Price and specifications
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo, 155kW at 5500rpm, 350Nm at 1200-4000rpm
Transmission and 4WD system: 7-speed twin-clutch auto, high range on-demand 4WD
Braked tow capacity: 1800kg
Spare tyre: None; run-flat tyres fitted as standard
Fuel tank: 56 litres
Fuel use (claimed): 7.0L/100km
Fuel use on test: 11.0L/100km
Approach/departure angles: 15.8 degrees/21.5 degrees
Ground clearance: 157mm
WHAT’S THE DEAL?
The GLA is the most affordable Mercedes-Benz SUV on the market, with prices starting at $48,300 (plus on-road and dealer costs) for the diesel-powered GLA200 CDI. Like the A-Class hatchback it’s based on (the two share mechanicals but have unique bodies) there’s decent equipment for the money. Think reversing camera, parking sensors, electric tailgate, satellite-navigation, cruise control, a self-parking system and alloy wheels. The stuff that looks like leather on the seats is only the fake stuff, but it’s convincing enough. It also includes nine airbags and Benz’s Pre-Safe crash preparation system.
But it’s not till you get to this petrol-powered GLA250 model that you get a four-wheel drive system. The price jumps considerably, to $58,600, but it also smart key entry, electric front seats, a sunroof, active headlights and an off-road package.
It’s a small car and it doesn’t take long in the cabin of the GLA to realise that, mainly in the back seat. Head room is only just OK and trying to squeeze three across the rear would be an effort. Legroom, too, is tight if those in the front have their seats in a more generous position.
Up front there are no qualms, though, and the GLA is a comfortable machine, with good adjustability to the driving position and a stance on the road more akin to a regular passenger car.
There’s the usual array of Mercedes functionality, which generally translates to easy usability and clear, logical display. But the cruise control stalk is, frustratingly, hidden behind the steering wheel.
ON THE ROAD
Being compact the GLA easily deals with city challenges, be they tight parking turns or crowded streets. It feels at home in the cut and thrust of traffic while also delivering an alacrity few off-roaders get close to.
There’s also reasonable compliance to the suspension, which makes for a decent ride. Throw in good body control and the GLA is a snip to live with, either around town or on a challenging country road.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is a responsive unit, with a full 350Nm on tap from just 1200rpm.
The engine also loves a rev and generally works well with the seven-speed auto, relying on the torque where it makes sense. Rev it out and the 155kW of power is easily accessed through what is a willing engine.
While it’s fuel efficient – claimed consumption is 7.0 litres per 100km and we found it used low double digits – keep in mind it requires premium unleaded.
There’s only 157mm of ground clearance to play with in the GLA, something that instantly limits its ability. That said it’ll crawl over some jutted rocks and dirt mounts without complaint.
Wheel articulation is also limited, although the electronics help out to some extent in delivering drive to the wheels in touch with the ground. Feed on the power once traction is lost and it will eventually deliver power to those wheels with traction. There’s also an off-road mode that does a better job on that front.
But its ability outranks its hardware. The 19-inch tyres, in particular, are a weak point. The Goodyear tyres on our car (it can also be had with Continentals) are very much road oriented and are run-flats, so can be driven temporarily after a puncture. But grip is compromised and the tyre generally ruined if you do so.
Plus there’s no spare tyre, so the only option is to buy a replacement, something likely to be challenging out of the main city centres.
The GLA is more about light tracks and some slippery surfaces than tackling Australia’s more remote regions. It’s ultimately limited by its tyres, wheel articulation and ground clearance.
It’s also a compact off-roader that’s best suited to a couple rather than a family, but for suburban duties it does a fine job.
* To get a digital copy - simply download a version here.