What is it?
The GLA is Mercedes-Benz’s small SUV that is set to go head to head with the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Volvo V40 Cross Country. It’s built on the same platform as the A- and B-class and, like the hatchbacks, carries Mercedes’s bold new design language rather well.
It’s not a very tall car and hence, easier to think of as a crossover than a proper SUV. To put things in perspective, its stance is somewhere between the estate-like X3’s and the more upright Q3’s. Whether that works for you or not, you’ll agree that the GLA does look quite striking in the flesh. The beautifully-detailed headlights and large grille up front, the swoopy curves on the sides and that wide-hipped rear give the GLA ample star quality.
The aluminium scuff-plate, roof rails and plastic cladding on the wheel arches also help the look, but perhaps not as much as the wheels. GLA for India comes with 18-inch wheels as standard and they do look very nice.
There’s lots to like about the cabin too, so long as you are realistic about space. The cabin feels cozy rather than roomy. Up front, you wouldn’t be wrong to think you are sitting in a jacked-up A-class. The nicely-finished dashboard and all other panels are the same, but courtesy the higher driving position, you get a better view out. The electrically adjustable front seats are also comfortable. Rear seat legroom and headroom (thanks to recesses for the sunroof) are also decent, but the cabin’s width restricts this to a place best for two. The high-ish floor also means thigh support is insufficient in the back. You could possibly make this up to your rear passengers by speccing the GLA with the optional rear seat entertainment system.
What’s noteworthy though is how well equipped the GLA comes as standard. It gets seven airbags, a panoramic sunroof, sat nav, reverse camera, a Harmon Kardon sound system, tyre pressure sensors, ambient lighting and bi-xenon headlamps. But, there’s no automatic climate control and the screen for the infotainment system is also quite small.
What is it like to drive?
The GLA will launch with a 181bhp, 2.0-litre turbo-petrol and a 135bhp, 2.2-litre diesel. Both will be available only in front-wheel drive form, at least for the time being. If you do want the safety of all-wheel drive, Mercedes will sell you the mad GLA45 AMG October onwards.
Back to the engines at hand. Having already driven the petrol version
, we know it to be a strong performer but also one that doesn’t like to be revved too hard.
As for the diesel, it’s nice but not exciting. It’s the same 2.2-litre engine you’ll find in a whole host of Mercs but here, it makes 135bhp and 30.5kgm. The power and torque figures do put the GLA 200 CDI at a disadvantage to the X1, Q3 and the V40, and if you really push the car hard, it shows. The diesel motor doesn’t particularly like being rushed and gets quite vocal when you try, though it does rev to 4500rpm. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is also not the quickest on downshifts.
But adopt a more relaxed driving style and the GLA diesel becomes a lot more likeable. The gearbox works to keep revs low and in doing so, also keeps the engine running reasonably quiet. On the whole, refinement levels are good.
Road noise is fairly well contained though the firmness of the suspension can be heard on sharper bumps. It does absorb the bumps well enough on most occasions. Good stability, further make this a car you’d be very comfortable to drive on the highway. Grip levels are good too and though not engaging to drive as an X1, you can derive some fun behind the wheel. The GLA is quick to turn in and on most bends, feels like a tight, sporty hatchback.
Should I buy one?
Mercedes will reveal GLA prices only at its launch on September 30. However, the impression we get is that the GLA won’t be cheap and could possibly be the most expensive of the small luxury SUVs. But then again, Mercedes is loading the GLA with lots of features so you won’t exactly feel shortchanged. Elsewhere too, the GLA offers quite a bit to keep buyers more than content. While only a full-fledged comparison can reveal how it fares against its rivals across parameters, we have established that the GLA is pleasant to drive in petrol and diesel forms, comfy enough on the inside and looks desirable on the outside. The lack of all-wheel drive may be a spoiler for some but for the majority who will use the GLA in town, it’s not a deal breaker. As is, the GLA is certainly a small SUV worth seriously considering.