Mercedes’ small upmarket SUV has blossomed in its transformation to this second-generation GLA. The manufacturer’s smallest SUV impressed us earlier in the year with its blend of attributes, including the brand’s slick MBUX infotainment system that will make life with the car even easier.
Premium buyers won’t stand for low-rent plastics, rumbly engines and sub-standard tech, but these are areas where the GLA excels. High quality and great materials combine with a range of punchy, frugal and smooth engines that – in some cases – are linked to new transmissions, so that on the move the car’s mechanicals melt away into the background.
It’s true that premium cars come with premium price tags, but buyers at this level of the market are also looking for advanced, efficient technologies to save money, and the GLA offers a plug-in powertrain in 250 e form.
There’s up to 37 miles of all-electric range (replenished in as little as one hour and 45 minutes using a home wallbox), which is a very usable figure when most people don’t travel this far on their daily journeys. It could cut your running costs massively and offset the higher purchase price or finance costs.
They might not be to all tastes, but the 200 d and 220 d both do a great job otherwise. Diesel needn’t be a dirty word with modern units like these, because CO2 emissions are as low as 140g/km and economy as high as 52.3mpg.
As much as 495 litres of boot capacity is great for a vehicle of this size, while the amount of space in the GLA’s cabin is good, too.
But it’s the slick in-car technology that pulls the whole package together, compared with more limited or ageing systems in some of the Mercedes’ key rivals. With a touchscreen and a central touchpad, there are two methods of control, while it’s responsive, the graphics are great, and there’s plenty of connectivity.
The GLA is a template for what a modern small premium Sports Utility Vehicle should be, so it’s no surprise that Mercedes has picked up another award here.
Mercedes GLA 220 d 4MATIC AMG Line Executive (£39,935)
Opting for Executive trim gives you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while AMG Line has sporty looks and the core kit a premium SUV needs. It sneaks under the £40,000 threshold for the lower rate of road tax in 220 d form, too.
The Q3 is arguably even more practical than the GLA, even if quality isn’t on the same level. Its sliding rear seats add flexibility, while the engine range and on-board technology make it a solid choice.
Range Rover Evoque
Last year’s winner slips to commended here; it’s still a luxurious product that boasts plenty of refinement, but the tech isn’t as advanced as the Merc’s and the packaging and practicality are more limited. But it still sets the bar for style.