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by Daniel DeGasperi

The Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept has been officially revealed, hours after official images were leaked and ahead of its public debut at the Shanghai auto show on April 21.

Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept is a near-production-ready preview of the company’s sub-compact SUV rival to the Audi Q3 and BMW X1. It measures 4383mm long, making it 94mm shorter than an X1 and just 2mm longer than a Q3. At 1978mm wide, it comfortably eclipses the 1831mm Q3 and 1798mm X1, while its 1590mm height stands 34mm taller than the BMW, but is 11mm shorter than the Audi.

Mercedes-Benz GLA Showcar Studio; 2013

Based on the MFA platform already shared between the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, B-Class and CLA-Class, the GLA-Class is expected to be likewise available in both front- and all-wheel-drive and – unlike the GLA-Class compact SUV – left- or right-hand-drive.

In concept form the car gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged producing 155kW of power – identical to a Q3 2.0 TFSI – a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and 4MATIC all-wheel-drive.

Mercedes-Benz GLA Showcar; 2013

Dr Joahim Schmidt, Executive Vice President Mercedes-Benz, aimed to distance his new SUV from the established rivals, claiming the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class represents “a new approach for us in the compact SUV segment … a more sporty and coupe-like evolution of this category of vehicle.

“It also makes clear the further potential of our compact vehicle architecture, which provides the basis for the A- and B-Class.”

Mercedes-Benz GLA Showcar; 2013

As styling highlights, Mercedes-Benz cites a “powerful bonnet with its powerdomes”, “soft, raised pads that help to give definition to the radiator grille” called softcubes, and a “dropping line” extending from the headlight to the rear wheel arch. A slightly-rising C-pillar, and concave flanks add to what Mercedes describes as “a unique interplay of lines that adds to the sense of elegant dynamism”.

As with the CLA-Class, the GLA Concept gets frameless door windows. The concept also rides on aggressive 255/45 R20 wheels.

Mercedes-Benz GLA Showcar; 2013

The interior obviously modelled on the Mercedes-Benz small car range, leather and metal trim dominates the cabin, while the inclusion of rear air vents will hopefully translate to the production vehicle. Incidentally, the air vents themselves are illuminated, turning white if the climate control is set to 22 degrees, or blue if cooler and red if warmer.

While the GLA Concept is a four seater, a five-seat version will be standard in the production model, although two rear buckets may be available as an option.

Mercedes-Benz GLA Showcar Studio; 2013

Perhaps the most interesting specific feature of the GLA Concept, but also one unlikely to make series production, are laser-beam projector headlights. In addition to providing the expected light to drive at night, the headlights are capable of projecting pictures or films onto a screen or any surface.

Operated through the dashboard’s COMAND online system, pictures or films can be taken from a smartphone, the internet or from a hard drive.

Mercedes-Benz GLA Showcar Studio; 2013

The GLA Concept is further fitted with two cameras in the roof rail, which can be used to take images while driving. Alternatively, the camera is removeable and can be fitted, Mercedes suggests, to a mountain bike helmet. A lamp unit in each camera “ensures the light is right, whatever the situation”.

A production-ready Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is expected to be shown at the Frankfurt motor show in September, ahead of a late 2013 on-sale date in Europe. The GLA-Class, with the same breed of petrol and diesel engines available in A-Class and B-Class, will launch in Australia in 2014, priced from around $45K to – finally – give the brand a rival for the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.

Mercedes-Benz GLA Showcar Studio; 2013