This is the Mercedes GLC. It's Merc's mid-sized SUV rival to the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. It's a significant car for the brand, because this is the first time Mercedes has had a car of this size, in this class, available in the UK. The old, square-rig GLK was a left-hand drive market only car.

Based on the new C-Class, the GLC is a significant 4.75-metres long, making it not only a good chunk bigger than its rivals, but liberating a really well proportioned cabin and big boot (550-litres since you asked, which is about 60-litres more than a C-Class estate).

And all that space is probably one of the reasons we'd bet you're about to see loads of GLCs on the road. For just a couple of grand more than the equivalent C-Class estate, you can have an SUV which gives you more space, a commanding driving positioning and something that looks more modern and sporty.

The GLC is therefore in an enviable position in this class. It's brand new, whereas its key rivals, the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, are ancient. Does it take advantage?

Jump into that spacious interior and things start off well. The modern Merc interior is a truly premium-feeling item. It's blingy and showy in a way Mercs didn't use to be (and in the eyes of some, still shouldn't be) but the overall feeling of quality and sense of where your money has been spent is far more apparent than in a Q5 or X3. It leaves a Discovery Sport interior feeling like a farm vehicle. But it means that, conversely, you won't be wanting to get muddy boots everywhere in here.

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Of course, this premium feel is contributed to significantly by £7,800 of options that were thrown at our test vehicle. Inside, if you're going to go ticking options boxes, the one you really need to know about is the Premium Plus package. It's a chunky £2,995 option, but as with many of these types of things in the premium classes, it bundles together much of the stuff you both want and need.

Premier to that is the all-important Comand Online Media and Nav system with 8.4-inch screen, touch pad, voice control, speed limit assist, traffic services and emergency call. But you also get a panoramic roof, a 590W, 13-speak Burmester stereo system (which sounds the business), memory and electric adjustability function for the front seats, keyless go and ambient interior lighting.

We drove the GLC in 250d AMG Line spec. That means it comes with a 2.2-litre, 201bhp diesel (a lower and higher power version are available). The AMG is more expensive and more showy than SE spec — if you want a demure GLC, save money and go with the SE.

But in the Designo hyacinth red paint and with optional 20-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels, the GLC does look special — striking on the road, much less angular and fussy than the last generation of Mercs, and not without a level of elegance that we reckon is befitting of the brand. Of course, those you're behind (and your neighbours) will be in no doubt as to what brand you've bought, thanks to the massive 3-pointed star mid grille, and the pixel-effect grille texture.

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The powertrain makes light work of shifting this 1.8 tonne SUV thanks to that 201-horsepower and exactly 500nM of torque (from just 1,000rpm), all running through Merc's new 9-speed auto gearbox (yes you read that correctly). Sure, it never feels fast, but nor do you ever really feel the need for more power. Reaching 60mph takes 7.6-seconds, and the GLC 250d overtakes well.

Only the slightly rattly, shrill diesel sound should make you consider a step up to the 350d V6 unit. Although the diesel noise is relatively well suppressed inside — it's only when you step out of the GLC with the engine running that you're reminded it's quite a coarse and loud unit.

Out on the road, the GLC hustles quite well. You always appear to be doing 10-15mph more than you expect, but the body roll which is often an issue with SUVs like this is kept relatively well in check.

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Only the ride spoils things. Generally it's firm and well judged, but on the rougher roads — as you'll find all too often in the UK — it occasionally gets rather crashy and out of sorts. Blame the 20-inch wheels and AMG-line suspension; an SE on 19s is doubtless more Merc-like. Overall, it's refined and pleasant to both drive and ride in the GLC.

However, we can't comment on the car's off-road ability as we didn't get the chance to test it out, but despite 4 wheel-drive (4matic in Merc speak) the 20-inch wheels and low-profile tyres would rule out much off-roading beyond more than a gentle field, in this particular car.

The GLC gets the C-Class's on-board technology suite, with the Premium Plus pack meaning you get the full Comand media system. Without it, and standard, you get a 5.5-inch display of lower resolution, and a Garmin Map Pilot system — which we didn't get to try.

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Comand works well, once you get used to it. Like BMW's iDrive and Audi's MMI it's easy to learn: you control what's on the screen via a tunnel-mounted control wheel, touchpad and associated buttons. We're least familiar with this system of the three mentioned, but it still works well with no nasties in the way of confusing menus. What appears on screen is generally high-resolution and the graphics are clear — particularly in the gauge cluster. We jumped in and were straight away able to pair a phone, make a call and follow the navigation system.

First Impressions

Overall, then, there's much to like about the Mercedes GLC. To get the true measure of it, we'd like to spend longer with one and try a couple of alternative versions — but short exposure here suggests that the 250d engine and AMG Line trim might be the sweet spot of the range, if you're happy with a firm ride and conversely don't need to play racing driver.

Beyond the Premium Plus pack the GLC well equipped — with standard reverse camera, DAB radio, power-boot operation and a truck load of safety kit, which you can dial up to full "we'll stop you crashing" with a £1,695 Safety & Security Pack.

At £39,595 standard, and £47,370 as tested in 250d 4Matic AMG Line form, the GLC is priced to compete directly with its obvious Audi and BMW rivals. And it does a good job at achieving its goal.