Introduction: Car manufacturers across the globe have realized the potential of compact crossovers or SUVs in the auto industry today. With every car maker introducing a compact SUV in their lineup, the same is also true for premium luxury car manufacturers. After BMW introduced the X1, their smallest SUV ever in 2009, Audi came up with their smallest SUV, Q3 in 2011, and two years later, Mercedes Benz unveiled their smallest SUV- the GLA Class.
Built on the same platform as A Class, B Class and the CLA Class, GLA was first showcased as a concept at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show. Now, the GLA has arrived in India, to compete with the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.
Exteriors: Easily one of the best looking compact SUVs today, Mercedes GLA Class carries the same new design language, which is now seen on all new cars from Mercedes Benz – the S Class, CLA Class, A Class, C Class and now the B Class.
GLA’s front highlights include large grille with two beefy silver coloured slats which have chrome finish at its exterior lip, bi-xenon headlights with LED DRLs and LED indicators, air intakes on the sides, aluminium guard at the bottom, aggressive lines on the bonnet, and the large three pointed star in the centre of them all.
Moving on to its side, you see a dropping line, running from headlamps to the the rear axle, giving Mercedes GLA an aerodynamic look. Then there is 18 inch alloys wrapped in 235/55 Continental tyres, plastic cladding for wheel arches, blackened B pillar, body coloured door handles, chrome strip on the window line, and silver roof rails. Roof gets a panaromic sunroof (which has rain sensor, closes automatically when it rains), and a bucket-tooth rear roof design.
Rear design is equally attractive, if not more as compared to other sides. It is from the rear where the GLA Class looks more like an SUV, the tall boy design, protruding LED tail lights, silver skid plates with twin exhausts, thick chrome strip across, arched roof spoiler, and rear windscreen wiper.
Just above the chrome strip, you see name of the car on the left, while centre carries three pointed star logo. You will be surprised to know, that the load compartment width of the GLA Class is same as the ML Class.
Overall, the car demands notice. During our test drive, we noticed many onlookers getting out of their comfort zone just to get a second glance at this beauty. Some of them so excited, who were ready to book the car right away.
Interiors: Unlike the exteriors, which is a fresh new design, the same cannot be said for GLA’s interiors. They are very much like the A Class. Same layout, design, quality, etc. There are two options for interiors, one is a two tone finish of beige and black, the other is all black. Quality of materials is top notch, as expected from Mercedes Benz. There is one new addition though, as compared to the A Class’s dashboard, GLA’s dashboard now comes with a matt grey cladding, and also gets ambient lighting.
Centre dash’s tablet styled colour display is same as seen in A Class and B Class. It takes care of navigation, multimedia, car settings, rear camera display etc. You can control this tablet via a knob next to front armrest, or steering mounted controls. Steering design continues to be the same 3 spoke one seen in the A Class.
Instrument cluster consists of two dials, one for speedo, and the other for tacho. Inside these, there is one small dial, showing fuel and engine temperature respectively, all analogue. In the centre, there is a TFT screen, which gives information like outside temperature, range, tripmeter, time, date, driving mode, attention assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, and much more. Sound system is from Harman Kardon, gives great music experience.
Front seats offer good support and comfort. Legroom or headroom is not an issue. They are electrically adjustable and come with 3 memory settings. They also get lumbar support adjustment and electrically adjustable headrest (unlike the A Class). You also get front centre armrest, and enough place to keep your belongings, paper, cups, keys etc. Surprisingly, it does not have a start/stop button.
Rear seats too offer decent comfort. Seating is for three, but again, the person sitting in the centre might find it uncomfortable, depending on his/her height, thanks to the protruding column for storage. There are no rear AC vents. you also have the option of arm rest in rear seats.
Boot space is at 421 litres, and when rear seats are folded, you get 1235 litres of space. One glitch here is the space saver, which eats some of the boot space, and also robs you of a flat surface. Also, Mercedes GLA comes with lowest in segment boot sill height, allowing easy loading.
Engine and Mileage: As of now, two engine options are on offer with the GLA – one diesel (GLA 200 CDI) and one petrol (GLA 200), which makes the GLA, only petrol SUV in the segment. Diesel is in the form of 2143 cc 4 cyl engine generating 136 hp @ 3600-4400 rpm and 300 Nm @ 1600-3000 rpm, while petrol is a 1991 cc 4 cyl mill offering 181 hp @ 5500 rpm and 300 Nm @ 1200-1400 rpm. Both mated to a 7 speed dual clutch gearbox which sends power to the front wheels, diesel mileage is claimed at 17.9 kmpl and that of petrol is claimed at 13.8 kmpl. During our drive, we managed to get 13.5 kmpl and 9.5 kmpl respectively.
Performance and Handling: By offering two engines, Mercedes Benz India has tried to cater to two different segment of buyers. Diesel is for those who would prefer fuel efficiency over performance, while the petrol GLA is for those who would prefer performance over efficiency. GLA diesel does a 0-100 kmph in 9.9 seconds, while GLA petrol does the same in 7.6 seconds. Top speed of Mercedes GLA petrol is 225 kmph, whereas that of GLA diesel is at 205 kmph.
Driving dynamics of both, petrol and diesel variants is same. Great handling, quiet cabin, superb braking, ride comfort good for all passengers, suspension setting is on the softer side, making drive over bumps and potholes effortless. Body roll is evident, especially for rear passengers. This is probably due to the raised ground clearance. Yes, the GLA for India, though a CBU, comes with a ground clearance of 183 mm, while for other countries it is set at 170 mm.
Both options come with three drive modes Economy, Sport and Manual. Economy is set to offer best possible fuel efficiency and gear shifts take place at lower rpm, while Sport mode is tuned for performance, and gear shifts happen at a higher rpm. In Manual mode, you have the control to shift gears as and when you want. But, once you reach limiter, gear shift happens automatically.
Power deliver is seamless, gear shifts are smooth but noticeable. In diesel, turbo kicks in late due to a slight lag, but once you are in the peak band, performance of diesel engine is also impressive. And, if you do feel underpowered, there is always the pedal shift to play with. Petrol is pure performance. Power is available on tap, hardly any turbo lag.
Steering response is sufficient. It is light at low speeds, and becomes heavy with increasing speed. Road grip from tyres is decent. The car handles well even at sudden manoeuvre or when you enter a corner at high speed. While off-roading as well, the tyres and increased ground clearance comes handy. All four disc brakes give the GLA enough stopping power.
Verdict: Priced from Rs 32.75 lakhs, Mercedes GLA competes with Audi Q3 and BMW X1. It offers great style, comfort and driving pleasure. Stacked well against rivals, Mercedes GLA comes with fresh design, segment unique features like 18 inch alloys, rear camera, Harman Kardon surround sound system, and 7 airbags. These, in addition to a refined driving experience, makes Mercedes GLA a desirable product in the segment.
Why would you buy Mercedes GLA
Why would you not buy Mercedes GLA
– CBU price tag