Where the first-generation looked like an elevated A-Class hatchback that seemed a bit awkward, the second-generation comes across as a proper sports utility vehicle (SUV).
It has the right proportions setting itself apart even more distinctively as a separate model from the A-Class.
At least on the outside. So no confusion now.
Launched in Malaysia last December, the fully imported H247 GLA is available as the GLA 200 and GLA 250.
The GLA 200 gets a 1.3-litre turbocharged engine while the GLA 250 uses a bigger 2.0-litre turbo mill.
Our test unit is the GLA 250 and is priced at around RM286,000, a RM40,000 premium over the base variant.
The GLA 250 is also the sporty one as it comes with bits and pieces from the AMG Line package along with a lowered height and a suspension tuned for comfort.
In the larger context, Mercedes-Benz has started selling an all-electric version of the GLA in Europe known as EQA. It should make its way to other markets in the coming months and well into 2022.
For the time being, the EQA is basically a GLA converted into an electric vehicle instead of riding ideally on an all-new electric platform in the interest of bringing it to market faster and cutting down on development and production costs.
With the AMG Line package, the AMG bodystyling with special front and rear aprons lends the GLA a resemblance to AMG models. It’s complemented by a diamond radiator grille, sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped in Nappa leather.
The GLA is shorter and narrower than before but is now longer and taller with a 30mm longer wheelbase to deliver more interior space and comfort.
The new dimensions also serve as a foundation to mould an exterior that stays true to SUV contours and is easy to like.
As an urban SUV, the 4.41-metre long GLA is ideal for city life.
It is the shortest vehicle from the current Mercedes-Benz portfolio and is compact enough to get into tight parking spots or navigate narrow side lanes around shophouses.
The GLA features a bodywork with powerful shoulders and side windows with coupé-like lines.
The GLA's hallmark off-road design identity include the upright front section, short overhangs at the front and rear and protective cladding all round.
It also features simulated underride guard at the front and rear.
As in the case of the other Mercedes-Benz SUV models, the radiator grille features distinctive openings along with a single louvre and a central star, with LED High Performance headlamps.
While the GLA 200 gets 18-inch wheels, the GLA 250 is fitted with 19-inchers that fill up the wheel wells neatly and look more cohesive with the bodywork.
Stepping inside the GLA is a deja vu moment.
The dash layout is like the one in the A-Class, which is no bad thing. We like it in the A-Class, we still like it in the GLA.
The high-resolution Widescreen Cockpit is already a familiar sight across Mercedes models. It comprises dual 10.25-inch digital screens fused together with touchscreen control on the centre MBUX infotainment display.
The MBUX is accessible via Touch-Control buttons in the steering wheel, touchpad on the centre console or simply by touching the screen — which is direct and more intuitive in our book.
For the most part, the cabin feels high quality and have a sporty bias with brushed alumnium trim, turbine-like air vents, paddle shifters, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, black roofliner, Artico and Dinamica microfibre seats with red stitching, and studded metal pedals.
In addition, the cabin puts on a visually impressive lightshow at night with a 64-colour ambient lighting.
There's good headroom in front and in the rear with plenty of rear legroom to speak of.
Seats are generally comfortable; front seats are power-adjustable and bolstered with an extensible seat bottom to provide better thigh support that's appreciated.
Tailgate swings higher than in some SUVs, giving way to a decent boot volume of 435 litres. More space can be carved out with rear bench seats folded forward in a 40:20:40 split.
The negatives are the absence of rear air-conditioner vents and rear centre armrest for the Malaysian market. And some parts feel plasticky like the control stalks.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine produces 224hp and peak torque of 350Nm, powering the SUV from 0-100kph in a brisk 6.9 seconds.
Paired with an excellent eight-speed dual clutch, the powertrain setup is strong and responsive with plenty of pulling power in the mid-range.
Ride quality is in keeping with the comfort-tuned suspension and patchy road surfaces are traversed without drama.
Steering feedback is good and one can place the GLA in fast corners with relative precision and confidence.
At RM286K, it's a lot to ask for a small SUV especially when rivals like the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 can be had for a more wallet-friendly price.
Blame it on the GLA's CBU status.
But for some aspiring to own their first Merc, the blend of style and commendable performance from a trendy SUV is worth it.
Truth be told, the cachet of the three-pointed star is often a key impetus behind the buying decision.
Say it isn't so.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 AMG Line
Engine: 1,991cc, inline-4 with twin-scroll turbocharger, direct injection and variable valve timing
Maximum power: 221hp at 5,500 rpm
Maximum torque: 350Nm from 1,500rpm to 4,500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual clutch automatic (wet)
Suspension: McPherson Strut (front), multi-link independent (rear)
Acceleration (0-100kph): 6.9 seconds
Top speed: 240kph
Fuel consumption (combined): 6.7 l/100km (NEDC)
Boot: 435 litres
Features: Seven airbags, front-wheel drive, MBUX with 10.25-inch touchscreen, digital instrument cluster, flat-bottomed steering wheel, Artico and Dinamica microfibre seats, brushed aluminium trim, paddle shifters and AMG illuminated treadplates, power-adjustable front seats with memory, single-zone climate control, keyless entry, push-button start, parking assist, 64-colour ambient lighting, voice control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, reverse camera and a hands-free powered tailgate, autonomous emergency braking, door opening warning and Pre-Safe, blind spot monitoring, two rear ISOfix points
Price: RM285,337 (on-the-road without insurance, with SST exemption)