Why would I buy it?
- Quick performance and good drivability
- Good driving manners
Why would I avoid it?
- Misses some equipment
- Slightly expensive than its rivals
The previous-gen GLA had received some flak for its low slung back coupe-like styling, but now the new-gen corrects all that with its more upright stance and bigger proportions, and as a result has more space inside than before. Needless to say, the interior quality is luxurious and is now more attractive with HD screens and new tech. This diesel engine is not only frugal but packs in a sprightly performance for an SUV that's fun to drive. Though this top-of-the-line 4MATIC trim priced at Rs 57.89 lakh on-road makes it expensive than its rivals, it's a package that can convince you to shell out that extra premium
Engine and Performance
While the AMG version is in a different league of its own, the standard versions of the GLA come with the option of a 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol in the GLA 200 or a 2.0-litre diesel in the 220d. The latter comes mated to an eight-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox and can be had in just the FWD version, or a top-spec 4MATIC version like the one we're sampling here. It churns out the same 188bhp of power and 400Nm of torque available from as low as 1,600rpm. Though a slight clatter of the engine is heard at the start, it’s not noisy unless at high rpms and can’t be heard inside the cabin, thanks to the good NVH. And it’s refined as well.
You can choose between four driving modes - Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Individual. No, there's no option to choose 4WD, but start with the Eco mode and it shows that it transmits power to the front wheels only. Also, all gear shifts happen under 2,000rpm; in favour of fuel efficiency. That said, it provides enough shove low in the rev range to keep progressing without a hiccup, and without having to shift down a gear constantly to speed up. If you still need to, paddle-shifters add to the convenience.
Then, Comfort mode betters the throttle responses with gearshifts happening a little higher in the rev band, but still, a strong mid-range ensures gearshifts happen under 2,000rpm. Dial in the Sport mode, for even sharper throttle responses, slightly heavier steering, and gearshifts taking place post 2,000rpm. Give it the stick and you can feel the strong push till 4,000rpm before its indicated redline at around 4,500rpm. It feels quick and our V-Box tests ascertain that with a 0-100kmph sprint time of 7.22 seconds. In fact, it shows off its good low- and mid-range by achieving the 0-60kmph run in just 3.26 seconds!
And, it's not just the engine, the gearbox shares the credit too. This new eight-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) responds well, is quick, and eventually helped put up quick times in our roll-on tests (20-80kmph in 4.20sec, 40-100kmph in 5.44sec) as well. This goes on to show its impressive drivability, be it sprinting away from city traffic or overtaking a long vehicle on the highway. Moreover, it helps in not just good outright acceleration, but in maintaining better fuel economy as well. It shifts to a higher gear and cruises easily using the abundant torque while keeping the revs low and the engine quiet. Our tested fuel efficiency of 17.26kmpl (city- 15.14kmpl, highway- 19.38kmpl) proves it to be a frugal oil-burner that will certainly help owners with high usage.
Ride and Handling
The ride is supple if not plush and mostly very comfortable, thanks to the nicely judged suspension. At low speeds, it absorbed bumps well, didn't crash through potholes, and even managed to filter the impact on the suspension over sharper edges. Dial up the speed and you might occasionally hear a thud especially over these sharp-edged potholes if you're not careful. But it never felt alarming despite it getting these tall 19-inch alloys. Also, it cleared all speed-breakers hinting you wouldn't have to worry about dodging obstacles if you happen to put its off-road mode to use. That's also pretty handy for enhanced traction and the 4MATIC does make it a dependable handler.
The GLA, for its compact size, is easy to drive, also partly because of the decent visibility. And then, there's this sharp steering weighted nicely. Still, interestingly, it's more fun because of its agility, strong engine, and the ability to inspire confidence in a driver to push it hard. It does live up to its sporty character, holds its line, and is nimble enough even if there’s a little lean while taking sharp bends. Then, the wheels shod with Bridgestone Turanzas rubber grip well, and that too, in the wet, if you drop the anchor while jabbing the brakes. There’s enough bite and progression to confidently come to a halt.
Interior Quality, Space, and Comfort
Step inside and you’ll be greeted with a revamped dashboard. Sure, the black upholstery may look like a descent from the beige one that we had seen in the previous gen. Yes, it also doesn’t make it feel as airy, but you get two sunroofs and needless to say, there’s no compromise on quality or space. The turbine-styled air-con vents continue but with more blades this time and add to the striking elements inside. The piano black surfaces with contrasting brushed aluminium finished accents along with the soft-touch door pads help bring in the feel-good factor. Fit and finish is top-notch and there are enough storage spaces with a handful of cubbies, especially in the central console that will store anything you want out of sight. It also gets good-sized adjustable cup-holders, stowage slots, and door bins big enough for 1.0-litre bottles.
Now, on to the seating comfort, the front seats are electrically adjustable with manual under-thigh support providing an excellent driving position. You’d not want to be chauffeur-driven, as you will never complain about discomfort even as a co-driver. The reason being the new kinetic seats which we’ll get to in a bit. As with space, there’s more than sufficient room even for tall individuals. And all seats are nice and supportive, although the rear-bench could have done with a slightly more under-thigh support.
Also, it may still look like a coupe-SUV with a sloping roof-line at the back, but it’s still higher and more upright. The increased proportions have helped translate more space inside with more headroom, shoulder-room, and elbow-room. Even the legroom at the rear has extended, thanks to the longer wheelbase. Though it’s not very generous, tall adults won’t complain as long as occupants in the second row are limited to two. And if you happen to fit in one more, the middle seat isn’t too bad and there’s good space for your feet as well.
Contrary to the plenty of room in the back seats, we wish the boot was just a bit more spacious. Especially, a spare wheel taking up usable boot space is a shame. Yet, there’s enough room for a big suitcase and three to four small to medium-sized bags. What’s more, the rear seat can be split, so one can still have a rear passenger with something long in the boot.
Features and Safety Equipment
There are plenty of new features in the GLA's cabin to match up to its elder siblings in terms of kit. This includes a dual-screen setup consisting of the MBUX infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster that look fantastic and do their job really well. The 10.25-inch HD Media display unit supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, wireless charging, and 64-colour ambient lighting as well. The brown open-pore walnut upholstery gets the Artico-DINAMICA combination in this AMG line. Now, call me out for nit-picking, but the GLA misses out on ventilated seats, gets only C-type USB ports, and it would have been a delight if wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay was offered.
Still, did we mention the kinetic seats? What's that you may ask? So being an entry-level model, the GLA’s seats don't get massage function. But, what the carmaker has intelligently done to the front seats is, to automatically and periodically keep moving them slightly. This change in the seat's position ensures the occupant isn't in one posture for too long, adding to the comfort and reducing fatigue.
Meanwhile, the other features include two-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, powered tailgate, sensor-based auto-braking feature, etc. Now, don't ask for an automatic parking feature, come on, it's an easy car to park with a compact footprint. And, probably that's why you also don't get a 360-degree camera. Otherwise, amongst the safety suite there are seven airbags, attention assist, driving modes, multi-beam LED headlamps, active bonnet for pedestrian safety, Pre-Safe, electronic stability program, and so on. Lest we forget, eight years of warranty on the engine and transmission!
Despite its debatable styling, the new GLA gets updated looks making it more distinctive to look at. It's grown, not just in size but into a mature entry-level Mercedes-Benz, up-to-date with the brand's new tech, stylish interiors, and comfortable cabin. Though it misses out on certain features, it has gotten more attractive, and the use of high-quality materials paired with excellent workmanship continues. Then, the power-packed engine, supple ride quality, and an agile character make it fun to drive. These are more than good reasons for buyers to choose the GLA over its rivals, of course, backed by the three-star brand and service value.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi