Mercedes GLA Review
Car Tested: 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 42.62 – 47.99 lakhs
Mercedes’ GLA looks stunning in flesh, it is a well rounded package with loads of appeal
SUV craze is at its peak and the fixation to this body type is seen across all segments. While most manufacturers already have a SUV in their portfolio, others are scurrying to develop one at the earliest. Blame it on our roads or the fact that sitting higher up gives you the kick, whatever the case, this body type is seeing far more success than anyone had imagined. Coming to the luxury segment, SUV sales have seen a sharp rise during the recent past. The Mercedes-Benz’ SUV lineup comprising of the GL and ML contributes to nearly 25% of the company’s total sales in India. With this backdrop Mercedes-Benz is all set to launch the all new GLA-Class, which will not only be the starting point in the Stuttgart based manufacturer’s SUV ranks but will also give much needed competition to Audi’s Q3 and BMW’s X1.
It was Mercedes-Benz who introduced the concept of ‘Compact Luxury’ to India with the A-Class at a time when many pundits believed India was not ready for this segment. The success of the A-Class encouraged others to follow suit and BMW came up with the 1-Series while folks from Ingolstadt recently launched the A3. The GLA is based on the same platform as the A-Class (MFA Platform) and is a front-wheel drive vehicle. We drive the GLA around the picturesque roads of Himachal and find out if it cuts the mustard.
Motor Quest: Mercedes-Benz unveiled the production version of the GLA at the 2013 Frankfurt Auto Show after showcasing the concept car at the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show. This compact SUV sits below the GLK globally and is based on the MFA (Modular Front Architecture) platform. The GLA was also showcased at the 2014 Indian Auto Expo at Greater Noida.
Exteriors – Before we actually saw the car, we had seen some images of the vehicle on the internet. Truth being told, the car looks absolutely stunning in flesh and pictures don’t really do justice to its design. A brainchild of Gordon Wagner, the head of design at Mercedes-Benz, the GLA is based on the company’s new design language which was first seen on the A-Class. Young and sporty, this design is enough for anyone to fall for this car at first glance. The front profile is highlighted by the dual slat grille which gets touches of chrome on which the ‘Three Pointed Star’ sits with supremacy. The sweptback headlamps show great detail and the GLA gets Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights. You also have LED fibre optics tracing a curve through the headlamp making it look really classy. Front aluminium skid plates accentuate the SUV characteristics of the GLA.
When viewed from the side, once can appreciate the dynamic character lines which add aestheticism to the GLA’s kitty. These sharp character lines not only make this SUV look sharper but also has a three dimensional effect when light falls on it from different angles. The window line slopes up as you go rearwards and the coupe like roof-line adds a whole lot of style. The rear spoiler is integrated with the roof. Mercedes is positioning the GLA as an entry level SUV in their lineup and therefore there are a lot of SUV bits as well. The GLA gets roof rails as standard and amongst other standard fitment are 18-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels which look menacing under those muscular wheel arches. Mercedes will also offer 19-inch alloys as a dealer level accessory.
The rear profile is highlighted by a wide shoulder which makes the GLA appear much larger in proportion. Chrome has been used in the right dose and is not overdone. The wide bumper, skid plate and dual exhausts gel very well with the SUV form. LED tail lamps are very tastefully done too. Mercedes-Benz is offering panoramic sunroof as standard fitment. To enhance the appeal a step further, there is a bucket-tooth rear roof design. The GLA will initially be available in four metallic colours – brown, silver, white and red.
Interiors – One glance at the GLA’s cabin and you are sure to feel as if you have seen it before. That’s because the GLA shares most of it interior bits with the A-Class. However, to keep things slightly different, Mercedes has added a few things inside to differentiate it from the baby Benz. The dashboard theme is the same but now you have a matte grey insert on the dashboard to break the continuity. Additionally you also get ambient lighting to pamper yourself. Unlike the A-Class which only has an all black dashboard layout, the GLA gets an all black dashboard and upholstery as well as a black and beige combination. To make things simple, especially with logistics, you cannot really customise the interior colour scheme for a mass market model. A light body colour like silver will get an all black layout while a brown would get a black and beige colour scheme with beige seats. We reckon the beige upholstery will be a big hit with Indian customers, though we would pick the all black theme any day.
The front seats are comfortable and get electronic adjustment with memory function for both front seats. The GLA gets adjustable headrests for the front as opposed to integrated ones in the A-Class. The rear bench is more roomy than it appears from outside with good back support, headroom and knee room but under thigh support is lacking for tall passengers. The rear headrests are quite supportive and there is one for the middle passenger as well. The rear seats also have central armrest (not there in the A-Class) with cup holders.
The interiors of the GLA feel very rich and have all the luxury elements
Mercedes-Benz has equipped the GLA with a lot of kit and the company is giving a lot of features standard with a few first in segment features as well. One of which is the panoramic sunroof, which is smart enough to close when it starts raining and will also automatically close if you switch on the re-circulation button on the air conditioner. Courtesy of the panoramic sunroof, the head room is boosted and the light gives the cabin an airy feeling, making is appear quite big for the size of the car. However, for tall passengers, the outward sloping C-pillar may cause your head to hit on the side in situations when three people are sitting abreast. Evidently, the closest competitor to the GLA will be Audi’s Q3. Comparing the two, the GLA has a longer wheelbase than the Q3 by 96 mm (contributing to increased rear space) and the vehicle is also longer by 32 mm.
Boot space is a healthy 421 litres and can be increased to 1235 litres by dropping the rear seats which fold in 60:40 proportion. Believe it or not, the interior width of the boot (between the two wheel arches) is the same as the ML-Class. However, the space saver which lies in the boot robs it of some practicality. The boot is more easily accessible compared to the competition due to the lower loading bay which is 186 mm lower than that of the closest competitor. The AC cools well but there is no climate control on offer. The audio system is simply outstanding with Mercedes-Benz having gone the extra mile and offered the Harman Kardon Logic 7 sound unit which delivers mind boggling sound from its 12 speakers and woofer combined. You have the option of playing music through the USB port (in the centre console) or you can stream music directly from your phone. There is a multimedia screen which shows you all the relevant display and also doubles up as the display for the reversing camera, which is a first in segment feature. Navigation is also available as an option. Other standard features include tyre pressure monitoring system and Attention Assist (Mercedes-Benz Exclusive). Illuminated door sills are also on the list.
Build quality is typical Mercedes-Benz, top notch would be an understatement. Fit and finish is immaculate and there is not one inconsistency in the panels. The cabin feels quite rich and luxury comes in plenty. Another small variation of the colour scheme is seen between the petrol and diesel versions. The diesel version has an all black roof lining while the petrol one gets a grey one. Besides this, there is no telling between the interiors of the diesel and petrol versions. Various customisation options are available such as Rear Seat Entertainment system, Apple iPad docking station (iPad 2 to iPad 4), illuminated star and bicycle rack.
Performance – Mercedes-Benz is offering the GLA with both diesel and petrol engines. The diesel (GLA 200 CDI) is the same 2143cc oil-burner which is seen powering a range of cars from the company’s stable. Producing 134 BHP of power and 300 NM of twisting force, this motor will be for those who are looking for luxury and fuel efficiency on the same page. Mercedes claims that this diesel engine is the most efficient diesel engine in the segment returning a mileage of 17.9 km/l as per ARAI. Torque is available in a wide band of 1600-3000 RPM and power delivery is pretty linear with a strong mid-range. Power wanes off as you get closer to the rev limiter and this engine works best when driven in the turbo band. The diesel powered GLA does the 0 – 100 km/h run in just 9.9 seconds with a top speed of 205 km/hr.
Under the hood of the GLA 200 is a 1991cc turbocharged petrol engine which produces 181 BHP of power and 300 NM torque available at as low as 1200-1400 RPM. This is clearly the pick if you are looking for a more involving driving experience. Power delivery is brisk right from the word go with no lag whatsoever. Since the torque comes in quite low, the GLA 200 is more fun to drive than its diesel sibling and feels quite punchy throughout the rev band. This engine is reasonably quick, stopping the clock at 7.6 seconds on a 0-100 km/hr run. The GLA 200 returns a fuel efficiency of 13.8 km/l as per ARAI with top speed rated at 225 km/hr.
The GLA’s petrol engine is more performance oriented while the diesel is tuned towards efficiency
Mated to both these engines is a 7-speed, dual clutch transmission (7G-DCT). In the diesel version, the gearbox feels decent with cogs working their way in a synchronised matter. However, it’s only when you drive more enthusiastically does this gearbox feel a bit lazy especially while downshifting in a hurry. Also, when you floor the throttle to overtake, there is a tiny lag before the gearbox gets to speed. In the petrol trim, things are better. The petrol motor feels more eager and enthusiastic and this is one car we could drive all day. The gearbox works better with the petrol engine and is good enough to seal the deal for most. Both these engine perform well in both city and highway conditions. NVH levels are good with barely any sound creeping inside the cabin, however at high speeds, some wind noise is audible.
There are three modes to work with. The E (Economy) mode works best in the city or in relaxed driving conditions with primary focus being fuel efficiency. In this mode the gears shift a little before hitting the rev limiter. In the S (Sports) mode, the gearbox becomes more aggressive and the shifts happen at redline. One can also use the M (Manual) mode by working the paddles on the steering wheel to shift gears for maximum performance. In order to obtain maximum fuel efficiency, there is a start/stop button on the dashboard which can save up to 6% fuel. The gear lever stalk is behind the steering which saves a lot of space on the central console. Parking brake is electronic too.
Both the petrol and diesel trims of the GLA have enough performance up their sleeve to close the deal for majority of the crowd. Power is sourced to the front wheels and Mercedes-Benz is not offering a 4-MATIC version as yet and the reasons are quite obvious. Barely anyone will buy this SUV for off-road prowess and most will confine its usage to city limits. Instead Mercedes has gone for more features and kit, which makes more sense in this segment. Still if power and performance is something which rocks your boat, the Stuttgart based automaker will soon the launch the GLA 45 AMG under whose hood is the most powerful 4-cylinder production engine producing 355 BHP and 450 NM torque propelling it to 100 km/hr in a mere 4.8 seconds with a top speed of 250 km/hr. At a later stage, Mercedes may launch the GLA with 4-MATIC.
Driving Dynamics – The GLA has been tweaked a bit to suit Indian conditions. Ground clearance has been raised by 13 mm to 183 mm to cater to Indian roads but raising the ground clearance requires more than what appears. The suspension has been setup accordingly and the electronic steering has been recalibrated to ensure the GLA still has good ride and handling. Ride quality feels a tad on the stiffer side but inspite of that this SUV absorbs most of the potholes with ease over bad roads. At low speeds, the cushioning is far better than seen at high speeds. It’s only on really bad roads does the suspension filter the bumps into the cabin. The petrol was a charm to drive as the suspension and ride felt perfect. In the diesel however, the suspension felt a tad stiffer and there was a bit of noise too but overall the shocks did a good job to keep the passengers comfortable.
The GLA’s steering is reasonably sharp and direct but it isn’t the sharpest one in its segment. The beauty is that it weighs just about right and is not too heavy like the one on the X1, making it easy to maneuver in the city but weighs up decently well as the speedometer gathers up the numbers on the highway. The petrol version feels much better and the GLA corners with some confidence. Body roll is well contained and you can push this car hard and have a smile on your face at the end of it as it drives just like a car rather than a perched up SUV. Push it to the limit and it tends to understeer due to its front wheel drive configuration. High speed stability is good and it stays glued to the road even during excessive triple digit speeds.
The 235/55/18 Continental tyres offer sufficient grip and we did try our luck on the roads less travelled without much difficulty proving that the GLA is more than up for the job you put it to. On loose tarmac and gravel, it holds well but a 4MATIC would have certainly helped generate better traction out of wet and slushy areas. Brakes are sharp and bite well with good stopping power. There was no hint of any brake fade. The GLA gets all four disc brakes with Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Hill Start Assist, Acceleration Skid Control (ASR) and Brake Assist (BA) systems.
Safety and After Sales Service – Mercedes-Benz has always had a strong focus on safety and the GLA follows the same company policy. The GLA gets 7 airbags (including knee airbag) as standard and is rated 5-star by EuroNCAP. Safety equipment includes Attention Assist and tyre pressure monitoring system. The GLA also gets Hill Start Assist, ESP, ASR and BA. As far as after sales is concerned, Mercedes has the widest network than any of the competing brands. The company offers a no frills 3-year warranty as standard on all its products (including the GLA) which can be extended for the additional fourth year at a nominal charge.
Verdict – Mercedes-Benz has finally filled the void in their SUV lineup with a capable product. The GLA will win many hearts with its styling alone and is a perfect product considering buyer preferences and our road conditions. The GLA is not the quickest car in its segment nor is it the sharpest but it does come out to be a practical one with great balance between performance and fuel efficiency with respectable ride and handling. While the performance buff can wait for the soon to be launched GLA 45 AMG, for everything else the GLA fits the bill perfectly. We reckon the GLA will attract quite a crowd, the only challenge for Mercedes will be to cater to the overwhelming demand.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA plugs the entry level gap in the Germans’s SUV lineup and scores well in most departments while excelling on the design front. With the compact luxury segment picking up in our country and SUV demand soaring, there is no reason why the GLA shouldn’t be another success story from the house of Mercedes-Benz.
* Loads of standard features
What’s Not So Cool
* Slow gearbox
* No 4MATIC yet
Alternatives: Audi Q3, BMW X1
Mercedes GLA Specifications
* Engine: 1991cc, turbocharged (Petrol); 2143cc, turbocharged (Diesel)
* Power: 181 BHP @ 5500 RPM (Petrol); 134 BHP @ 3600-4400 RPM (Diesel)
* Torque: 300 Nm @ 1200-1400 RPM (Petrol); 300 Nm @ 1600-3000 RPM (Diesel)
* Transmission: 7G-DCT (7-speed dual clutch transmission)
* 0-100 km/hr: 7.6 seconds (Petrol); 9.9 seconds (Diesel)
* Top Speed: 225 km/hr (Petrol); 205 km/hr (Diesel)
* Fuel Consumption: 13.8 km/l (Petrol), 17.9 km/l (Diesel)
* Fuel Type: Petrol and Diesel
* Suspension: Twin-tube gas filled
* Tyres: 235/50/18
* Brakes: All 4 Discs, ABS
* Safety: ABS, ESP, Hill Start Assist, Attention Assist, Seven Airbags, Rear Parking Sensors and Camera
Mercedes GLA Specifications
* Overall length x width x height: 4417 mm X 1804 mm X 1494 mm
* Wheelbase: 2699 mm
* Turning Radius: 5.92 metres
* Ground clearance: 183 mm
* Boot Volume: 421 liters, 1235 litres (with rear seats folded)
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 litres
* Kerb Weight: 1525 kgs