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Expert Review

Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S SUV (2020 -) review

In its flagship GLA45 S form Mercedes’ new baby SUV is a mix of sensible family car and fire-breathing hot-hatch, the style, performance and tech all top-notch but coming at a price

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Last updated on 26 August 2020 | 0 min read

The Auto Trader expert verdict:


Mercedes’ ever-expanding small car family now includes SUV versions of the A-Class hatchback and B-Class MPV. This, the GLA, is closer in spirit to the A-Class and competes with premium rivals like the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Jaguar E-Pace and Volvo XC40. Currently we’ve only driven the flagship GLA45 S Plus version, which is stylish and fast but very, very expensive. Regular petrols, diesels and a plug-in hybrid are also available.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickFashionable looks
  • tickPremium badge and quality
  • tickFantastic tech integration

Running costs for a Mercedes-Benz GLA Class

The GLA45 S is the flagship for the GLA range and comes from the AMG performance division, sharing its engine and more with A45 AMG. Accordingly, it’s a pretty extreme piece of kit, with a whopping 416 horsepower from its turbocharged engine, uprated brakes, suspension and the option of a wild bodykit if you want it. Like the A-Class range there’s also a slightly more mellow GLA35 version but they’re both very expensive – indeed, the most expensive GLA45 S Plus costs pretty much double the price of the entry-level GLA.
Expert rating: 3/5

Reliability of a Mercedes-Benz GLA Class

Mercedes is a premium brand and customers would reasonably have high expectations when it comes to quality and reliability. However, like many of its luxury equivalents, it measures relatively poorly on the respected JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study. It is ahead of Audi, BMW and Jaguar, though. It’s a similar story on the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, with a less than brilliant overall placing that is at least ahead of its direct competitors.
Expert rating: 3/5

Safety for a Mercedes-Benz GLA Class

The GLA is a bang-up-to-date model and bristles with all the latest safety technology to keep you and your family out of harm’s way. There are all the airbags, child seat fixing points (two Isofix on the rear bench) and suchlike you’d hope for, plus a pop-up bonnet to protect pedestrians. But Mercedes is more interested in preventing the worst from happening in the first place, and includes a driver drowsiness alert, automatic emergency braking and a warning system that makes the steering wheel vibrate if you are drifting out of your lane. A full package of active assistance functions to steer you back into lane, intervene if there’s something in your blind spot, brake automatically for hazards and more besides is an optional upgrade, but only on the more expensive trim levels. As a flagship model many of these features are standard on the GLA45.
Expert rating: 4/5

How comfortable is the Mercedes-Benz GLA Class

Although the new GLA is a fraction shorter overall than the previous version and the roofline is a little lower it has grown inside in pretty much every direction, most noticeably in the rear legroom. Most importantly for the target audience it feels considerably more substantial and imposing, which is what SUV buyers seemingly want in their cars. Mercedes is typically very strong on seat comfort, ergonomics and all the rest and the GLA delivers on the expectations here. For the purposes of this review we're concentrating on the GLA45 S variant only and, in terms of ride quality, the news isn’t great. True, this is the most extreme, performance-oriented version of the car Mercedes builds and AMG models are always a lot stiffer than the regular models from which they are derived. Plus versions of the GLA35 and GLA45 also get lowered suspension with a switch to take it from stiff to even stiffer, if that’s really what you want. That may be appropriate for a hot-hatch like the A45 but feels a bit much in an SUV like this, even one intended for sportier drivers.
Expert rating: 2/5

Features of the Mercedes-Benz GLA Class

As a top of the range model the GLA45 S Plus we tested gets all the bells and whistles. Well, nearly all. Our test car still had some scope for additional extras but at least included the best bits, like the AMG Performance seats, exterior bodykit, leather upholstery, fancy Burmester stereo and total of six driver modes to choose from. All AMG versions (bar the entry-level A35) also get the fancy paired 10.25-inch screens, the instruments and central infotainment one combined into a single ‘widescreen’ expanse of configurable information presented in beautifully crisp and stylishly rendered graphics. The GLA’s combined screens – and the MBUX system controlling them – is a real Mercedes selling point. You can operate it through touch via pads on the wheel, from the screen, with a pad on the centre console or through voice, assuming you’re not self-conscious about starting every interaction with a cheery ‘Hey, Mercedes!’
Expert rating: 5/5

Power for a Mercedes-Benz GLA Class

While the GLA45 S only has a four cylinder engine it’s an absolute monster, the 416 horsepower it delivers making it one of the most powerful of its type anywhere. It delivers this to the road via a sophisticated all-wheel drive system and eight-speed automatic gearbox, both of which you can configure via the driving modes to behave anywhere on the scale from mellow to mad. Enthusiast drivers will still prefer the smaller, faster A45 hatch version but it still feels enjoyably naughty having this much power in an otherwise sensible family SUV. With 302 horsepower the GLA35 AMG offers a similar character, just dialled back a tad to vaguely more sensible levels.
Expert rating: 4/5