Mercedes-Benz GLA 220 CDI 4MATIC (X156) 2013

First teased two days ago and then leaked yesterday, we now have the full official details of the new Mercedes-Benz GLA. Built on the front-wheel drive platform used by the A-Class, B-Class and CLA-Class, the GLA-Class is the company’s first take on a premium compact SUV and is positioned to rival the similarly-sized Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Lexus’ upcoming crossover.

Shallow windowline, dramatically raised and heavily sculpted body plus large wheel arches give the GLA great visual presence. It’s not a huge car, this. It measures only 4417 mm in length, 1804 mm wide and 1494 mm tall. The Q3 is a shade shorter, and the X1 a little longer, but both are much taller than the Mercedes.

The upright front end gets a prominent central star flanked by twin chrome louvres to accentuate the grille’s width. Shapely headlamps with Merc’s signature LED daytime running lights give it a distinctive face, with a choice of Style, Urban, AMG and Exclusive exterior and interior lines. Wheels fitted can be as big as 19-inches.

Inside, the GLA’s A-Class roots are obvious, which is not a bad thing. The freestanding screen is still in play, while the materials used and trim surfaces are given a unique look and feel in the SUV. The circular air vents can be made to match the car’s exterior body claddings or even galvanised for maximum drama.

The expansive centre trim can be had in either membrane (fabric/plastic), aluminium or wood finishes, each with its own surface texture. The wood trim in particular is given a new matte satin finish. A wide choice of seat upholsteries and colour combinations allows plenty of scope of individualisation.

As the car itself has a limber, go-anywhere character, its interior too is equally flexible and practical. The rear seat backrest can be adjusted for angle or folded down flat if required. Boot space is generous too, at 421 to 836 litres, considering its compact exterior dimensions. The loading sill is also wide and low for an SUV.

Buyers will have a choice of four engines at launch: GLA 200 (1.6 litre petrol turbo with 156 hp and 250 Nm), GLA 250 (2.0 litre petrol turbo, 211 hp, 350 Nm, 0-100 km/h in 7.1 seconds), GLA 200 CDI (2.2 litre turbodiesel, 136 hp, 300 Nm, over 20 km/l) and GLA 220 CDI (2.2 litre turbodiesel, 170 hp, 350 Nm).

All but the base petrol can be had with Merc’s 4MATIC all-wheel drive system, which features fully variable torque distribution. A six-speed manual or seven-speed 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmissions are available, though the latter is standard on all 4MATIC models. The upcoming 360 hp GLA 45 AMG will get its own AMG-tuned 4MATIC and Speedshift DCT.

The new GLA rounds off Mercedes’ extensive SUV portfolio, which, now with five models (GLA, GLK, ML, GL and G) is the widest of any European premium manufacturer. It’s the fourth of a total of five compact models to be spun off Merc’s MFA front-wheel drive platform. The fifth is likely to be the CLA Shooting Brake.