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Future models - Mercedes-Benz - GLA

Frankfurt show: Mercedes-Benz GLA surfaces

Familiar face: The A-Class’ resemblance on the GLA gives Merc’s answer to the Audi Q3 a chic appearance.

Mercedes reveals its newest, and smallest, SUV: the A-Class-based GLA

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Mercedes-Benz logo14 Aug 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

MERCEDES-BENZ has pulled the covers from the newest - and smallest - member of its growing SUV range ahead of its Australian launch in the third quarter of 2014.

The production GLA, as the high-riding hatch is called, emerges four months after a concept version premiered in Shanghai, and one month before its official world debut at the Frankfurt motor show on September 10.

Based on the same modular architecture as the A-Class, B-Class and CLA sedan, the GLA will rival the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 when it rolls into local showrooms, and therefore give the three-pointed star some traction in Australia’s fastest-growing model segment.

The jacked-up hatch, which bears more than a passing resemblance to its A-Class sibling inside and out, becomes the fifth member of the Stuttgart marque’s global SUV line-up, alongside the GLK (not sold in Australia), ML, GL and the hardcore, military-inspired G.

Models such as the restyled A-Class, second-generation B-Class and entirely new CLA are kicking major goals for Mercedes globally, with almost 175,000 sold to June at a substantially higher rate of conquest than the brand’s established staples.

The GLA will likely continue this conquest trend when it touches down here in Australia. While Mercedes-Benz has not confirmed local-specific price and specification yet, expect it to continue its aggressive recent stance with an opening gambit around $45,000.

Mercedes says the GLA is but the fourth of an eventual five ‘compact’ models to be based on its new modular platform that debuted on the B-Class, with the final model expected to be a Shooting Brake version of the CLA.

The shared architecture translates to shared engines, with a pair of small-capacity turbo-petrol (1.6-litre with 115kW/250Nm and 2.0-litre with 155kW/350Nm) and diesel (both 2.2-litre with 100kW/300Nm or 125kW/350Nm) powertrains available.

The GLA 250 petrol can dash from zero to 100km/h in a hot hatch-rivalling 7.1 seconds, while the base GLA 200 CDI diesel uses a claimed 4.3 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.

The engines are matched to either six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions, although whether both will make it here remains uncertain.

As with most small SUVs, it will be available in price-leading front-drive and permanent all-wheel-drive configurations, the latter of which automatically distributes torque between the axles depending on traction levels.

The GLA’s suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and an independent multi-link at the rear. Components such as the wheel carriers and spring control arms are made of aluminium to cut weight.

At 4417mm long, 1804mm wide and 1494mm high, the GLA is slightly larger than a Q3, while its drag coefficient of 0.29 is slippery for a high-riding bodystyle.

The rear bench folds flat, taking cargo capacity up from 421 litres to 836L, while an automatic tailgate is an optional extra.

Active safety equipment such as radar-guided cruise control, autonomous brakes, lane assist, self-leveling high beam lights and park assist are all available, although some will be optional only.

Inside, Benz’s COMAND multimedia system includes full integration with Siri voice recognition (for those Apple owners out there), a photo-realistic map display and live traffic data.

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