The Mercedes-Benz GLA 180 has a gentle nature. Hard as you may try to find signs of friskiness, all you’ll get is a rental car-like response from its mild-mannered 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder engine. To rate it purely on its lethargic performance, however, is unfair. It has other good qualities, such as a high road stance that will come in handy on off-road detours in search of quirky BnBs in remote areas. Perhaps it’s a good time to mention that the standard suspension on all GLAs is the beefed-up, 30mm-higher off-road type in anticipation of gravel travel.

However, Merc can sort yours out with a softer, lower-profile version at no cost. Look past the limp go – it’s a Merc, so it smacks of quality, inside and out. There has also been a raft of small upgrades to the range, with the aim of keeping it up to date with market advances.

Some of the changes are straight from the brand’s more premium ranges – things like a concierge service app, hands-free access, a 360° camera and a caboodle of other safety and convenience features. Perhaps the most obvious update is the optional bi-xenon lights being replaced with LED units. There are also new paint options and a redesigned frontal area, as well as an extensive catalogue of options to spruce up any GLA to your taste, including the frighteningly good-looking Yellow Night Edition in GLA 45 AMG guise.

Engines include four petrols in the GLA 180, 200, 250 and 45, and two diesels in the GLA 200d and GLA 220d. The GLA 45 AMG finally benefits from an uprated 280kW and 475Nm engine – mated to a new seven-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT sport transmission with shorter ratios, which was introduced in its A45 sibling. It takes 4,4 seconds to 100km/h mark and can move on to a top speed of 250km/h.

We tried out all the engines and found the lunacy of the top-tier GLA 45 to be in a league of its own. The GLA 180, despite its lukewarm performance, is likely to feature among the bestsellers in the range.  It’s quite an impressive range of cars suited to diverse lifestyles. The GLA 220d in particular, with its eager engine that can run hard while maintaining a low overall fuel consumption rate, is our pick but as a collection, the 2017 GLA is pretty decent, and if you glance at the pricing structure below, you will see that it’s possible to buy a Mercedes-Benz product at VW Golf prices.

Pricing

GLA 200                           R485 400

GLA 250 4MATIC           R654 700

GLA 200d                          R513 000

GLA 220d 4MATIC          R592 500

Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 4MATIC        R856 700