Baby Benz SUV that’s packed with luxury and the latest tech
Competition among siblings can be fierce. Mercedes-Benz has two competing in the same space, but it labels its compact GLA sport utility vehicle the “sporty” one.
That confines the GLB to the realm of utilitarian. The family always needs a sensible one. Although that doesn’t mean the new GLA is pure athleticism and bravado. Far from it … more an all-rounder.
Whereas once these baby SUVs were simply an introduction to bigger and better things, increasing competition and greater buyer expectations mean you can no longer offer a vehicle where the badge alone does the sales work.
Priced from about $60,000, the GLA line-up has become a fair investment after previously starting from about $10k less. But Benz can now argue it’s worth the coin.
The bottom line has risen for the GLA, but so has the wow factor. The 250 variant has a $3500 premium over the car it replaces.
We’ve seen the dash side-by-side style featuring two 10.25-inch digital screens and five turbine-looking air vents previously in the A-Class, and it’s stunning.
Man-made leather is used across the seats, doors and console, while the interior has 64 different colour options. Other feature highlights are a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, digital radio, wireless smartphone charging, 19-inch alloys, along with an off-road engineering pack which gives the GLA extra ability when the going gets tough.
Mercedes-Benz is leading the prestige warranty charge while meeting the mainstream standard of five years and unlimited kilometres of coverage. Most other prestige manufacturers are still at three years.
Service intervals are annual or every 25,000km, and if accepting a service plan five years can be covered for $3500. Option three years and its $2050.
Black and white are the only non-metallic external colour options, while also on the palette are red, grey, blue, silver, black and two shades of white. Internally the spiral-look matt trim is standard, with the only other choice brown walnut.
Basic functionality includes autonomous braking that can take over from the driver to avoid or lessen the impact of a frontal collision, blind spot warning which also watches for cyclists and can alert passengers before opening a door, along with a lane keeping function which maintains the Benz between lines.
Other extras are a traffic sign assist that provides a constant reminder of your speed zone, auto high beam to avoid blinding oncoming drivers and LED headlights.
Unfortunately, you have to pay $1990 extra to option a package that includes radar cruise control as well as semi-autonomous driving in traffic snarls, as well a function that can change lanes for you with a touch of the indicator stalk. Rear cross traffic alert that can warn of oncoming vehicles when reversing is also optional.
Most of these functions are now standard in many vehicles costing about $30,000.
Surprisingly roomy, the GLA will find favour with young families and downsizers alike.
Growing taller but shorter in length compared to its predecessor, it maintains the high seating position expected of a modern SUV with good all-round vision. Rear seat head and legroom is accommodating for two adults.
Despite the array of modern features the cabin is simple to navigate. For the driver it’s particularly fast to work through the various menus via the two steering wheel thumb pads — the one of the left controls the primary screen, while on the right it controls the primary instruments.
Dash toggles provide fast access to aircon controls and the console touch pad governs the main screen functions.
Vehicle manufacturers continue to invest a lot of money into infotainment systems, often to no avail as smartphone mirroring applications Apple CarPlay and Android Auto take precedence for their ease of use and functionality.
Not in the case of Mercedes-Benz.
The MBUX system adapts to your preferences and by saying “Hey Mercedes” you can access various functions such as turning the aircon up or down, changing radio stations, and it can even advise you of the best route to take as it learns when and where you travel. All without touching a button.
Energetic from standstill, the GLA 250 feels quick and nimble.
Powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine it feels adept in traffic or when unleashing its abilities on winding rural roads.
Power shifts to the wheels which need it most through Mercedes’s slick all-wheel drive system and it works well to provide impressive levels of grip. Sitting flat in the bends there is limited body roll, often evident in many SUVs, and the eight-speed automatic shifts through the gears seamlessly.
Direct steering and the stronger engine performance delivers a robust feeling of poise in varying conditions.
You are certainly aware of the safety systems. Get too close to the white lines without indicating and the GLA sounds and feels like its grinding to a halt, and the emergency braking can aggressively take control more than we’ve seen from other manufacturers. One reverse parking manoeuvre came to an abrupt stop for no apparent reason.
These 250 variants possess the ability to face tougher terrain with the safety tech making steep hills and gnarly trails within the realms of possibility. Will any GLA buyers face anything tougher than a puddle at soccer training? Probably not … but it’s always good to have options.
Official fuel consumption from Benz says the GLA should use about 7.5L/100km using premium unleaded, but our test had it climb closer to 10.
Prices are up but I can see where the money goes. Impressive tech and solid all-round driving performance.
Oh lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz. The three-pointed star says it all, but it’s equally beautiful inside and out.
AUDI Q3 40 TFSI S LINE $66,024 D/A
Solid and classy performer, the latest model feels more prestige in ability and features. Powered by a 2.0-litre turbo 4-cyl good for 132kW/320Nm and has Quattro all-wheel drive. Not quite as quick as the Benz, but has more standard safety equipment.
VOLVO XC40 T5 R-DESIGN $62,469 D/A
Underrated, the little Volvo oozes style and X-factor. Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre 4-cyl petrol good for 185kW/350Nm. Optional packs can quickly increase the price but this version has some cool sporty kit.
With a fashionable cabin, extra firepower from the turbocharged engine and engaging performance, the baby Benz SUV has come of age. Just push hard for extra safety inclusions.
MERCEDES-BENZ GLA 250
PRICE $72,178 drive-away (expensive, but big improvement)
WARRANTY/SERVICES 5yr/u’ltd km (good), services $3500 5 yrs (hefty)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 165kW/350Nm (punchy)
SAFETY 9 airbags, AEB, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot assist, traffic sign recognition (should be more)
THIRST 7.5L/100km (9.7 on test)
SPARE Repair kit (not good)
BOOT 435 litres (fine)