Design in a kerb-hopping compact SUV is crucial and Mercedes-Benz has nailed it - the GLA looks exactly like an off-road version of the A-Class. There is dark cladding at the side skirts and what Mercedes calls a ‘simulated underguard’ protects the vehicle from stone chips. There are also roof strips that add to the lifestyle design aesthetic of the car.
Inside it is practically identical to its A and CLA siblings, with matt and gloss surfaces and GLA-exclusive bezels for the five air vents setting it apart. There is the same fixed infotainment screen that offers niceties such satellite navigation as well as USB, Bluetooth and auxiliary functionality. It’s quite a practical vehicle too, with back seats that fold all the way down, increasing the boot capacity from 421 litres to 1 235litres.
Two diesel variants are on offer at the moment, both featuring Merc’s 2.1-litre turbo-diesel engine.It develops 100kW and 300Nm in the GLA 200 CDI(with fuel consumption of 4.3 litres/100km) and 125kW and 350Nm in the GLA 220 CDI 4Matic.
Both models are available with either a six-speed manual or 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission. The GLA will lead its segment in terms of drag, with a Cd coefficient of 0.29 that starts to aid in fuel economy after 60km/h.
I sampled both models in auto guise at the launch and can report that the ride is much improved over the A- and CLA-Class, thanks to the higher ride height and less dynamic pretensions. The suspension itself is a MacPherson front and independent multilink rear setup, meaning that this is a car more suited to road driving. It can take on the occasional dirt road or even climb up slippery off-road obstacles, but its road-bias tyres and low ground clearance mean that it is limited in terms of where it can go.
I did take the vehicle off-road to test out the new generation of the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, which now has variable torque distribution and functions like Downhill Speed Regulation and an off-road transmission mode. There is also the option - when specified with the Comand infotainment system - for the head unit to display off-road driving statistics such as break-over, departure angles and gradients.
In the coming months we’ll see the addition of two petrol variants namely the GLA 200 with a 115kW turbocharged 1.6-litre engine and the GLA 250 4Matic with a 155kW 2.0-litre which is said to go from zero to 100km/h in 7.1 seconds. For those wanting a bit of poke, the GLA45 AMG will make its local debut in the fourth quarter.It will feature the familiar 2.0-litre 265kW/450Nm engine from its A and CLA AMG siblings.
There are several driving assistance systems as standard, such as Attention Assist, Drowsiness Detection and radar-based Collision Prevention Assist with Adaptive Brake Assist, which now helps to avoid collisions from speeds as low as 7km/h.
It’s more compact than I expected at 4417mm long, 1804mm wide and 1 494mm high, but it’s easy to manoeuvre around town while still maintaining that kerb-hopper appeal.
All GLA models come standard with a 6-year/100 000 km PremiumDrive maintenance contract.
|GLA 200||R398 800|
|GLA 200 CDI||R422 700|
|GLA 220 CDI 4Matic||R489 000|
|GLA 250 4Matic||R558 900|