In the ultra-competitive compact SUV market there are some contenders who are starting to thumb their noses at the very definition of what a SUV really is. One case in point is Mercedes-Benz and its latest lifestyle orientated model, the GLA. It has the higher stance, the macho mud guards, sideskirts and hey even roof rails. But really it’s a combination of hatchback and wagon. EFTM spent one week ensconced in the launch model, the GLA-200 CDI.
The 10 Minute Test Drive
The GLA is quite a looker. Although based on the highly successful A-class hatch it has been granted a unique aggressively styled stance and presence. The Mercedes-Benz badge and twin horizontal grill is now about as prominent as Uluru. Raised bonnet ridges and roof rails grant it some go-anywhere appeal, along with deeply creased sheet metal flowing from the headlights back towards the rear wheel arches giving it further dynamic credibility. The entire structure is actually impressively large to look at, particularly when parked alongside a typical sedan.
Entry into this supposed SUV is quite easy, there’s no step up rather you simply just slide in. Interior wise it’s most certainly a premium experience. In my opinion Mercedes and BMW currently lead the way ahead of Audi when it comes to knocking up a whiz-bang interior. Interesting design elements are spread throughout the cabin, there’s a pod-style 17.8cm COMMAND APS colour display, aviation style air vents, brushed aluminum dash trim, a column gear shifter and panoramic glass sunroof.
Before you become fully acquainted with the GLA the right hand column shifter is easily the most frustrating feature, we had more than our fair share of “neutral” moments as we attempted to indicate on the wrong side.
On the road it’s a typically German experience. Solid, whisper-quiet with fluid, balanced steering. At launch only the 2.1-litre diesel power plant was available. It’s the only significant distraction for what is essentially a superb car. Annoyingly loud, especially when cold, it could do with a little more refinement. In undercover car parks it’s even more noticeable as the metallic clattering ricochet off concrete walls, with curious shoppers glancing towards the seemingly alien noise emanating from such a polished looking car.
But the racket starts to melt away at higher speeds, with the diesel engine capably and competently providing just enough gusto to keeps things fun. Considering the taller stance, the GLA 200 corners like a well-sorted sedan.
Ins and Outs
The aforementioned 2.1-litre turbo-diesel is capable of 100kW/300Nm. Drive on the GLA 200 is sent to the front wheels via an excellent dual-clutch seven-speed automatic which flicks through the cogs precisely and extremely quickly. A climate saving Eco start-stop system is standard and is the most reactive system I’ve encountered. In heavy traffic the system will cut the engine at every possible opportunity, but during the usual stop-start Sydney traffic shuffle having the engine shut off so diligently and persistently may eventually fray ones nerves.
Before ticking the options boxes the GLA 200 is reasonably well equipped with standard safety features at the forefront. The brakes have a drying function to reduce stopping distances in the wet, blind-spot and attention assist monitoring technology will jolt a fatigued driver back to life, the active bonnet is constructed to be pedestrian impact friendly, nine-airbags provide reassurance for all and elaborate hidden away collision assist programs remain dormant but at the ready.
The EFTM test car was fitted with a typically costly list of options including, metallic paint, a COMMAND package, AMG Line Package, Seat Comfort Package, 19’’ AMG 5 Twin Spoke Wheels and a Panoramic Electric Sunroof.
COMMAND introduces some nice entertainment upgrades such as improved navigation, 10GB music register, DAB+ digital radio, LINGUATRONIC voice recognition, internet connectivity via smartphone tethering and a Harman/Kardon surround sound system with 12 speakers.
The German “Pimp My Ride” style AMG Line package brings many visual improvements ranging from the subtle flat-bottomed steering wheel covered in nappa leather to the more in your face AMG body styling treatment for the front and rear bumpers to side skirts which look like they’ve been attacked by a White Pointer.
A Seat Comfort package ensures your behind is protected from cold leather seats via heating and includes fully electrical front seats with memory function.
Before dealer delivery and all on road costs the very base Mercedes GLA-200 CDI kicks off at $47,900. The supplied test vehicle was equipped with the following options:
- Mountain Grey Metallic Paint, $1,190
- COMMAND Package, $2,490
- AMG Line Package, $2,490
- Seat Comfort Package $990
- 19’’ AMG 5 Twin Spoke Wheels, $490
- Panoramic Electric Sunroof, $1,490
Making the rather well-stocked 200 CDI a MRLP $57,040 proposition.
I found the fuel economy to be impressive, we averaged 5.9l/100km although the claimed figure is just 4.3l/100km. However most driving was done in the sharper “sport” mode. A button which proved problematic to find being buried alongside the various climate control controls.
Owning any vehicle with the three-pointed star up front probably brings with it a little aloofness from the owner. For the GLA 200 owner it will also provide an added curiosity appeal, it does turn heads. In the near future other more impressive models will be added to the range including a petrol all-wheel drive GLA 250 at $57,900 and later this year the inevitable full-blown AMG version, the GLA 45 from $79,900.
The Lasting Impression
The GLA 200 beyond the week long test drive we experienced should prove to be an enduring purchase. Obviously well-constructed, with decent rear passenger space and versatile storage options. For those who intend venturing beyond the city limits it will be worthwhile hanging around for the all-wheel drive GLA 250.
The EFTM Rubber Stamp
Although this particular variant isn’t my cup of tea, I appreciate the impressive levels of fit and finish, technology and the unique appeal the GLA has. It’s no soft-roader troop carrier, nor does it pretend to be. The GLA 200 is simply a designer label lifestyle machine, it earns the EFTM Credit Rubber Stamp of approval.