Like the QX30, the GLA is a raised, compact-crossover version of the Mercedes A-Class hatchback. So, which company has done the better job of converting the classy hatchback into an SUV? Here we test the£33,855 GLA 22od Sport Premium, which comes with 4MATIC four-wheel drive and a DCT automatic gearbox as standard.
The GLA bears a strong resemblance to its regular hatchback stablemate, with one of the main reasons being that in making the car’s transformation from A-Class hatch to GLA crossover, Mercedes has resisted raising its ride height to that of a full SUV.
The chassis has been jacked up by 50 mm, though, and when you combine this with the extra black body cladding for the bumpers and wheelarches, it gives the GLA a more imposing look.
It’s wider than the A-Class, too, thanks to its flared front and rear wheelarches, although in reality if s the narrowest car of the trio here.
The Sport model looks more aggressive than the entry-level SE version, with a chrome insert in the front bumper, twin tailpipes and 18-inch alloys, while the aluminium roof rails add an extra dimension of off-road presence.
However, design cues such as the oversized tail-lights and sculpted doors help the GLA to stand out, while the low roofline and narrow glass area make it one of the sportier-looking crossovers.
The interior will be familiar to anyone who has sat in an A-Class- or an Infiniti Q30/QX30, for that matter. Sport trim brings an eight-inch display that sits above three central air vents and is controlled by a wheel on the transmission tunnel.
But if you want sat-nav as part of the multimedia system you’ll have to spend an extra £495 (it’s standard on its rivals here), unless you go for the £1,695 Premium Package fitted to our test car.
This adds bi-xenon headlights with integrated LED running lights, heated front seats and a self-parking system. DAB is an extra at £420, too; it’s included as standard on the QX30 and X1.
One of the downsides to the GLA sharing much of its interior with the A-Class is that it feels cramped, while material quality in some areas seems a little sketchy. On the whole, though, the plastics are soft where they need to be, giving it a nice feel. Don’t be fooled by the upholstery though, because the leather is actually man-made. The Infiniti gets real hide, although the BMW gets cloth trim.
They’re based on the same platform, so ifs no surprise that the GLA and QX30 feel largely the same to drive. Unfortunately, that means the Mercedes has the same slightly floaty handling that the Infiniti suffers from.
Like its rival, there’s plenty of roll in corners, while the chassis never feels as agile as the BMW’s. There’s plenty of grip, but not much fun to be had, which is in stark contrast to the X1.
Push hard enough and the stability control will cut in, while if you’re extremely savage with your inputs the car will assume it’s about to have an accident, and will tension the seatbelts with a tug, which can feel quite constrictive if you’re not expecting it.
While the Mercedes and Infiniti have the same 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine, the GLA is slightly the more powerful choice, with 177bhp as opposed to the 168bhp of the QX30. In our tests, the Mercedes was six-tenths faster than the lnfiniti, with a o-6omph time of 8.2 seconds, and it wasn’t that far behind the 7.8 seconds of the BMW.
In real-world driving you’ll struggle to spot the differences between the GLA and QX30 in terms of performance, although the Mercedes’ gearchanges are exceptionally jerky in Sport mode when the electronics take care of the shifts.
One thing setting the Mercedes apart from the lnfiniti is the fact the GLA’s Drive Select switch lets you choose from more driving modes. There are five in total – Comfort, Sport, Individual, Eco and Off-road – compared with the three in the QX30.
Unless you choose the optional adaptive dampers (only available on AMG Line and GLA 45 models), the only parameters that are changed are the throttle and gearbox responses, while the steering becomes heavier in more sporting settings, or lighter in the Comfort mode.
Whichever mode you choose, the GLA is just as relaxed and comfortable as the QX30, and while the engine sounds pretty noisy from the outside, it’s a great deal quieter in the cabin.
Infiniti wasn’t part of our Driver Power survey, but there’s plenty of data on an established brand such as Mercedes. Owner feedback put it mid-table in 12th in our 2016 poll, which was three places ahead of rival BMW, while its dealers ranked two places higher in 21st. However, these results aren’t exactly anything to write home about for either manufacturer.
When it comes to safety the GLA’s performance is stronger, scoring a maximum five-star rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2014 thanks in part to standard-fit autonomous braking. The GLA also scored the highest adult protection rating of all three test cars, with an impressive result of 96 per cent.
Running costs 3.9/5
According to our experts, the Mercedes is expected to hold on to 46.2 per cent of its value.
So although it costs you £485 and £965 more to buy than the Infiniti and the BMW respectively, if you sell it on after threeyears/60,000 miles, it’ll only lose £161 or £59 more than the QX30 orX1.
On top of that, the GLA has the joint-lowest insurance rating, alongside the Infiniti, at group 23. However, its £27 per month, three-year servicing pack works out at £972 in total, which is more than double the cost of BMW’s five-year offering at £475.
The Mercedes has marginally the shortest wheelbase and the narrowest body, which impacts practicality. As a result, with the rear seats up, the 481-litre boot is 24 litres down on the largerX1’s. It beats the QX30’s 430 litres, however. This positioning between its two rivals continues with the rear seats folded down.
Storage is acceptable but not as good as in the roomier X1. There’s a tray at the base of the centre console, along with a pair of cup-holders and a big central bin behind. However, the low roof and high dash can make you feel a little hemmed in, while the high- backed front seats block the view forward for those in the rear.
HEAD TO HEAD
These three cars show the sheer breadth of bodystyles you can get in the class. The X1 is almost SUV-sized, while the QX30 is far more of a raised hatchback. The GLA falls between these two with a larger boot than Infiniti, but cabin space is still on the small side. In reality, the BMW us the most SUV-like of the trio.
The relationship between the QX30 and GLA is obvious inside. The Infiniti has the same cliamte controls, window switches and single column stalk, while their keys are similar, too. The X1 shares its platform with the MINI Clubman, but both cars have their own distinct look.
Infiniti makes a big deal about its personalised customer service. But we’ve yet to recieve enough responses for the brand to appear in our Driver Power survey, so we can’t see if this is reflected in owners’ views – and whether the dealers perform better than the BMW and Mercedes networks.