Good leaders have some, er, good qualities. They listen, they adapt, and they act. This isn’t a lecture on leadership, but the new Mercedes-Benz GLA is something a good leader would bring to the market. That’s not to say the outgoing GLA was a mistake, but it was a little underwhelming — both as an SUV and as a Mercedes-Benz. It didn’t look the part for sure and the competition stood taller. So M-B did what good leaders do, and voila, the new GLA is here.
What is obvious is that the GLA has grown up to be much better looking. The low-slung look of the previous one is gone, and I am glad. The new GLA looks taller and larger than its predecessor, too, thanks to the higher roof and a more SUV-ish stance. The profile still gives it away as a crossover, but the beefed-up chin, squared wheel arches, and the 18-inch wheels give it more SUV street cred than earlier. The rear isn’t as interesting, but the Merc-SUV-family look with individual LED lights works well.
Interiors on all new Mercs have become a wonderful mix of technology and luxury, as compared to just luxury a few years ago. Technology plays an important role now, without compromising on luxury. The 10.25-inch display dominates the interior space, and there are a tonne of features on board — a panoramic sunroof, two-zone climate control, ambient lighting with 64 colours, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, memory seats for front seats, and even a massage function. There is a lot shared with its elder siblings and that only makes the cabin a comfortable place to be in.
The new GLA gets the latest version of the MBUX, which is M-B’s holistic telematics solution, and you can talk to the car about a host of things. Alexa integration is available, too, for those lonely days when you run out of mundane things to talk about. As expected, the new GLA is packed with several advanced driver-assistance and safety features such as seven airbags including a knee airbag, active brake assist, ESP, ABS with EBD and attention assist. However, despite all the tech, you still need to use a key to unlock the car and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are not wireless.
The new GLA comes in four variants, starting with the GLA 200 petrol and going up to the AMG GLA 35 4M with the trusted diesel variant in between. The GLA 200, which you see here, is the 1.4-litre turbo-petrol that makes 163 bhp at 5500 rpm and 25 kgm from 1620-4000 rpm. The GLA 220d comes with a 2.0-litre diesel which makes 190 bhp and 40.8 kgm, whereas the range-topping AMG GLA 35 4M makes 306 bhp and 40.8 kgm.
The petrol engine is a step up from the outgoing variant and the sorted dynamics of the car make it fun to drive in short bursts. It’s responsive, and after you get done with the turbo lag, the car feels quick and ready to dart into corners.
The annoying beep at 80 kph comes up quickly and if you are the type who enjoys traffic-light GP starts, the GLA 200 doesn’t disappoint. But it is not as engaging as one would like it to be and does run out of breath if you keep pushing it. The fact that the GLA 200 actually uses a derivative of the 1332cc Renault-Nissan turbo-petrol engine could explain its fun being limited to short bursts, but it is in no way insufficient for the new GLA.
The suspension is all-new and features MacPherson struts at the front and a multilink setup at the rear, and more aluminium components to cut back on weight. The GLA 200 is 2WD only, but you can get the 4Matic all-wheel drive on the GLA 220d and the AMG GLA 35 4M. The 4Matic system has been redesigned with an electromechanical clutch instead of the old hydraulic one and Mercedes claims the new system distributes 20 per cent of output to the rear wheels in regular circumstances, 30 per cent in Sport mode, and 50 per cent in Off-road.
Like the engine and the 7-speed gearbox on the GLA 200, the chassis has been given a workup, too. One can feel the rigidity, despite some body roll in corners, and the brakes do a good job as well. In typical city conditions, the GLA is easy and comfortable to drive, with the suppleness one expects of a Mercedes-Benz. The flat-bottomed steering is light and easy, just what one would want in urban conditions. The ride is a tad stiff and rear-seat passengers may feel that more over deep potholes or sharp bumps.
Mercedes has done a fair bit for the rear passengers, too, thanks to the overall increase in dimensions. There is more space, and legroom and headroom are not at a premium anymore. I guess that’s good news for buyers who like to be chauffeured around. The huge panoramic space gives a feeling of openness, and even though the seat isn’t large enough for three abreast, it is a comfortable place even for tall people.
Overall, Mercedes has done enough to make the GLA a true contender in the segment. There is a good range of engines to choose from, space and comfort have both improved, and if you get the AMG GLA 35 4M, then performance isn’t an issue, either. Prices start at Rs 42.1 lakh (ex-showroom) and go up to Rs 57.1 lakh (ex-showroom) for the AMG, which isn’t exactly undercutting the competition, but you are getting a lot of car for this price. If you just want the badge value and comfort of a Merc, the GLA 200 should be sufficient for you. If, despite the high fuel prices, you think diesel is your fuel of choice, there is the GLA 220d. And if you want the most from life, then there’s the AMG GLA 35 4M. There is something for everyone, and that’s just what you expect from a good leader.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200
Displacement: 1,332cc, four cyl, turbo petrol
Max power: 163 bhp@5500 rpm
Max torque: 25 kgm@1620-4000 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed, DCT
F/R: 235/55 R18 / 235/55 R18
L/W/H (mm): 4410/2020/1611
Wheelbase: 2729 mm
Ground clearance: 183 mm
Kerb weight: 1656 kg
Fuel capacity: 50 litres
PRICE: Rs 42.10 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)