Six years have passed since Mercedes-Benz shook up the compact premium SUV market with the GLA, but such is the rate at which the company has replaced its models that it seems far longer than that. Thankfully, this ageing-but-important entry into Stuttgart’s crossover lineup has finally entered a second generation, and this new H247 features all the trimmings of its latest siblings.

Moving onto the second iteration of the Modular Front Architecture (MFA2), the new GLA completes Mercedes’ renewal of its compact car range, which also includes the A-Class hatchback and sedan, the CLA four-door coupé and Shooting Brake wagon, the B-Class MPV and the new GLB seven-seater SUV. It’s a crowded stable, so where exactly does the car sit these days?

Well, Mercedes says that the GLA is a sportier, lifestyle-oriented alternative to the GLB, but that hasn’t stopped the company from growing the car in one dimension where it has always been lacking – its height. At 1,611 mm tall, the new car is over 10 cm taller than the previous model, allowing for more headroom in front despite the seating position having also been raised for a more commanding view out.

What’s more, width has been increased some 30 mm to 1,834 mm, and while the car is actually shorter than before (only by a scant 14 mm, at 4,410 mm), the 2,729 mm wheelbase is 30 mm longer, to the benefit of the rear passengers – they get an extra 114 mm of legroom. Boot space has also grown 14 litres to 435 litres.

The net result of all this rejigging is that the new GLA looks less like a jacked-up hatchback and more like a proper card-carrying SUV. The decision to go with a more upright design may seem a little strange given that the boxy GLB already exists, but there were evidently customers who believed that the outgoing model didn’t look rugged enough for their taste.

To that end, the GLA receives a more imposing front end design, consisting of a massive grille (incorporating the A-Class’ diamond pin design for the first time) and shapely headlights optionally available with Multibeam LED technology. There are also shorter front and rear overhangs, while the squared-off wheel arches now house rollers that measure up to 20 inches in diameter.

Along the side, Mercedes has cleaned up the surfaces on the GLA – instead of a prominent line that stretches from the headlights towards the rear, there’s just a strong but rounded shoulder running across, with just a single crease remaining down low. Here, the doors also reach downwards over the sills, keeping them clean and ensuring you don’t stain your trousers as you climb in.

Despite the taller roofline, the window opening has been stretched, with a second rear quarter light window appearing to maintain a semblance of the old car’s coupé-like profile. Moving to the rear of the car, the tail lights take on a two-piece design (with squarish graphics) to make the car appear wider and allow for a broader tailgate aperture. The prerequisite black body cladding and decorative skid plates complete the look.

Inside, the GLA borrows more from the B-Class than the GLB, lifting the basic dashboard design and door cards. You still get touches such as large flatscreen panel and turbine-style air vents that have wowed A-Class customers, but the dash now features cutouts for the twin displays, as well as the trim piece ahead of the front passenger. There are also tubular grab handles on the doors, finished in metallic trim.

Just like the rest of its compact siblings, the GLA runs on the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) and features an advanced voice control system that can be operated by saying “Hey Mercedes.” Moving to the rear of the car, the seats, which come with either a 40:60 or a 40:20:40 split, can be reclined by up to 14 degrees, while the two-position boot floor can be handy for transporting bulkier items.

Other new features include the GLS’ car wash mode that closes the windows and sunroof and disables the automatic wipers, along with an Energizing comfort control function that not only tries to adjust the mood using the 64-colour ambient lighting and music, but also improves posture by moving the seats minutely.

Safety-wise, the GLA comes as standard with autonomous emergency braking and is available with a whole host of optional features, including a Driver Assistance Package that adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go, Active Steer Assist with Active Lane Change Assist, traffic sign recognition, Evasive Steering Assist, cross-traffic AEB, blind spot monitoring (with a door opening warning) and Pre-Safe Plus.

At launch, the GLA will be offered in just one cooking petrol variant, the GLA 200. This utilises an M282 1.33 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine developed in conjunction with Renault, producing 163 PS and 250 Nm of torque, enabling it to go from zero to 100 km/h in 8.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 210 km/h. Paired with a Getrag seven-speed dual-clutch transmission as standard, it’s capable of a combined fuel consumption figure of between 5.6 to 5.9 litres per 100 km on the NEDC cycle.

Also available is the AMG GLA 35 4Matic, which comes equipped with a M260 2.0 litre turbo four-pot churning out 306 PS and 400 Nm. This is mated with an eight-speed AMG Speedshift DCT and a 4Matic all-wheel drive system, allowing it to rocket to 100 km/h in 5.1 seconds. More petrol and diesel engines will be offered in due time, including a plug-in hybrid model that will lift its technology from the A 250 e and B 250 e.

As standard, the GLA will have 143 mm of ground clearance, nine millimetres more than before. Suspension is handled by MacPherson struts at the front and a four-link setup at the rear as standard (unlike the A- and B-Class, which feature a torsion beam on lower-powered models).

The optional 4Matic system also now features an electromechanical clutch rather than a hydraulic one, plus a standard-fit Off-Road Engineering Package that adds a dedicated drive mode, hill descent control, off-roading displays and an off-road mode for the Multibeam LED headlights. This switches on the cornering lights on both sides at speeds of up to 50 km/h.