Mercedes Benz has refreshed the GLA compact SUV for 2017 and Michael MoroneY has taken it for a test drive to appreciate the step up to luxury end motoring. Here he gives his appraisal.
The Mercedes-Benz entry level SUV is the GLA, a compact car that’s been upgraded for 2017 from the original one first introduced back in 2013.
The GLA is pitched at the upper end of the compact SUV market, putting it into a price bracket that’s well north of the best-selling competition in the sector.
That always begs the question about why spend more? Why opt for a more luxury end SUV when one of the volume makes will do the very same job? Or will they?
After spending some days behind the wheel of the new generation GLA, which is improved for 2017, it becomes clearer as to why this SUV has some special appeal. I took the car across the country, through Dublin and Limerick cities and the longer that I drove the GLA to cover over 950km, the more the appeal of the car grew on me.
The GLA never claims to be a big SUV; it credentials are firmly in the compact SUV sector. It’s a car that you easily feel comfortable in, there’s a good driving position, strong seats and a clear instrument arrangement.
The interior design is uncluttered and easy to become familiar with. That means that you quickly get down to feeling comfortable behind the wheel and you start to appraise the car for what it’s worth.
The test car came with the off-road comfort suspension which raises the car body an extra 30 millimetres higher. This claims to give improved off-road capability thanks to higher ground clearance and a higher seat position.
In styling terms this latest GLA has new light-alloy wheels. The previous optional bi-xenon headlamps have been replaced by LED headlights and they are impressive for night vision.
With its 2.1-litre turbo-diesel engine under the bonnet, the GLA 200d’s 136bhp output means that this car is a lively performer. The car is among the heavier of the compact SUV’s on the market, while it still achieves an acceleration figure of 9.1 seconds in a 0 to 100km/hr race.
That compares well with all contenders, while the new generation and lighter Nissan Qashqai with which it shares some architecture, is marginally faster off the blocks.
The GLA is a thrifty performer with a rated economy figure of 24km/litre (4.2l/100km or 67mpg). While in reality that’s difficult to achieve, this comparison figure is still close to being the best in this class, well ahead of most of the competition, apart from the new Nissan Qashqai.
I drove the automatic version of the GLA and quite honestly this is the best format to appreciate the car’s driving style. The seven-speed automatic gearbox design is where Mercedes-Benz excels and in the GLA this gives driving options to choose between pace and economy at the press of a button.
That’s the part of the Mercedes-Benz driving appeal that I especially liked about the GLA.
It’s small and compact while being great to drive. There’s a solid feel to the car and the comfort of sure footed handling that puts you at ease.
That driving experience is helped by the large 18in wheels that give the car some presence as well as contributing to that solid driving feel.
That solid feel permeates throughout the GLA; it’s not a badge thing, even though that extra appeal is obvious. Both inside and outside the Mercedes-Benz presence is obvious. An electronic handbrake takes over from the traditional foot operated one for other larger cars in the Mercedes-Benz range.
The entire dash area is uncluttered. The column shift control lever for the automatic gearbox leaves the centre console area clear for use of the multi-function control dial.
This dial operates all of the functions on the larger floating infotainment screen.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA has a Smartphone Integration function which allows iPhones and Android smart-phones to be integrated into the vehicle using Apple CarPlayTM or Android Auto respectively.
There is a raft of safety features included and that’s why the GLA received a five star rating in the Euro NCAP test programme when the previous model was tested three years ago.
If anything, the current GLA should excel with attention assist, active brake assist to warn of cars or obstacles ahead. This system is able to trigger autonomous braking if a rear-end collision appears imminent and the driver fails to react, so preventing an accident or at least minimising the consequences.
This upgraded GLA is a car that’s crafted for downsizing. If you want to downsize with comfort, good economy and low running costs, then include it in the shopping list for a compact SUV.
At €35,400 its more expensive than an Audi Q2, has better driving comfort and presence, supported on bigger wheels.
You’ll need to move up the specification ladder to get the benefits of the smooth sever-speed automatic gearbox, and it’s worth it.