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IMG_2016It’s offi­cial. Wellington’s hot­test new res­id­ence of choice is undoubtedly Clyde Quay Wharf. For those of you a little out of the loop, that used to be known as the much less salu­bri­ous Over­seas Pas­sen­ger Ter­min­al. Rest assured, these days plenty of five-bed­room places in Wadestown have gone under the ham­mer to exped­ite a pur­chase in this new res­id­en­tial enclave.

Hav­ing won in the best address cat­egory, inev­it­ably the ques­tion that cur­rent and future res­id­ents must surely be ask­ing them­selves is: what wheels best com­ple­ment my new pad? And if you downs­ized on the house front, downs­iz­ing on the car front prob­ably makes sense too… which is where Mer­cedes’ new GLA use­fully makes an entrance.

It’s the new­est offer­ing in a long line of fresh products from the stal­wart Ger­man car maker. But it’s not entirely new, as eagle-eyed read­ers will spot, in that it looks a great deal like the A‑Class launched last year. And they would be right.

Essen­tially, it’s the A‑Class rein­ven­ted as a juni­or cross-over SUV — a space that is becom­ing heav­ily con­tested judging by all the Euros on offer, but is clearly a seg­ment that’s attract­ing buyers.

So what’s on offer? For a start, the fact that it’s based on an A‑Class is a big plus. When I drove the A‑Class last year I mar­velled at what a great drive it was, how dynam­ic it was com­pared to more tra­di­tion­al mod­els, and that it was good look­ing to boot. Fun is not a word that imme­di­ately leaps to mind when you think Mer­cedes, but the A‑Class — par­tic­u­larly the quite insane A45 AMG — rewrites the rule book.

The GLA, des­pite an increased ride height and some minor extern­al styl­ing treat­ment that helps dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from less­er mod­els, retains all of these attrib­utes. We get the GLA 250, which sports a 2.0‑litre tur­bocharged pet­rol motor and devel­ops a cred­ible 250kW, and the GLA 200 CDI, which is the one I got to drive.

On first acquaint­ance, the dies­el is notice­able for all the wrong reas­ons. It rattles away like Dad’s old bach tract­or. But once under­way, it starts to make sense. Des­pite the 2.1‑litre dis­place­ment, there’s only 100kW on tap, but it’s the 300Nm of torque — avail­able from a very mod­est 1,600rpm — that catches your atten­tion. While it doesn’t have quite the zing of a pet­rol-powered A‑Class, it packs some real punch when required, and there’s no dis­cern­ible lag across the range. It’s assisted by Mer­cedes’ excel­lent sev­en-speed twin-clutch gear­box, which is a delight in every regard. Engage the Sport set­ting, and the little GLA will hap­pily boo­gie from apex to apex — the heightened ride being off­set by low-pro­file (and snazzy) 19-inch AMG wheels, which ensure road-hold­ing and grip are first rate.

Like its A‑Class sib­ling, the GLA has a con­tem­por­ary interi­or with clean sur­faces and mod­ern touches, includ­ing ultra-cool air vents — most unlike Mer­cedes past. The dash-moun­ted ‘com­mand centre’ (read nav­ig­a­tion and enter­tain­ment screen) is also grow­ing on me as a concept. The cab­in mater­i­als, mean­while, feel genu­inely high qual­ity, while the sports seats — stand­ard kit across the range — are excellent.

The GLA con­tin­ues the pos­it­ive design trend for Mer­cedes by push­ing the tra­di­tion­al bound­ar­ies. Giv­en the premi­um over the A‑Class, the only ques­tion punters are really left to answer is what price to place on a more lofty position?

A fur­ther entry to the increas­ingly crowded mini-SUV sec­tor, but one with the all-import­ant three-poin­ted star on the bon­net. Dynam­ic and almost as much fun as its lower-rid­ing A‑Class sibling.


Tech specs

Mod­el reviewed: Mer­cedes Benz GLA 200 CDI

Price: $64,900 ($71,470 with extras such as gloss black wheels, AMG sports pack and seat com­fort package)[/warning]

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