This is not so much a story about a particular car as it is an entire philosophy, one that helped reinvent the brand in the buying public’s eye. But, as is the case with all tales, the need for a protagonist means that one has to be brought to the forefront, and so the leading man – or vehicle – in this one is the newest member of the family, to Malaysian eyes at least.

Mercedes-Benz’s current Modular Front Architecture (MFA) platform has been the success story for the brand – bringing new buyers into the fold has taken the marque beyond the confines of old money, and you can tell just how well the younger formula approach has worked, based on the number of MFA cars dotting the streets here these days.

That is a microcosm of the larger picture globally, one that has brought about two million units in compact car sales since the W176 A-Class arrived on the scene in 2012. That changed the world as Mercedes buyers knew it, at one fell swoop injecting vigour and vim into things. That the average age of an A-Class buyer has now dropped 13 years from the efficient but dowdy thing that was the W169 again shows how big the change has been.

The range has spawned more outings since the whirlwind took place – the C117 CLA, CLA Shooting Brake, second-gen W246 B-Class and the GLA are the other available MFA offerings currently in place. All have appeared on our horizon, with two of the leading trio already here in facelifted form (A-Class, CLA). That leaves the GLA facelift as the final cog yet to appear here, which it will do very shortly. Ahead of that, we sample the revised compact SUV in Hungary.

In all, there are 11 model variants – including the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 – and three trim lines (Style, Urban and AMG Line) for the revised X156, which had its European market introduction in March.

Like many mid-cycle refresh jobs these days, nothing too radical in the way of change with this one. The front-end sports a new bumper, which – save for the AMG Line package – ditches the faux side intake cutouts and introduces fog lamps into the equation.

There’s also a new grille design, which features rectangular elements within the slats, and buyers will be able to pick from silver and black finishes for the latter, both of which present the rectangles rather differently to view. It may not be everyone’s spot of tea from a design point of view, but no arguments for catching the eye at first glance.

If that’s not enough, the lower section can also be specified – depending on trim – with a grille bearing the same rectangular theme (and as seen in Hungary, in silver, no less), though there are also more conventional looking solutions and the ubiquitous skid plate if elongated cutouts don’t work for you. Completing the front end revision work are LED High Performance headlamps, which replace the bi-xenon units found previously.

At the back, the car features new graphics for the tail lamps and a reworked rear bumper design, with a better accented diffuser to be seen. The car also gets a hands-free access option, and as is usually the case, more wheel design options are available, as is a Night Package and a new exterior colour called Canyon Beige, which is the bronze-hued shade seen in the photos here.

Changes to the facelifted GLA 45’s exterior, meanwhile, are likewise subtle. These include a restyled apron and new air intake grilles as well as a front splitter insert finished in silver chrome. Its rear apron also features a new diffuser insert, and there’s a newly-designed roof spoiler lip.

Interior updates to the GLA include new dials and needles in the instrument cluster, a chrome finish for the electric seat controls and centre console stowage compartment surround as well as new seat upholstery and trim options for Style and Urban line packages. Also new is a Comfort Exclusive package, which adds to the previous Exclusive package with comfort seats featuring SUV-specific black leather with a buffalo-hide look.

Other new bits are the inclusion of Apply CarPlay and Android Auto support, a reverse camera, a 360-degree surround-view camera system and an eight-inch free-standing display screen, the latter now standard across the model range.

In the case of the AMG variant, a new Artico-covered dashboard top is now standard issue, and there’s new trim as well. Some slight changes to the instrument cluster have come about, these being a new screen design and new needles (with a black needle centre), and AMG logos now get pasted on the E-Select lever and car key fob.

Engine options for the GLA remain unchanged. The 1.6 litre M270 DE 16 AL 1.6 starts the regular non-AMG list, being offered in two states of output tune – 120 hp/200 Nm on the GLA 180 and 154 hp/200 Nm on the GLA 200. The GLA 250 and GLA 250 4Matic, meanwhile, retain the services of the 2.0 litre M270 DE 20 AL, which offers the same 208 hp and 350 Nm output seen previously.

A new petrol variant called the GLA 220 was introduced into the line-up this year. It features 4Matic as standard, and the 2.0 litre unit offers 181 hp and 300 Nm in the way of output, placing it between the GLA 200 and GLA 250 in the X156 line-up. We won’t be seeing it here though, the Malaysian range for the facelift set to continue on with the GLA 200, GLA 250 and GLA 45 seen pre-facelift.

Likewise, the diesel units, of which there are three available for European buyers, namely the 180d (108 hp/260 Nm), 200d (134 hp/300 Nm) and 220d (168 hp/350 Nm). The primary transmission choice available across the civilian GLA range is the familiar seven-speed 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic.

As for the AMG derivative, we’ll finally be seeing the updated output revision introduced in 2015 for the M133 lump on the GLA 45 with the facelift. The revision, which takes output to 375 hp and 475 Nm (20 hp and 25 Nm up from before), was not applied for the pre-facelift GLA 45 but is already present in Malaysia on the facelifted Mercedes-AMG A 45 and CLA 45.

In this case, the mill is paired with an AMG Speedshift DCT seven-speed sports transmission, and performance figures include a 0-100 km/h time of 4.4 seconds and a 250 km/h electronically-limited top speed.

The regular GLA is available in three chassis variants – as standard, it comes equipped with a comfort suspension, with a lowered suspension available in conjunction with the AMG Line or a Dynamic Handling package.

There’s also an off-road comfort suspension package, which presents the car with a 30 mm higher stance and improves the vehicle’s axle articulation and off-road capability. Word on the grapevine is that we’re set to see it on the local cars.

As for the GLA 45, ticking the optional AMG Dynamic Plus package brings about a mechanical front axle locking differential, an AMG Ride Control sports suspension with two-stage adaptive adjustable dampers and an additional Race transmission mode. Also on the options list is an AMG performance exhaust system.

Refined more than radical, the changes bring about a more sophisticated feel to the presentation, with incremental gains in performance the expected returns. Such was the take coming off the GLA 45, which was trialled over a 55 km route from Budapest to the Hungaroring circuit. We were lucky to have managed that, my co-driver and I, because no one else in the Malaysian group drove the GLA out on the road.

The drive presentation in Hungary was actually not specific to the model, but rather one offering a broad canvas view of what the brand’s compact cars were all about. As such, the road-going fleet was made up of the entire current MFA model line-up, in all sorts of flavours and varieties. Because it was the freshest offering on call, the available GLA mules were swiped very quickly.

From a performance point of view, the revised AMG variant continues where the existing one left off – the GLA has always felt the blockiest of the three 45 series models sold here, and this continues to be the case with the rework. The added punch gives it a little bit more sparkle and response, but by and large, the car behaves in much the same manner as the pre-facelift.

No shortage of pace and absolute speed, and plenty of grip to get it tidily around corners in relatively hard fashion, but the bulk is inescapable and it’s not the quickest to respond to input. As such, it’s no surprise that the GLA 45 has the most shunted overall feel of the fast MFA brigade, handling-wise.

Taken in isolation, it’s not that pronounced, but corresponding back-to-back jaunts in the A 45 and CLA 45 revealed this quite prominently. Aside from better steering feel, the former feels inherently more nimble and agile, the latter more polished and vibrant. The short of it is that everything just comes across more thick-set and veiled on the GLA.

Its disposition ensures that this will always be the case. However, unless you’re wanting to do the boy Fangio act all the time (and look sporty or stylish while at that), this is not a bad thing. The GLA has the broadest application outlook of the three, and the widest range of scope as well, remaining as rapid as the other two in a straight line while at that.

There’s more space, for one. It’s certainly not cavernous, and the seating layout presents its own set of issues, but the spatial sense of the rear seating is the best of the lot, and its 481 litre cargo space puts it slightly ahead of the other two in terms of load ability. And if you move into the realm of the regular GLA, it can also go places that the other two can’t.

Sure, it’s no outright bush beater, but light duty off-road sojourns are eminently doable, as highlighted by the trail presentation involving the GLA 220. The course – just off the main grounds at Hungaroring – wasn’t exceptionally challenging, but had enough technical difficulty to highlight the vehicle’s abilities.

Suitably armed with an off-road package, these were showcased very ably, the GLA making short shrift of the elevation and articulation tests on the route, with hill descent control showing off its qualities very nicely. While not quite Land Rover territory, it’s more than what most GLA owners will ever subject their cars to.

A note about the standard GLA’s ride quality. Most of the movement done in the GLA 220 was from an off-road point of view (the track time on the Hungaroring being with that perennial favourite, the A 45), but the particular suspension felt compliant enough in the sectors where there was actual tarmac, suggesting that the hardness of the current car may have been tempered somewhat. Time will tell if this is the case, especially with the perils conjured by our arduous blacktop.

Aside from that, no real surprises with this one, with very little change to the recipe that arrived on the scene in 2013. Functionality and practicality remain the buzzwords – the GLA is not the prettiest or the sexiest of the Mercedes-Benz MFA cars, but it is unarguably the most versatile of the lot.

GALLERY: Mercedes-Benz MFA range (A-Class, CLA, CLA Shooting Brake, B-Class electric)