The premium compact crossover segment has become rather competitive thanks to the massively improved BMW X1 and the strong-selling Audi Q3, leaving the Mercedes GLA fighting for sales. Mercedes India, though, is determined to keep the sales going strong with a mid-life overhaul for the GLA.
In an effort to make it classier, more refined and engaging to drive, this refresh is more than skin-deep. The 2017 GLA 220d, in fact, gets a more powerful diesel motor, styling tweaks inside-out and a fairly competitive price tag. Here’s how it stacks up compared to its predecessor.
The updates on the exterior are minor in comparison to the work that’s gone into the engine. Nonetheless, the 2017 GLA gets a couple of new colour options and restyled body panels. Up front, there’s a new grille with rectangular chrome inserts and a slightly different bumper. Perhaps what’s more noticeable are the new headlights – the old bi-xenon units have made way for efficient LED headlamps. Mercedes says that the colour temperature of the LEDs is similar to daylight.
As for the rest of the changes, the 2017 GLA features new 5-spoke alloy wheels and revised LED taillights. All in all, the 2017 GLA, like its predecessor, appears thoroughly modern but more like a jacked-up hatch than something that’s more upright and tough looking.
Climb inside and you are treated to a cabin that is both easy on the eye and built with pleasing materials and plastics. The top of the dash and doors are both finished in leather and soft touch plastics and all the controls work in a precise manner. The dash design is certainly classier than the BMW X1 whereas the Audi Q3’s is nowhere close given that it still uses Audi’s older-gen cabin design and layout.Any updates? You may ask. Well for starters the 2017 GLA gets new trim levels – sail pattern trim in Sport variant and black matrix-look in Style variant. The instrument cluster is also slightly different with red needles while certain switches and controls have been given small yet noticeable highlights in silver chrome. Lastly, the stowage compartment in the center console is also surrounded by a chrome frame and the AC vent rings are more strongly accentuated.
The 11.6cm display for the infotainment system dominates the top of the dash and is well positioned to stop the driver from looking away from the road for too long. The graphics aren’t as crisp as the X1’s iDrive unit but it’s fairly comprehensive when it comes to displaying driver-related information.
Speaking of space and comfort, it’s easy to get comfortable upfront because the seats are fairly supportive and widely adjustable. Besides electric lumbar adjustment, you also get manual seat base extensions for more under thigh support. The rear seat comfort, however, leaves a lot to be desired – while there is a decent amount of headroom liberated by the low-set bench, the legroom is just about adequate. The rear seat, however, is set too low and the squab is also surprisingly short, meaning even average sized occupants will find themselves lacking under thigh support. The sense of space once you are seated at the back isn’t great either because of the narrow window line and the large front seats. Fortunately, the beige upholstery and the panoramic sunroof do their bit in livening up the ambience.
Mercedes has retained the 2-litre petrol and 2.1-litre diesel four-cylinder motors for the 2017 GLA. Sadly, the car doesn’t get the new 2-litre diesel that’s under the hood of the E220d but this 2.1-litre motor is a fine thing. What you see here is the GLA 220d which features a higher state of power tune, at 170bhp and 350Nm.
More power and torque have certainly made the GLA easier to live with as a daily driver. It pulls well from low down the rev range and has a wide enough torque band to avoid regular gearshifts. There’s a touch of turbo lag below 1,500rpm but this more powerful model is willing to grab pace once past 1,800rpm. The power delivery is livelier still at 2,500rpm before fully getting into its stride in the mid-range. Whereas the old car would often run out of steam at serious triple digit speeds, the GLA 220d pulls hard all the way up to 200kmph. The only disappointing bit about this engine is the noise it generates all the time – there’s a distinct diesel rattle even at lower revs and when you floor it, the engine is extremely audible. The 7-speed automatic does a good job of delivering smooth shifts around the town, but is often slow to react under sudden bursts of acceleration. The paddle shifters are a bonus, though, and make things a little more responsive.
The 2017 GLA retains the multiple driving modes that Mercedes introduced in the crossover at a later stage. These include Comfort, Eco, Sport and Individual. Additionally, there’s an Off-road mode which allows for mild off-roading by hanging onto lower gears and making full use of the hill descent feature.
The GLA has always been spick-and-span around corners and the 2017 model is no different. The steering has decent amount of feel to it and weighs up nicely as the speed rises. It also stays well controlled over long sweeping roads even as mid-corner bumps try to catch it out. The ride quality, on the other hand, is bit of a mixed bag – the stiff suspension means you end up feeling a lot of the road surface beneath you at slow speeds. On the highway, however, the GLA could easily be mistaken for a bigger, more expensive model; such is the suppression of noise in the cabin.The ride itself is absolutely composed and flat even at high speeds.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||170bhp @ 3400 RPM|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||350Nm @ 1400 RPM|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||50|
|Tyre size||235/50 R18|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp)||170bhp @ 3400 RPM||188bhp @ 4000rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm)||350Nm @ 1400 RPM||400 @ 1750rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||50||51|
|Tyre size||235/50 R18||225/50 R18|
The 2017 Mercedes GLA is somethingof a polarising vehicle. As small premium crossovers go, it’s probably the most stylish looking and thanks to the uprated power, surprisingly quick as well. However, that diesel motor is too noisy for the segment and the space at the back is a let-down, too. Nevertheless, those in the market for a small premium crossover should consider the 2017 GLA as one of the viable options. The focus to make this new model a classier prospect has worked for Mercedes, with the GLA now doing a better job of blurring the line between a hatchback and a high-riding SUV.
If you can live with the mediocre rear seat comfort, the new GLA has much to offer now that it costs significantly less than the older model, thanks to post GST benefits.
Pictures: Kapil Angane