Mercedes Benz GLA Class Review
There is always a feeling of excitement whenever I drive a completely new car as there are so many questions, expectations and wishes that I have from it especially if the car is from a brand like Mercedes Benz.
It is no longer a flash update that Mercedes Benz India has had a great year with a slew of launches. Their new design language has got them back in the game. Cars like A-Class and B-Class have really worked well in its favour as they have got new set of clients in addition to the existing ones. They have also reported positive growth and faced strong demand in the SUV segment with the GL-Class and ML-Class.
The GLA, which also happens to be the newest and smallest SUV by Mercedes Benz, is based on the same platform as that of A-Class with added benefits of a compact SUV. Good news is that they have styled this one close to the concept and it looks as ravishing. We flew down to Chandigarh for a first drive experience of this brand new car.
Yes, the GLA is an SUV but that does not mean you start vacating your parking space or think of getting more area to keep this one as it is very compact in dimensions. Unlike traditional SUVs, this one chooses to look more crisp than brawny.
It might remind you of the A-Class but see it in real and the bigger car gets elevated. A pronounced radiator grille with twin slats and a handsome Mercedes Benz logo is the new face of all portfolio cars. It gives a familiar look to all models without making them look like twins. On the hood of the GLA are parallel running power bulges.
There is a large air intake on the front bumper which has been treated in a glossy aluminium finish. The air pockets on both corners of the bumper look smart too. Adding to the front face are the newly designed Bi-Xenon headlights with LED day time lights. The LED curve which is now seen on all cars including the newly revealed AMG GT looks extremely stylish.
The side profile gets flared wheel arches. These arches and the lower running board area have plastic cladding making it look tough. We liked the 18inch alloys which Mercedes offers as standard equipment. While we say it is part of the standard list, these models cannot be termed as ‘reasonably’ priced because of the complicated designs and list of additions it gets over the A-Class.
It shares its wheelbase with the premium hatch and that’s the only similarity in dimensions as the GLA is a longer vehicle. Visually, it looks bigger. This one has a ground clearance of 183mm meaning it is more capable to take soft roads in addition to tight manoeuvring on normal tarmac. The same can be vindicated with the fact of 235/50 R18 tyres being offered as standard.
What we loved about the styling are the design lines flowing in tandem. It is a SUV, which has been styled like a coupe especially the rhythmically flowing window section along with the character lines on the side profile. The C-Pillar flows smoothly on the waist line carrying the dynamic stance to the wide tail gate.
Many would agree that the rear profile of the GLA leaves a better impact than the front and side combined together. It is simply the attention to detailing like the split tail lights which are connected with a chrome lining or the lower exhaust surround which gets a brushed glossy finish with twin sporty exhausts.
If you happened to be seated inside the A-Class, chances are you would feel familiar in the GLA as well. The interiors have been carried from the swanky hatch into this compact machine. Why did they do it? Well, it is simple because the GLA is based on the A Class.
When it comes to stylish interiors which make you feel spoilt, there is no second opinion that Mercedes knows it all. Take the S Class for an instance, which has interiors rivalling cars like the Bentley and Rolls Royce and this is true without any exaggeration. In the GLA too, the trims and lines feel utterly premium. There are so many good aspects inside but they still don’t overshadow the not so good ones.
The steering wheel feels great to grip and it gets all the necessary controls mounted on it to control the cluster and well as the entertainment system. Instrumental cluster gets its share of white and grey display with analog needles. The infotainment screen which is placed on the dashboard does not sync with the design and appears to stand out. It doesn’t score in terms of design but is as its useful best when it comes to functionality as it offers reverse parking camera, navigation, Bluetooth pairing and other entertainment options to juggle around.
The turbine resembling air con vents are a stylish addition. The interior trims are offered in two shades with the one being that of beige and grey white the other is an all black option. The all black looks young while the beige and grey gives a roomier feel to the cabin and also feels more plush and premium. There is no compromise in equipment and feature list as the GLA boasts of many features seen on more premium models.
While the above are all good aspects of the GLA, there are some non good ones too. Inside the GLA, one does feel more premium than competition cars but it does not feel spacious. Both row passengers will end up complaining about it. Headroom is low but the panoramic sunroof and its wide pocket makes up for it giving it an airy feel. Taller passengers would happily skip the rear passenger section. They have made smart usage by plonking the gear selector behind the steering wheel and also the emergency brake is right beneath still it does not feel spacious for front passengers.
The boot space is a highly practical 421litres which can be further increased to 836litres by collapsing the rear seats. There is a spare wheel present in the boot. One might argue that the spare wheel takes up space in the boot but it is a safer option. I would not want to be stranded in a GLA on a road with a flat tyre. There is enough space above it for luggage storage. Also, by collapsing the rear seats the luggage area goes up substantially so no complaining from my side.
Our perception of the GLA was a compact SUV meant to be taken more on soft roads than off-roads. Taking it to GL territories is not much of a good idea. We must say that it was brave of Mercedes Benz to make us drive the GLA from Chandigarh to Shimla as the route had a mix of good wide roads and narrow patchy roads too.
Theoretically, it should behave like the A-Class as they both share the same platform. Rewinding a bit to our A-Class drive, it impressed us with its stiff suspensions. Unlike other Benz cars back then, the A felt more responsive. The expectations were similar and more from the GLA as it is a feature rich SUV.
It was the more popular diesel that we chose to drive first. The diesel GLA is powered by a 2143cc engine producing 135.96PS at 3600 to 4400 rpm and a torque of 300Nm at 1600 to 3000 rpm. This unit as officially claimed does a 0 to 100km/h dash in 9.9 seconds. Describing this motor as a joy to drive won’t be right because it is meant for steady driving needs like highway commuting where steady and consistent performance is a priority.
At initial speeds, the bigger displacement engine feels a bit lethargic and it is only when the throttle is pressed hard this lag diminishes. Once you have battled traffic and out on the highway, the diesel feels home as it keeps churning power at a constant rate. It does not respond as quickly as the other unit which might be a letdown during overtaking but then we can live with it.
The 7 speed dual clutch transmission lacks the crisp crack of a quick shift and the difference is evident. The same is felt on sports mode while shifting manually wherein the box is not as enthusiastic to upshift and downshift in a jiffy. The stiffer suspensions which are fine for smooth roads act against the ride quality and handling on rough roads.
Finally, after going through the diesel in a brief manner, it was time for us to test the petrol. A petrol engine for an SUV might not sound convincing at first hear but then think of it as this, dimensions of a big car and a performance of a quicker engine clubbed together. The GLA petrol is a complete surprise package as firstly it is the only one ion the segment to offer a petrol unit. Secondly and most interestingly, this unit does 0 to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds, which is 2.3seconds quicker than the diesel.
Press the throttle gently and the 2.0L engine is waiting to show off its power delivery. This unit produces 183.54PS of power at 5500rpm and generates similar torque of 300Nm at a lower range of 1200 to 1400rpm. This one too like the diesel comes equipped with a 7 speed dual clutch transmission. The enthusiast in me was not too happy in the diesel cause of its serene delivery but the petrol was completely different.
Zippy!! is how one can describe this 2.0L as all four cylinders get into action mode at lower engine speeds. If you look through these numbers and specs, it would simply mean that one will not be bogged down by stop go traffic. Inside city, the GLA petrol is a total gem. An SUV which handles like a hatchback sounds fantastic and that is the GLA for you. Don’t let the coupeish lines of the GLA suspect its potential to take on hard terrain. It has a ground clearance of 183mm, which is 13mm more than its closest rival.
Mercedes has also assured that they will get the 4MATIC very soon. Even though it is not one presently, the ride and handling is decent. While taking corners at high speeds, it does its bit to the fullest but falls short by a small margin to impress one completely. The 235/50 R18 tyres grip the road well and make it a capable vehicle but still it lacks tight cornering capability which the A-Class exhibits. The GLA is more of a urban soft roader than a take anywhere SUV.
|Price||To Be Announced||To Be Announced|
|Power in PS/RPM||183.5 / 5500||135.96 / 3600-4400|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||300 / 1200-1400||300 / 1600-3000|
|Wheel base mm||2699||2699|
|Kerb Weight Kgs||1525||1585|
|Mileage Claimed Kmpl||13.8||17.9|
|7D-DGT Dual Clutch Transmission||Yes||Yes|
|Speed Sensitive Steering||Yes||Yes|
|Sports seats with Upholstery in ARTICO Messancy and Contrasting Top Stiching||Yes||Yes|
|Instrument Clusture with multi function color display||Yes||Yes|
|3 Spoke Multifunction steering wheel with 12 Functional keys||Yes||Yes|
|Steering wheel and Shift lever in Nappa Leather||Yes||Yes|
|Outside temperature display||Yes||Yes|
|Trip computer in Multifunction Display||Yes||Yes|
|ECO Start/Stop Function||Yes||Yes|
|Steering column adjust height and reach||Yes||Yes|
|Airconditioning with dust filter||Yes||Yes|
|Electrically Adjustable Seats||Yes||Yes|
|Direction Control system with one touch lane changing function||Yes||Yes|
|Folding rear seat back rest||Yes||Yes|
|Electroninc Stability Programme (ESP) Curve Dynamic Asst||Yes||Yes|
|Electric parking brakes||Yes||Yes|
|Tyre pressure loss warning system||Yes||Yes|
|Crash responsive emergency lighting||Yes||Yes|
|Airbag for Driver and front passanger||Yes||Yes|
|Side impact airbag for driver and front passanger||Yes||Yes|
|Window airbag from front and rear seats||Yes||Yes|
|Knee airbag fro driver||Yes||Yes|
|Audio 20CD Radio with dual tuner MP3/WMA/AAC Compatiable CD Player||Yes||Yes|
|USB interface and AUX-IN||Yes||Yes|
|Central Infotainment control||Yes||Yes|
|Color Display with 14.7 cm Screen||Yes||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||GLA200CDI||2.0 TDI quattro Dynamic||sDrive20d Sport Line|
|Price (Ex-Showroom Mumbai)||To be Announced||Rs. 3,840,000||Rs. 3,600,000|
|Power in PS/RPM||135.96 / 3600-4400||174 / 4200||184 / 4000|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||300 / 1600-3000||380 / 1750||350 / 1750|
|Wheel base mm||2699||2603||2760|
|Fuel tank capacity L||NA||64||63|
|Tyre Spec||235/50 R18||215 / 65 R16||225 / 50 R17|
|Mileage Claimed Kmpl||17.9||15.77||15.06|
The D-Day appears soon as Mercedes Benz will launch the GLA on 30th September 2014. From the looks of it, Mercedes Benz has surely made a great attempt at launching a car of this class in the compact SUV segment. The strength of the brand will propel and help gain initial momentum.
In terms of features, Benz has packed all that it takes to make the GLA feel premium. There are some disappointments like cabin space and lack of an automatic climate control but if you can manage to overlook it and consider the better part of the deal, you get a premium SUV which is basically a strong crossover based on the A Class. It also happens to be the only car to boast of 7 airbags. The level of noise insulation inside is phenomenal even on hard roads; there wasn’t any redundant noise which seeped inside.
The most obvious comparison that the Mercedes Benz GLA will face is from Audi Q3. This is based vaguely on their respective body types and the price points at which both would be offered. The purpose and target audience of these two cars are significantly different. The GLA would attract young aspirational buyers, who want a stylish looking car with loads of features while the Audi Q3 is more for the real time driving enthusiasts, who wouldn’t mind taking it off tarmac once a while. There would be initial heat of competition between these two cars but that heat would die down once the consumers understand the difference between the two. The GLA would be offered in two variants only and we expect them to price it between Rs.33 lakhs to 35 lakhs on an ex-showroom level. Let us know your views in the comment section below.