Used Mercedes GLA (Mk1, 2013-2020) review - How practical is it?

There's a lot of storage space in the GLA's cabin, although passengers may find the car a little cramped

As the Mercedes GLA SUV is based on the previous-generation A-Class hatchback, it carries over that car’s reasonable level of practicality – in the front of the cabin, at least. There are plenty of cubbyholes dotted around the interior and decent-sized door bins, while a large rear window and the elevated driving position improve visibility over the A-Class. The GLA is a five-seater only, as seven-seat layouts are reserved for larger SUVs in the Mercedes range, such as the GLS.

Even though it’s one of the longer cars in its class, the GLA is quite tight for space inside. That lower roofline impedes room slightly, particularly for passengers in the back.

Equally, the combination of small side windows and dark trim makes the cabin feel claustrophobic, while the front-seat runners are too close together, which reduces foot space for those in the rear.

Dimensions and cabin design

The GLA is quite a long car, measuring 4,417mm long by 1,804mm wide. That makes it longer than the Audi Q3 and the Range Rover Evoque, but slightly shorter than the BMW X1. However, the Mercedes’ low-slung stance – it’s only 1,494mm tall – and the fact that it’s based on a hatchback mean you don’t sit as high up as you do in any of its chief rivals, so the view out of the cabin isn’t as good.

Boot space

The 481-litre boot in the GLA is 61 litres bigger than those in the Audi Q3 and the Range Rover Evoque, although it’s a little shy of the 505 litres in the BMW X1. Fold the Mercedes’ rear seats down flat and you end up with 1,235 litres of space, which is less than the maximum boot capacity in its three main rivals, so that’s worth considering if you regularly transport big loads. 

Equipment and technology 

Unlike its tall, SUV-inspired rivals, the Mercedes GLA looks like a family hatchback on stilts – and that’s exactly what it is. While the large headlights, bold grille and curved roofline are reminiscent of the A-Class hatchback.

There are a few rugged elements to the GLA, such as the plastic body cladding and wheel arches, which mark it out as an SUV. The Urban Edition model comes with 18-inch 5-twin-spoke alloy wheels, LED high-performance headlights and Night package gloss black trim with aluminium roof rails, while AMG Line versions feature 19-inch alloys, AMG bodystyling and ARTICO man-made leather-trimmed sports seats.

Look out for the WhiteArt Edition, which was introduced as part of the 2017 facelift. In addition to everything that’s standard on the AMG Line version, it has 19-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels painted black with a matching colour matt foil, LED headlights with adaptive high-beam assist, Garmin navigation, parking assist, privacy glass, ambient lighting, heated front seats and a suite of cosmetic upgrades. With prices starting from £33,000, it was an expensive and exclusive edition, but one that’s worth seeking out on the used market.

By the end of the car’s life, the range was pared back to four trim levels: Urban Edition, SE, Sport and AMG Line. Many buyers opted for one of the equipment packs, so look out for them when considering a used GLA. The Executive pack cost £995 and came with active parking assist, Garmin sat-nav and heated front seats. The £1,695 Premium pack added ambient lighting, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, electrically folding door mirrors and LED headlights with active high beam. 

The Premium Plus pack cost a fiver short of £3,000 and featured keyless entry and start, electrically adjustable front seats with lumbar support and a panoramic glass sunroof.

The GLA’s interior follows on from that of the A-Class, as the dash has been inspired by the one in the company’s old SLS AMG supercar. It features racy-looking dials and a tablet-style display for the infotainment system, which features on other Mercedes models.

The large bezel design on this screen is now starting to look a little dated, but the interior is all solidly screwed together. Generally speaking, plenty of high-grade materials are used, although some of the plastics lower down on the dashboard look and feel a little low-rent.

The downside is that unlike in other compact SUVs, you don’t sit particularly high in the GLA due to its low-slung stance. The narrow windscreen and thick A-pillars mean occupants feel a little hemmed in, just as they do in the A-Class.

A larger eight-inch screen is standard across the range. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard, and both are easy to access via the system’s clearly laid out menus and neat graphics. A simplified version of the brand’s COMAND rotary controller is located on the transmission tunnel and it’s fairly simple to use.

Sat-nav is fitted to AMG Line variants, but all models feature a six-speaker audio system, Bluetooth and two USB ports.

Safety

In terms of safety, Mercedes has always set a high standard, because many of the features of its flagship luxury saloon, the S-Class, make their way down to the lesser models in the range.

All versions of the GLA come with Pre-Safe, which prepares you and the car for an impending accident; Attention Assist sounds a warning if the driver looks as though they’re about to nod off; and Collision Prevention Assist automatically applies the brakes if it detects an impending front-end collision.

Plenty of other hi-tech safety features were also available, although it did push up the price of the car if several options were fitted. The result is a full five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, awarded in 2014.

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