The Mercedes-Benz GLA belongs to that emerging species of automobile: the crossover. Born out the apparent consumer desire for chunky, high-riding cars that aren't as overscaled as a traditional SUV, the industry has embraced the crossover in all its forms, either building bespoke cars that blend the styling cues of a 4x4 with the practicality of a traditional family car or by pumping up an existing model. The GLA falls into the latter category and its antecedents are glaringly obvious - this is basically the company's acclaimed A-Class injected with growth hormone.

So what makes the GLA distinct from its acclaimed smaller sibling? We like the A-Class, a so-called premium hatchback that does a good job of distilling Mercedes' legendary solidity and heft into a compact package. Does sturdier styling, elevated ride height (and the choice of four wheel drive) transform the baby Benz into a proper go-anywhere vehicle, or are these enhancements a purely cosmetic attempt to keep up with the big boys?

In true fence-sitting fashion, we believe it's a bit of both. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the original A, so it's very much down to personal taste as to whether you want your small car in an original or more pumped up flavour. The GLA does everything the A-Class can do and perhaps a little bit more, should you venture off the curb and across some bumpy terrain.

Inside, the current Mercedes cabin architecture cossets and comforts, with controls that are intuitive and thoughtfully laid out. Our major criticism is that the slender glasshouse and absence of sunroof on the test car emphasise the rather narrow view to the world outside. Buyers of genuine off-roaders sit higher and demand a more panoramic perspective on the world. Nevertheless, the GLA is greater than the sum of its parts, not less, offering ability and style without scale and attitude.

TAGS: MERCEDES-BENZ, TRANSPORT