shuts, the mirrors fold in, the climate control switches to recirculate and the forward camera (if there’s one fitted) activates on the main screen, to help you navigate into the car wash itself. The mode auto-deactivates at 12mph.
All-wheel drive is optional. As standard it sends only 20 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels, rising to 70:30 in Sport driving mode. The electro-mechanical clutch between the two axles can act as a full diff lock in off-road mode, at which point the torque is split 50:50. Handy. Also useful is an automatic mode for the Multibeam LED headlights that come with the Off-Road Engineering Package. They activate a wide, bright beam concentrated on the area immediately in front of the GLA, making it easier to chart a path off the beaten track in the dark.
Engine options are limited to four-cylinder units, starting with the alarmingly small but very turbocharged 1.33-litre petrol in the GLA 200. It’s good for 161bhp and 0-62mph in 8.7s seconds, and has cylinder deactivation tech for increased fuel economy – if you know how to use it. The GLA 35 4Matic is rather more potent, with 302bhp at 5800rpm and the ability to pass 62mph in 5.1 seconds. It tops out at a limited 155mph. Interestingly, no diesels are mentioned.
It launches first in Europe in the spring of 2020, with follow-up launches in the USA and China. Local prices will be confirmed some other time, but judging by the amount of on-board tech we’re seeing, don’t expect bargains.