The GLA is the starting point for Mercedes SUV ownership and the smarter-looking improved version of this second generation model is as classy as you'd expect a premium 'C'-segment family hatch-based crossover model ought to be from the Stuttgart brand. Thorough engineering borrowed from the Mercedes A-Class means that that there's plenty to like beyond the badge, primary selling points focusing upon quality and mild hybrid efficiency. In short, it's a car that suits its fashion-conscious segment.
Mercedes has one of the widest ranges of SUVs available and the line-up starts with this GLA model, this being the second generation version of this design. It competes in the premium part of the SUV 'C' sector and, like all models in this segment, is based on family hatchback underpinnings, in this case those of the fourth generation version of the Mercedes A-Class. The original MK1 'X156'-series Mercedes GLA, launched back in 2014, won't go down as one of the more remarkable models in the Stuttgart brand's history but it sold well, shifting nearly a million units over a six year production run which ended with the introduction of this second generation version in early 2020. This 'H247'-series car was the eighth Mercedes model to be spun off the brand's current compact car 'MFA2' platform and got lightly updated in Spring 2023 to create the car we're going to look at here.
As you might expect, engine electrification is the over-riding theme of this mid-term update. All the mainstream petrol engines now come with the brand's 48V mild hybrid system including the usual MHEV belt-driven starter-generator: that'll give you a 13hp boost when moving off. There are now only three mainstream engines, all of them four cylinder units driving the front wheels. As before, the petrol powerplant portfolio kicks off with a 1.4-litre powerplant, offered with either 136hp (in the GLA 180) or 163hp (in the GLA 200). Both must be had with 7-speed 7G-DCT auto transmission. The alternative is the GLA 200 diesel, which uses a 2.0-litre powerplant in a 150hp state of tune and must be had with 8-speed 8G-DCT auto transmission. If you want AWD, the same 2.0-litre diesel engine also features in the 190hp GLA 220 d 4MATIC. With that 4MATIC set-up, you get an 'Off-road Package' which adds an off-road headlight function and an extra off-road driving mode called Downhill Speed Regulation. A cleverer choice than the diesels if you can afford it though, is the GLA 250 e Plug-in Hybrid powertrain, which combines a 1.3-litre petrol engine with a 75kW electric motor and offers an EV driving range that, thanks to a slightly larger 11.5kWh battery, is now up to 43 miles. As before, there are two performance-orientated Mercedes-AMG GLA variants, both using engineering we've already seen in the A-Class. The GLA 35 4MATIC is the only one of the pair to gain the 48V mild hybrid system and offers a 306hp 2.0-litre petrol turbo engine mated to AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 8G dual-clutch auto transmission. The GLA 45 4MATIC+ S flagship variant uses an engine more bespoke to AMG, a tuned 2.0-litre unit putting out 421hp. All of this is pretty familiar from the latest A-Class; as is most of the other engineering on offer here. The suspension features McPherson struts up front and either a torsion beam or multi-link arrangement at the rear.
There's a bit more of a 'want one' factor with this improved version of the second generation GLA thanks to a restyling for the front grille, the front bumper (with more body colour) and the signatures for the now standard LED-illuminated headlamps. Plus the wheelarches are now body-coloured and there are revised tail lamps. Wheel sizes vary between 17-inches and 20-inches. As before, the car measures in at 4,410mm long, 2,020mm wide and 1,611mm high. Inside, this revised version of the 'H247'-series GLA isn't much different to the pre-facelift version, though Mercedes has updated the steering wheel (trimmed in soft Nappa leather) and added touch-control buttons. More significantly, the 10.25-inch MBUX infotainment system has been updated and can now be ordered with fingerprint sensor access. It also gains more advanced speech recognition and wireless 'Apple CarPlay'/'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. And there are three fresh screen display styles - ''Classic', 'Sporty' and 'Discreet'. The 7-inch instrument cluster screen fitted to lower-order models can be upgraded to 10.25-inch in size. As before, to give more of a crossover feel, the front seats are positioned 140mm higher than in the A-Class. There's a little more room in the rear than you might expect; that's because of the 30mm longer wheelbase of this MK2 design. Head room at the rear isn't particularly impressive though - it's actually 6mm less than the old first generation model. Out back, the quoted cargo capacity figure is 435-litres - which falls to 385-litres with the GLA 250e PHEV variant, due to under-floor battery placement. Even here though, something like a folded baby buggy should easily fit.
Just how much are you prepared to pay for a really premium experience from your compact SUV? Well GLA pricing is going to put that to the test. The GLA variant you're likely to want is almost certain to be in the £40,000 to £45,000 bracket - possibly more. If it's a GLA 250e Plug-in variant, it'll be £45,000 upwards. And if you want one of the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 or GLA 45 S 4MATIC high performance versions, think more like £50,000-£70,000. The conventional range is based around various different flavours of 'AMG Line' trim. All GLA models have to be had with auto transmission - which is a 7G-DCT 7-speeder with the base 1.3-litre petrol engine. This updated model now offers a wider choice of paint colours and interior trimming options. And the 'Parking Package' many customers want has been improved, now supporting longitudinal self-parking and offering a 360-degree camera system with 3D visualisation modes. And the Driver Assistance Package has been updated with better Active Steering Control. As you'd want for the money, every GLA model comes well equipped. All variants get a 10.25-inch central touchscreen with a MBUX multimedia system featuring 'Hey Mercedes' voice activation. There's a 10.25-inch instrument cluster screen too. Plus there are 17-inch alloy wheels, Artico man-made leather upholstery, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Speed Limit Assist, LED High Performance headlights and a wireless 'phone charging mat. This improved second generation GLA is of course very well connected. Navigation functions, for example, can be based on traffic feedback from so-called 'Car-to-X communication' where information gets fed in from other similarly-equipped road users. As usual, there's a downloadable 'Mercedes Me' app that connects you into your car and can tell you things like local fuel prices or the availability of parking spaces at your destination.
Let's get to the WLTP-rated figures, which see both the GLA 180 and the GLA 200 returning 151g/km of CO2 and respective combined cycle fuel figures of 41.8 and 42.8mpg. Amongst direct rivals, these readings are good enough only to shade the rival Volvo XC40 T3 auto - and that's only because that Swedish contender is nearly 100kgs heavier. If you want to do better with a conventional powerplant, this GLA's OM654 2.0-litre diesel unit beckons, capable of up to 53.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 140g/km of CO2 in 150hp front-driven form; and 49.6mpg and up to 148g/km in 190hp 4MATIC AWD guise. If you want to do better, you'll need the GLA 250e plug-in hybrid petrol model, which can put out WLTP-rated CO2 emissions of just 32g/km, record an official 201.8mpg combined cycle fuel figure and can be charged from a 7.4kW wallbox in just 1 hour and 45 minutes. We'll also brief you on the performance figures achieved by the more performance-oriented 2.0-litre petrol GLA models. The 224hp GLA 250 manages up to 36.7mpg on the combined cycle and up to 172g/km. For the 306hp Mercedes-AMG 35 4MATIC, it's up to 34.0mpg and up to 189g/km; and for the top, wild, 421hp Mercedes-AMG 45 S 4MATIC+, it's up to 29.7mpg and up to 215g/km. What else? Well, residuals will be strong, providing you don't go mad on the options list. As you'd expect, the Mercedes after-care package is comprehensive, with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty that's notably better than the restricted three year / 60,000 deal that rivals Audi offer. Most owners will also want to take advantage of a 'Service Care' option that spreads the cost of routine servicing, guaranteeing the price of parts and labour for up to four services and covering the cost of all recommended service items such as brake fluid, spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters and screen wash. As mentioned elsewhere in this film, the 'Mercedes me' connect services package comes with a self-diagnostic feature, enabling it to monitor wear and tear items and alert your local dealer to let you know if something needs seeing to.
How to sum up? Well, as before, you have to spend quite a lot to get yourself the kind of premium ownership experience the brochures promise. And unless you do so, you might struggle to justify the considerable extra cost this car demands over its similarly engineered A-Class hatchback showroom stablemate. Still, if you can hide the not-inconsiderable price tag likely to be attached to your ideal GLA away in lease payments sharpened by excellent residuals, you may not feel this issue to be a game changing one. Which would leave you free to enjoy the segment's most sophisticated cabin - and impressive standards of efficiency and high speed ride. And in summary? Well every compact SUV in this class claims to take concept of sense and sensibility and add to it something of an adventurous streak. This GLA does that too, but in this updated form with a bit of extra polish. We can see why you might like it.