8

10

Model

GLA 250 Sport

Price

$57,990

The Numbers

1991cc, 4cyl turbo petrol, 100kW, 300Nm, AWD, 7spd dual clutch, 7.0L/100km, 0-100km/h 7.1secs, 1505kg

The Topgear Verdict

Hot turbo engine, AWD and a little bit of extra clearance; sounds like our kind of SUV.

2014 Mercedes GLA 250 Sport

What is it?

The GLA 250 Sport is a small wagon hatch thingy that sits just a little bit higher than the A-Class it is based on (35mm to be exact). It has all-wheel-drive, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine and just enough ground clearance to clear stray rocks and small marsupials.

What’s it like to drive?

The GLA operates purely as a front-driver until it senses slip and then it sends up to 50 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels faster than you can say, well, anything (100 milliseconds).

In what as a remarkable case of serendipity, it rained on our drive in New Zealand (what are the chances?) allowing us to see how well it went on slippery tarmac. The answer is, extremely well.

With 155kW and 350Nm, the GLA 250 is fast, if not furious, and handles more like a hatch than an SUV thanks to its relatively low centre of gravity and sporty-tuned suspension.

What about offroad?

Mercedes-Benz did take us to an off-road park near Auckland in New Zealand to test the GLA 250 on slippery mud tracks, but it isn’t claiming this is a go-anywhere off-roader. That’s good, because it doesn’t have a spare tyre (you can order one though) and sits low enough that after any time on a rocky road its sump would have more exposed cracks than a building site.

It does have some technology to assist venturing off the tarmac, including a special mode that changes the throttle calibration and transmission map for slippery surface driving, hill descent control and something that makes the headlights throw more light out to the sides so you can spot any drop bears waiting for you in trees at the side of the road.

There is also an off-road digital display showing all sorts of technical data including the angle of the car on a ascent or descent (front to rear and side to side), as well as wheel angles and various other information that is, pretty much, of no use whatsoever.

How much does it cost – and is it worth the coin?

The GLA range starts at $47,900 for the diesel GLA 200 and tops out with the extreme GLA 45 AMG at $79,900. This new 250 Sport model sits in the middle.

It’s not as fast or as extreme as the AMG, but is still quick and is easier to live with day to day. There’s also the fact it is much cheaper and at $57,900, the GLA 250 Sport is actually a performance bargain with a Mercedes badge. It is closely related to the A250 Sport hatch, which is even better value at $49,990 but that car is smaller, misses out on the AWD system, sits lower and doesn’t have quite as much gear.

The GLA 250 Sport comes with a reasonable amount of gear; 19-inch wheels, heated front seats, panoramic sunroof, reversing camera and “man made leather” seat trim, which is actually a form of vinyl made by both men and women.

Would you take this or a BMW X1?

They’re similarly ordinary off road, but the X1 is not as much fun on the road.

Driven: July 17, 2014