What is it?
The Mercedes GLA has been on sale in India since 2014 and while it received criticism for looking more hatch than SUV, the little crossover managed to sustain itself over time. Launched with two-wheel drive only, Mercedes later added more versions like the performance-oriented GLA 45 AMG with all-wheel drive and then in 2016 offered the all-wheel-drive system on the GLA 220d with an off-road mode as well. Now about three years on since the first launch, Mercedes has given the car a facelift.
What’s it like on the outside?
As far as facelifts go, the GLA update can best be described as mild. Mercedes has not altered any sheet metal and perhaps the biggest change to the exterior could be the addition of LED headlamps. The front also gets a new grille with perforated twin-blade design and the lower edge sees a new bumper cladding. On the sides, the car wears new five-spoke alloys and the rear gets redesigned crystal-effect LED tail lamps. That’s it as far as the exterior changes go. The rest is familiar territory, meaning you still get the small hatch styling similar to the A-class on which it is based. On the whole, the GLA does not have the stance of a traditional SUV but it does look appealing with its swoopy lines; it turned a few heads on our drive.
What’s it like on the inside?
Just like the exterior, the changes to the inside are minimal. There are now two new trim options – sail-patterned trim on the Sports edition and black matrix trim on the Style edition. The instrument panel is new with an 11.6 cm colour multifunction display and has a concentric circle meter design with neat red needles. The new GLA also has an ambient lighting system with 12 selectable colours. The rest remain from the earlier car and the GLA is fairly well equipped with bits like a large panoramic sunroof, attention assist, powered tailgate, powered front seats with memory and an 8-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Curiously, however, it makes do with a manual AC system only. Another odd bit is a reverse camera system but with no audio warnings.
Seating is comfortable and what’s nice is the small extendable underthigh support on both front seats. Space, on the whole, isn’t very large by the standards of its competitors, headroom and rear legroom is just sufficient for my five-foot-eight frame and what adds to the hemmed-in feeling is the narrow all-round glass house. In fact, you will notice the slightly restricted view out at the front thanks to the short height of the windshield. Beige interiors and a large sunroof on our car did alleviate this to an extent.
What’s it like to drive?
Mercedes has a newer 2-litre diesel that’s under the hood of the new E-class but this will feature only on the next-generation GLA platform. Thus, powertrain choices, for now, include a 1,991cc petrol engine and a 2,143cc diesel in two states of tune. We are driving the 220d with the higher powered output that puts out 170hp and 350Nm of torque compared to the 200d’s 136hp and 300Nm of torque. The 2.1-litre diesel has been the mainstay of the Mercedes fleet powering everything from A- to E-class and on the GLA it does a decent job. Acceleration is brisk and power comes in from low revs. There is a small spike in power around the 1700rpm mark post which power delivery is linear all the way to the redline. The downside is the sound level that is higher than you would expect on a Rs 30 lakh car. The engine is quite audible at low revs and gets quite loud as the speed builds.
One big improvement the GLA got in 2016 was a change in the driving modes which brought in an off-road and individual (customisable) mode. These remain on the current car and alter the powertrain and steering only, with no further changes to the suspension or other dynamic components of the car. In our earlier testing, we found the GLA to be no SUV but it can easily indulge in some light off-roading with the four-wheel drive and sufficient clearance. There is also a hill descent mode to bring the GLA down slopes in a controlled manner.
The steering is nice with a decent amount of feel but it isn’t consistent all through the turn. On our earlier testing, we weren’t impressed with the ride, finding it quite firm and crashy. On the facelifted car, there seems to be a small improvement. Mercedes says there hasn’t been any suspension change and this ride difference could be down to a different make of tyres.
Should I buy one?
Mercedes should have done a bit more with the facelift. The GLA isn’t the largest or best-driving SUV and needs a change soon. However, it does deliver a stylish car that can manage some light off-roading and is well equipped too. Besides, it will appeal to those looking to stand apart from the typical SUV brigade. The GLA is priced from Rs 30.65 lakh to Rs 36.75 lakh for the 220d 4matic that we are driving and interestingly that means, thanks to GST, you now pay around Rs 3 lakh less for a facelifted car.
Watch our video review: