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Mercedes touts GLA's sporty looks

The GLA 45 AMG (shown) tops the compact SUV's range and will start at 55,870 euros. Mercedes says the GLA 45 AMG has the most powerful 4-cylinder engine in series production, a 360-hp, 2.0-liter gasoline unit.
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Mercedes-Benz expects a 70 percent conquest rate for the GLA, the brand's smallest and cheapest SUV.

The GLA joins the A-class hatchback, B-class minivan and coupe-styled CLA sedan in an expanding compact lineup. At 4417mm long, the GLA fits between its main competitors, the Audi Q3 (4390mm) and the BMW X1 (4450mm).

The GLA is noticeably lower to the ground than its rivals at 1494mm tall, which gives it a sportier look. Mercedes design chief Gorden Wagener intentionally avoided the boxy look of the larger GLK for the GLA.

"We drew the GLA in a much more round shape for better aerodynamic efficiency and lower fuel consumption," he said.

Mercedes’ new compact range is key to CEO Dieter Zetsche’s goal to overtake luxury leader BMW and second-ranked Audi in deliveries by 2020.

Fast facts
What's the sales forecast?
Mercedes won't say but industry analysts estimate annual global sales of at least 100,000.
Why launch another SUV?
Mercedes seeks to lure younger customers, especially urban professionals and couples with one child looking for an SUV that is smaller, cheaper and sportier looking than its current SUV lineup.
New technology?
The GLA is Mercedes' first SUV offered with the brand's latest 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system with fully variable torque distribution.

Last year, Mercedes sold 371,399 A-class, B-class and CLA vehicles. The GLA could help to push this number up to 500,000.

The basics
Launch date: March (Europe); September (U.S.)
Base price: 29,304 euros (Germany)
Platform: MFA (Mercedes Front-wheel Architecture)
Where built: Rastatt, Germany
Lowest CO2 emissions: 114g/km (GLA 200 CDI, 136 hp)
Main rivals: BMW X1, Audi Q3

Mercedes executives hint that a fifth compact model will launch soon, a CLA Shooting Brake.

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