The GLA, Mercedes-Benz’s baby SUV, is back in a new avatar. With improvements all around and a more assertive identity, it is expected to make a significant impact.
Launched in India two months ago, the new Mercedes-Benz GLA is a substantial move up from its predecessor. The original GLA was launched in 2014, followed by a facelift in 2017. The 2021 version of Mercedes- Benz’s smallest SUV is an all-new vehicle that moves away from the first generation hatchback-like design to a look that is closer to a proper SUV. It has the ‘presence’ that most SUV buyers would expect. While the new GLA is the same length, size, and width as its predecessor, it has a higher roof, increased ground clearance, and a wheelbase that is larger by 30 mm. All this has translated into more cabin space. With its slinky, swoopy lines and low-ish stance, the original GLA looked like a stylish hatchback-SUV crossover, and had its admirers. The new vehicle wants to push away from any association with the word ‘hatchback’. It wants to be acknowledged as an SUV in an SUV crazy Indian market. And Mercedes designers have done an excellent job in accomplishing this goal.
There are three new engine options. The range starts with the GLA 200, which gets a 1.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 163bhp and 250Nm of torque. Next up is the GLA 200d (also available with 4Matic four-wheel-drive), with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, which makes 190bhp and 400Nm of torque. And finally, there’s the range-topping AMG GLA 35 4Matic, which is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four that kicks out 306bhp and makes 400Nm of torque. We got our hands on the GLA 220d 4Matic, which might well be the most popular amongst the GLA trio, given its near-perfect blend of performance and practicality.
With an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission taking power to all four wheels, the little SUV feels responsive, and is engaging to drive. The 200d accelerates from zero to 100kph in 7.3 seconds, and can hit a top speed of 219kph, which should be quite adequate for drivers in most driving conditions. The all-aluminum engine feels smooth, and with the use of plastic engine mounts, NVH has been reined in quite well. Unlike the AMG variant, the 200d isn’t all about performance. It aims to balance outright power delivery and efficiency, which it does pretty well by delivering around 19kpl.
The other area where the new GLA shines is ride quality. The suspension — McPherson struts at the front with a stabiliser bar and a multi-link setup with gas-pressure shocks at the rear — is nicely tuned and works very well on our roads. The GLA rides on 18-inch alloy wheels (19-inches on the AMG variants), and ride quality, which is very good on smooth tarmac, doesn’t deteriorate much when the vehicle is driven over broken tarmac potholes and nasty, hard-edged speed bumps that seem to be everywhere these days. The 220d isn’t a very sporty vehicle per se, but if the driver wants to push, the GLA can easily handle a bit of spirited driving, no questions asked.
The vehicle boasts a plush, well-built cabin with power-adjustable front seats, leatherette-and-microfiber upholstery, aluminium trim on the dashboard and door pads, a multifunction steering wheel in Nappa leather, and a plus-size digital display that takes centre stage on the dash. Make that two digital displays integrated into one seamless unit: there’s a 10.25-inch fully customisable display for the all-digital instrument panel and another display of the same size for navigation and infotainment. A new AI-powered user interface for the controls that’s easy to figure out, and a centrally-placed touchpad lets you control a selection of functions.
The new GLA is one of the safest SUVs in its segment. It has a long list of safety equipment that includes seven airbags, anti-lock brakes (with electronic brake force distribution) and electronic stability control. The 4Matic permanent all-wheel- drive system, which lends a modicum of off-road ability to the GLA, features variable torque distribution between the front and rear wheels for optimum handling in a wide range of driving conditions. The new Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d 4Matic is, overall, an all-around capable compact SUV that’s luxurious, powerful, and equipped with a host of safety and connectivity technologies. For Rs 46.70 lakh (ex-showroom), we reckon it’s the pick of the GLA line-up. The AMG GLA 35 4Matic is sportier with its aggressive styling and additional dollops of power and performance. Then again, the AMG GLA 35 is also much more expensive, with an ex-showroom price tag of Rs 57.30 lakh. There’s also the competition to consider; the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 are ready and waiting for the new GLA, while the new Audi Q3 is just around the corner, and is likely to be a worthy competitor.
Despite the competition, we believe the new Mercedes-Benz GLA is an excellent choice for those who may be looking for a premium, high-end, compact SUV. With a choice of petrol and diesel engines, a performance-focused AMG variant and ex-showroom prices that range from Rs 42- 57 lakh, the GLA range is suited to a wide range of requirements.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200d 4Matic
Engine: 1950cc turbodiesel inline-4;
Power: 190bhp; Torque: 400Nm;
0-100kph 7.3 seconds; Top Speed: 219kph; Price: Rs 46.70 lakh, ex-showroom