2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA first drive

Mercedes-Benz ever-so-slightly primps the smallest of its five SUVs, the GLA, for its midlife facelift. Sitting in the premium crossover class occupied by the likes of the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, the Mercedes finds its position further under threat from newer rivals emerging from the ranks of the ‘non-premium’ crossovers – such as brilliant vehicles like the Seat Ateca and Peugeot 3008.

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA
2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA

What the Mercedes offers is the most car-like appearance and driving experience of anything of a comparative size, as the low-slung GLA is little more than a slightly higher-riding A-Class. This particular facet of its character is both a blessing and a curse, as we shall soon come to see.

The benefit of having the GLA over and above an A-Class is the additional space it offers within, plus its marginally elevated driving position. Two diesel and three petrol engines are available, starting with a 136-horsepower motor in the GLA 200 d and culminating in the mighty Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, now up to 381hp and 350lb ft for 2017MY. Most GLAs come with 4Matic all-wheel drive and what we’ve driven here is the 177hp 220 d, likely to be a popular choice in the revised line-up.

First impressions

Don’t strain your eyes – this GLA update is another of the many, many mid-life model facelifts that are next to impossible to spot, unless you’re forearmed with the knowledge of what has changed. Mercedes has altered barely a panel nor headlight cluster’s shape for the 2017MY GLA, so it looks all but identical to ...