Mercedes GLA hybrid review

SUV version of Mercedes' smallest plug-in hybrid model has all the ingredients necessary for success

Mercedes GLA 250 e
£35,000
Plug-in hybrid

Pros

  • Premium and high-tech interior
  • Amusingly quick acceleration
  • Larger inside than old GLA

Cons

  • Expensive for private buyers
  • Not very distinctively styled
  • Diesel may be better for high mileage
Car type Fuel economy CO2 emissions 0-62mph
Plug-in hybrid 157-177mpg 38g/km 7.1s

Mercedes in the process of adding a plug-in hybrid option to almost its entire range. The A-Class hatchback and saloon, C-Class saloon and estate, CLA four-door coupe, E-Class saloon and estate and S-Class luxury car already have it, while the GLC and GLE large SUV plug-ins are just around the corner.

Completing the brand's plug-in hybrid SUV line-up is this GLA 250 e, a raised-up, crossover version of the A 250 e (which we named Best Small Plug-In Hybrid Car at the 2020 DrivingElectric Awards). Ranged squarely against rivals like the BMW X1 xDrive25e and Volvo XC40 Recharge T5, it uses the same engine as the A 250e: a 1.33-litre petrol engine paired with a 101bhp electric motor, drawing power from a 15.6kWh battery. An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is standard.

The GLA 250 e has a 35-litre fuel tank, which is smaller than the petrol and diesel models' 43 litres. The tank itself is located ahead of the car's front axle, which leaves space under the boot floor to accommodate the hybrid system's batteries. This is important, as it means the GLA avoids the awkward box-shaped intrusion into the boot area seen in the larger E-Class hybrids; the boot floor stays flat, including when the rear seats are folded down.

This latest GLA is 10 centimetres higher than its predecessor and just over 1.6 metres tall in total. It's almost exactly the same length as the old car, at 4.41 metres from one end to the other. However, the wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) is three centimetres longer; the practical result of that – plus the added height – is that the rear seats are now much more comfortable for adult occupants to sit in, compared to the cramped rear of the old GLA.

With almost 100% battery charge, our test car estimated its own electric range to be 36 miles – just short of the officially claimed 38. The car defaults to Hybrid mode when you switch it on, which means the petrol engine doesn't burst into life immediately and you proceed in silent zero-emissions fashion at speeds up to 81mph as long as you accelerate gently.
 

Once you press the accelerator sufficiently to wake the engine, performance is strong as it and the electric motor combine to give a surge of acceleration. Total power is 215bhp and maximum torque is 450Nm, so swift and safe overtaking is a doodle. Even when active, the petrol engine remains remarkably quiet, only really becoming noticeable when you're accelerating fast.

As an ownership proposition, the GLA 250 e suffers slightly from the fact that plug-in hybrids are no longer eligible for any kind of government grant, so the list price is always going to be a few thousand pounds higher than a diesel or petrol GLA in equivalent specification.

But that won't matter to the company-car users who'll form a large proportion of this car's target market. For them, the car's anticipated low CO2 emissions, plus that healthy electric range, translate to a bargain-basement Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rate during the 2020/21 financial year. Add that to the premium appeal of the Mercedes badge, the luxurious and high-quality interior we've already seen in the A-Class and the enjoyable driving experience that hybrid power provides, and Mercedes has what feels like a real winner on its hands.