Mercedes-Benz GLA (2013 - 2019)
The way to find out whether the Mercedes-Benz delivers on its grand promises is to test each of the promised aspects. That starts with its looks. Technically, the GLA bears a lot of resemblance to the A-Class. However, the GLA is longer, wider and taller. But instead of losing proportions, the GLA is actually better balanced and sturdier. As a rule, SUVs owe their sturdy appearance to height, but the GLA instead opts for stocky, muscular proportions. This makes the GLA stand out even more from similar cars of everyday brands.
It should be noted here, that the GLA is available in different flavours. For instance, the GLA is available with a more elegant, sporty or rather robust look. This applies to both the exterior and the interior. The test car had an "AMG styling" package (rims, spoilers) and "night package" (black accents).
Given the GLA's looks, entry is surprisingly low. Next, driver and co-driver sit with shoulders down to the metal. This gives the secure feeling of a coupé, not the mighty feel of an SUV. The layout of the dashboard is almost identical to that of Mercedes' other compact models. It is sleek and uncluttered, but for a special car like the GLA, a special interior would not have been out of place.
Space in the front and rear is average for a car of this size. The difference with the A-Class is mainly reflected in the boot space. Thanks in part to the optional "luggage" package, it grew from 341 to 421 litres.
The GLA can be fitted with all the luxury and safety features Mercedes-Benz provides; these are not just reserved for the larger models. The display of the "infotainment" system sits like a jewel on the dashboard. Its clarity and user-friendliness are generally good, but some mundane functions can only be activated with some searching. For example, on all-wheel drive versions, it is possible to display steering angle, climb angle and drive train operation on the screen. However, the procedure to get this data into view is not obvious, to say the least.
To emphasise the difference from the A-Class and B-Class, the GLA is only available with the more powerful engines on the price list. There is no "GLA 180", it starts with a "GLA 200". Besides: the GLA is bigger and heavier than an A-Class or B-Class, so the extra power is no luxury.
For this test, the "GLA 250 4Matic DCT" was driven first. This four-cylinder petrol engine is good for 211 hp / 350 Nm. This does not make the GLA fast or challenging, but in all situations performance is more than adequate. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission transfers engine power to the front wheels. Only when necessary, the rear wheels assist. Both the automatic and the all-wheel drive do their job as they should: imperceptibly.
The "GLA 220 CDI" (also with "7G-Tronic" automatic transmission) delivers less power (170 hp) but significantly more tractive power (350 Nm) and therefore performs with even more ease. Moreover, because this diesel engine does not have to exert as much effort to perform, it is significantly easier to drive economically.
The GLA's handling depends on the chosen suspension. A "comfort" suspension is standard. Optionally, the GLA can be fitted with an "off-road" suspension or "dynamic" suspension. Especially for the lightning-fast AMG version, there are two more sporty options, but more on that in a separate test of the "GLA 45 AMG".
If the dynamic suspension is chosen, ride height (-15 mm), steering and dampers can be influenced at the touch of a button. For this test, however, the "comfort" suspension was chosen and it does exactly what it promises: the emphasis is on comfort rather than sportiness. Although grip is fine, the body tilts and, in the comfort variant, the GLA prefers a smooth, calm driving style. Then even this compact model is a thoroughbred Mercedes-Benz that covers long distances with great ease.
With the "off-road" suspension, the GLA can also venture off the beaten track. This gives the GLA 3 cm extra ground clearance, while comfort is comparable to the standard suspension. The extra height is already noticeable when entering the car. The mighty SUV feeling that is conspicuous by its absence in the standard version is now cautiously present.
However, the bodywork tilts even more and the feeedback from the steering does not inspire much confidence in the car. Again, grip appears fine, but the feedback eaves something to be desired. Especially when the off-road capabilities will not be used regularly, the standard suspension is preferable as far as Autozine is concerned.
As the entry and exit angles are low, the extra ground clearance off-road is of great value. In addition, a special "off road" programme is available that makes the four-wheel drive system even more alert, the accelerator easier to dose and the electric safety nets tailored to off-road driving. This also convincingly fulfilled the last claim of this all-rounder.
Is the Mercedes-Benz GLA a true all-rounder? Yes and no. Yes, the GLA is beautiful, spacious, modern, comfortable, sporty and proficient off-road. When it comes to space, looks and technology, the GLA always scores. The difference with the A- and B-Class is obvious and the GLA's premium price is absolutely justified. Moreover, the level of quality is so high that the difference with a similar car from an everyday brand is also obvious.
For this test, the "GLA 250" (petrol) and "GLA 220 CDI" (diesel) were driven. Both engines are quiet and powerful, but the promised low consumption is hardly achievable in practice.
As Mercedes-Benz promises, the GLA is comfortable, off-road and sporty. However, it can't do all that at once. It is up to the buyer to choose a particular chassis and possibly match the corresponding looks with option packages. This makes the Mercedes-Benz GLA primarily the car that can do everything the buyer wants.
- Distinctive look
- Successful design
- Convincing premium product
- Can do everything, but not at the same time
- Promised low consumption difficult to achieve