Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 Yellow Night Edition 2017 review
There's no denying the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 Yellow Night Edition is quick, but at over £53k that pace comes at a significant price
It’s fast and furious, but the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45’s storming pace and prodigious grip isn’t enough to overlook its flaws. Hot hatchback rivals offer similar entertainment for much less money, while those who really want an SUV are better served with the roomier and plusher Porsche Macan. We’d avoid the Yellow Night Edition due to its big price hike, too.
Mercedes is often accused of needless niche-filling, and cars like the AMG-tuned GLA 45 are frequently cited as evidence. But with the explosion of the crossover market in Europe, manufacturers are rolling out new SUV-inspired variants at a rate of knots, and several hot versions are around the corner.
Having been on sale for over two years now, the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 was actually ahead of the game – but that hasn’t stopped it from gaining a series of mid-life updates along with the rest of the GLA range. We’re driving a UK-spec version of the revised Audi RS Q3 rival to see what has changed.
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External revisions for the GLA 45 aren’t blindingly obvious at first, but the devil is in the detail. A new front apron sees vertical louvres added to the air intakes and a silver chrome splitter. At the rear you’ll find a tweaked spoiler and new diffuser insert. None of these are just fashion accessories, either; cooling is improved as a result, while the drag coefficient has been lowered slightly, too.
The chintz is added by our test car’s flagship Yellow Night Edition specification. The abundance of yellow decals, and yellow-rimmed wheels means it’s certainly an acquired taste. But, to our eyes, an audience that’s young enough to appreciate this sort of thing is unlikely to have £50,000 to spend on a car like this. Still, the interior add-ons, including AMG performance seats and an Alcantara-style wheel, are welcome and more tasteful.
Despite some appealing detailing, the cabin can’t shake off the A-Class-inspired architecture, with a button-heavy console and tacked-on screen that isn’t nearly as well-resolved as Merc’s newer designs. Space isn’t brilliant, either, with the chunky front seats making legroom pretty miserly for anyone forced to spend time in the back.
Given it’s a jacked-up hatchback capable of out-sprinting a Porsche 911 Carrera, one thing this facelift doesn’t need is more power. And besides, the 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine was boosted from 355bhp to 376bhp for the 2016 model year, anyway. But to make the most of that, AMG has made the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox’s top five ratios even shorter, aiding acceleration and reducing shift times. While it has always been undeniably rapid, the new car rips through its cogs with real ferocity, and our car’s AMG Performance exhaust livens up the four-cylinder note with some well-judged pops and crackles on the overrun.
Drop the drive selector back into its more docile settings and the powertrain becomes more civilised, but it never really settles down to a refined cruise. Road noise is ever-present at motorways speeds, while the sharp throttle and highly-strung gearbox can make town driving more of a chore than it perhaps needs to be.
The ride is just about acceptable, though, and while it feels firm and unsettled on poor surfaces, it’s more forgiving than the setup on the A 45 hatchback. It manages to disguise the extra ride height, too, feeling flat and agile in the bends, while the four-wheel drive system and a new locking front differential means the amount of grip on offer is staggering. However, it’s ultimately no more engaging or fun than hot hatchbacks like the Ford Focus RS, which costs £20,000 less.
And that’s our biggest issue with the GLA 45. In Yellow Night Edition form it retails at more than £53,000, which is well into Porsche Macan territory. Whichever way you cut it, the other SUV from Stuttgart is the more complete proposition.