GLA offers bite-size entry to Merc’s SUV family

What do you do if you’re a premium car manufacturer who currently has four separate SUV models in your lineup? Naturally, the correct answer is put your smallest model on a hot wash and create a fifth. So comes the Mercedes-Benz GLA, the latest in the company’s attempts to dominate every aspect of the SUV market.

All signs, though, point to a winner. An entry in the ever expanding crossover segment, the GLA takes its design cues from the A-Class hatch, with a svelte profile that manages to be muscular in all the right areas. Curiously, it’s slightly longer than the Range Rover Evoque — an obvious competitor — but manages to look much less like a typical SUV in comparison.

That’s not to say that it’ll run for the city when you show it a muddy track. Featuring the latest incarnation of Mercedes’ 4Matic off-road tech, it’ll be more than capable of traversing country roads and rutted tracks — just don’t expect any serious off-roading, especially from the two-wheel-drive models due in 2015.

What the GLA offers, though, is an alternative for those who don’t want a standard A- or C-Class with some of the ride height and driving prowess of the bigger SUVs in Merc’s line-up. It’s an attractive alternative, too, with the launch model’s turbocharged 2.0-liter engine producing 208hp and 258lbs-ft of torque promising a 0-60 time of just 6.4 seconds. This is aided by its 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and the sure-footed grip of the AWD system on board.

Inside, it’ll be business as usual, with premium fixtures and fittings and the usual smorgasbord of entertainment and safety options Mercedes likes to stuff each of its cars with.

Ultimately, if the GLA can offer a bite-sized taste of its bigger brothers, it’ll prove a worthy addition to Mercedes’ SUV range. It’ll launch fully at the Frankfurt motor show next month, with U.S. deliveries expected in the fall next year.

Speaking of Mercedes SUVs, we drove the GLA’s biggest brother, the 7-seat GL, in Los Angeles this summer, and came away thoroughly impressed with its blend of luxury and utility. Jump here for the full review.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He is usually found with a game controller in one hand and a smartphone in the other, and can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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