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Merc's baby SUV.

Byline: Chris Russon

OUR appetite for small SUVs shows no sign of shrinking and now Mercedes is entering the market with its new GLA.

Based on the latest A-Class hatchback the newcomer will be available in a number of guises ranging from eco machine to off-roader to a red hot 4x4.

Priced from PS25,850 the GLA is a high-end crossover that is targeting the likes of the Audi Q3, BMW's X1 and even the top selling Range Rover Evoque.

Rugged yet sleek in design it is some five inches longer than the A-Class, two inches higher and pumped up to give greater ground clearance.

It has also got a bigger boot - up 140 litres to 481 litres - which is big enough to carry four suitcases easily and with adjustable rear seat backs the space can be increased by up to 60 litres while still seating five.

Fold the seats flat and there is a maximum of 1,235 litres of space available, big enough to take a snow board or the like.

Conceived very much with action families in mind the GLA brings a touch of class to the SUV zone.

The cheapest versions are front-wheel drive and are powered by Mercedes 2.1-litre diesel engine developing 136bhp and mated to either six-speed manual or sevenspeed auto transmissions. Four-wheel drive models are auto only and are fitted with a more powerful diesel boosted to 170bhp or a lively petrol engine which pumps our 211bhp.

Ride height is increased by more than an inch giving enough ground clearance to tackle moderately rough terrain.

Hill descent control is standard on the 4x4 versions and the drive can be locked in at the push of a button for maximum traction.

Nevertheless it is more a softroader than full blown 4x4 and compared to rivals the GLA is much more composed on the road.

All three engines have plenty of pull and while the petrol GLA 250 is the quickest at 7.1 seconds 0 to 60 with a top speed of 143mph it is also the thirstiest. Mercedes claims 42.8mpg with emissions of 154 but we managed only 27 on a drive through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Spain.

The most economical is the two-wheel drive GLA 200 which is officially rated at 62.8mpg with a CO2 figure of 119g/km.

On our runs through the mountains in the GLA it returned a creditable 54.3mpg on average while we managed 45.5 to the gallon in the more powerful GLA 220 which, given that it is automatic only, is impressive.

Officially the GLA 220 is rated at 55.4mpg with emissions of 132g/km.

Ride quality and handling can be configured for comfort or sporty driving and overall the composure of the GLA is above average for cars of this ilk.

A powered tailgate comes as an option and so does an 'intelligent' lighting system which gives a wide spread of light which is a handy feature when out in the wilds at night.

Combined with other goodies such as a panoramic sunroof and dual zone climate control they will add some PS2,365 to the price.

The GLA is available in two trims, SE and AMG Line, and all have a 5.8-inch tablet-style display screen attached to the centre of the dash.

Interior finish is top notch and the AMG Line versions come with 18-inch alloys, stiffer suspension and extra body kit which gives the car plenty of road presence.

It really does look the part and has more of an air of raciness than pure SUV. Safety equipment on all models includes a driver fatigue monitor, city safety crash protection while Mercedes is also making available an automatic braking system which works at speeds up to 120mph.

Prices top out at PS31,030 for the GLA 220 and PS30,910 for the GLA 250 while in the summer the line up will be expanded to include a fiery GLA 45 AMG.

Like its A-Class stablemate the AMG version is fitted with the world's most powerful two-litre petrol engine producing 360bhp which gives it blistering performance of 0 to 60 in 4.8 seconds.

Under acceleration it can be brutally quick with a splendid soundtrack from the exhausts but this four-wheel drive car is for performance and not mud plugging.

As such the GLA 45 AMG comes with its suspension and steering set up for high speed dynamics. It also sits lower for improved aerodynamics.

Prices are still to be finalised but can be expected to be in the range of PS42,000 to PS45,000 when it arrives in June.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 1, 2014
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