Mercedes UK has specified the GLA to better suit family buyers

Mercedes UK has specified the GLA to better suit family buyers

Mercedes Cars' UK unit expects to more than double its SUV and crossover sales in the next 12 months with the arrival of the new GLA.

It is the company's fourth SUV in Britain, joining the M-Class, the GL and the venerable G-Class, which is still going strong after 33 years in production.

But the compact GLA, with a much lower start price of GBP25,850, will become easily the best seller of the four. It is available here as a front-wheel drive entry-level diesel model - the GLA 200 CDI - or with four-wheel drive in the diesel CLA 220 CDI and the petrol GLA 250.

A high-performance GLA 45 AMG, which has set a faster lap time than a Porsche Boxster S around the Nurburgring, will join the range later in the year.

Mercedes is predicting 70% of GLA sales in the UK will be of the four-wheel-drive models, in contrast to other compact SUVs, which are largely bought on looks rather than all wheel drive capability.

In the UK the GLA is also being ordered as a family car, whereas buyers in other markets are predominantly singles or couples. As a result, Mercedes-Benz UK fits more practical seats than the sports seats standard in other countries, and has made wipe-clean Artico artifical leather the standard trim.

In common with other companies, the brand is enjoying a boom in SUV and crossover sales in the UK. So far this year it has sold more than 850 M-Class, almost 150 GLs and even 24 G-Class models, all of which are hand-built to order by Steyr in Graz, Austria.

In left-hand-drive markets Mercedes has a fifth SUV, the GLK - a competitor for the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 - but it could not be offered in right-hand drive form without substantial and expensive re-engineering. However, when the new GLK emerges in 2016 it will be available with right-hand drive.