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Mercedes GLAd to get in on the ever-popular Crossover act

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Mercedes GLA

Mercedes GLA

The rear of the Mercedes Gla

The rear of the Mercedes Gla

Interior of the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

Interior of the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

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Mercedes GLA

THE number of people buying a car like this – and the Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q3 and BMW X1– will treble in the next 10 years.

That's what the experts forecast, so it is no wonder Mercedes can't wait to get their compact crossover GLA into dealerships.

There is phenomenal demand globally for many of its rivals. As we revealed in the Irish Independent on Monday, there is a four-month waiting list for the likes of the Evoque.

No wonder Mercedes want a bit of the action.

A few GLAs arrive in Ireland this week in what is another major step in their pursuit of younger drivers.

But don't let anyone hear you calling this a compact SUV. This is a crossover; an A-Class (same platform) on stilts and minor steroids.

Yes it has that steel body, front and rear under-body protection panels, muscular high-rise wheel arches, and three suspension set-ups that vary height and all that. But it's crossover.

It is 4,417mm long, 1,804mm wide and 1,494mm high so that makes it 127mm longer, 24mm narrower and (with standard suspension) just 59mm taller than the A-Class.

Just how 'low slung' it is took us all by surprise here yesterday.

However, if you wish to accentuate the muscular you can take the option of an 'SUV Style' package.

Basically, however, there are four equipment levels – Style, Urban, AMG and Exclusive. Among the standard elements are LED daytime running lights, 'drowsiness detection' and a radar-based collision prevention system.

There will be five engines – three diesels, two petrols – all four-cylinder and all with start/stop technology.

All the 4cyl diesels invoke €200 road tax. I drove the GLA 200CDi which, with front-wheel drive, costs from €35,800 for the Style entry-level with 6spd gearbox. Urban spec costs €1,000 more and the AMG Sports Pack is €38,795. The 7spd automatic 200CDI costs €38,275.

The 200 CDI versions will be front-wheel drive only and most buyers will opt for that.

With 220CDIs you can have front or 4WD and they're all automatic. The 220CDi starts at €41,140, with 4WD from €45,475.

There is also an interesting 1.6-litre petrol at €35,950 (auto €38,450). And the 2-litre 'GTi' 250 version costs €42,875.

The real AMG version will cost between €70,000 and €75,000. More anon.

This ticks a lot of boxes: smart looks, first-class cabin, good drive, hint of muscle etc. You can fold the rear seats and adjust them for angle. With them up, there are 421 litres of luggage and down, there are 836.

I think they've done a great job on the cabin; this is upmarket crossover. For example, the dash could have been a bland sweep of black plastic but slotted a large brush bronze panel in. And it works wonderfully.

Lots of familiar Merc elements in there – the instrument and 'infotainment' displays (Siri voice control, Facebook, Twitter, internet radio and iPhone integration) and multifunction 3-spoke steering wheel.

The gear-shift lever is on the steering wheel column which leaves plenty of elbow room and deep slots on the centre console.

Indeed, there are plenty of stowage areas all over.

I liked the driving position though rear-view vision was poor due to the slope of the roof and the sharply angled tailgate.

Rear space is not bad at all but getting in was a bit awkward – again because the roof slopes so much.

I have to say it was impressive on the road. The steering had plenty of meaty feel and it seems to have got an excellent blend of stiffness and pliability on the springs. This is as good as Mercedes has done.

Around 200 will buy one this year – they would sell a lot more but can't get them.

That's the story of the compact Crossover all over.

Indo Motoring