Dressed to kill: Mercedes GLA-Class SUV
Mercedes-Benz introduces India to their swanky, compact crossover, the GLA-Class. The newest entrant in the entry-level premium SUV segment is dressed to kill and equipped generously. No wonder then, the scenic media drive of the debonair machine from Chandigarh to Shimla witnesses craning necks and popped out eyes all through. There’s something about the GLA’s appearance which instantly enchants onlookers. There is, however, more to this compact crossover than just good looks. Let’s make a small incision and find out what lies beneath that glowing skin.
Styling and appearance
Based on the platform shared by its smaller A and B-class siblings, the GLA resembles the hatchbacks in bits. The muscular bonnet with a bunch of strong creases is a major departure from the hatchbacks’ design route though. Helping the bonnet’s muscular cause is a totally new bumper featuring large intakes in the place where you generally see fog-lamps on a car. There is also a massive central air dam finished in satin silver with black surrounds doubling up as under-cladding.
The dashboard is familiar, and is shared with the A- and B-Class hatchbacks. It’s better equipped, with minor changes made to the materials
The roofline, which keeps dropping all through its length, lends the GLA a sporty, coupe like shape. The front fenders are flared, with black under-cladding lining the bottom of the car all around. In profile, the rearwards tapering creases, the defining aspect of the modern Mercedes cars, can be found on the GLA as well. The GLA boasts meaty haunches, a detail which adds tremendously to the car's dramatic appearance.
The egg-shaped tail-lamps are lit on the outlines by LED lighting and are sliced in two by the reverse light. Between the chrome garnish and another prominent horizontal crease above it is the space housing the three pointed star at the rear. A layer of black plastic inserts underscores the car’s off-roading capability and is accompanied by a satin silver insert with an integrated faux diffuser. The rectangular chrome-tipped twin exhausts add to the attitude and look fantastic.
Engine and performance
The GLA-Class is available with a choice of two power-plants — a 1991cc petrol motor with 181 bhp of power and 300 Nm of torque and a 2143cc turbo diesel with 135 bhp of max power and 300 Nm of peak torque. Both engines are mated to the 7G-DCT dual clutch 7-speed transmission.
The tail-lamps are exquisitely designed. Placed on the extreme at the rear, the LED units add to the width of the car
The petrol GLA delivers a claimed efficiency of 13.8 kmpl, while the diesel powered variant boasts 17.9 kmpl, which is quite high for the segment. The petrol powered GLA is claimed to complete the 0-100km/h dash in an impressive 7.6 seconds, the diesel propelled GLA, on the other hand takes a shade less than 10 seconds for the act.
The menus and sub menus of the COMAND infotainment system are displayed via the 5.8-inch freestanding screen
From behind the wheel, the GLA 200 feels more alive, responsive and eager for action. The petrol-powered GLA is perceptibly faster and the throttle response feels nippier and the car overall feels lighter and nimbler of the two. The 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission also feels more at home with this unit, managing to swap ratios with relatively more readiness. We love the petrol engine for its fuss-free, practical, yet reasonably performance oriented demeanour.
Mercedes offers 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, though the buyers may opt for 19-inch wheels as well, available in two different designs
The 2.2 litre diesel GLA, on the other hand doesn’t have strong performance on its side. It does, however deliver great fuel efficiency, and the 300NM of generous torque is good enough to propel its over 1.5 ton weight with ease, without the engine having to break into a sweat.
Both engines also offer three drive modes to choose from — Eco, Sport and Manual. M-B is providing steering mounted pedals for manual shifts, which is another highlight for the segment.
Interior and features
The GLA shares its dash with the A- and B-Class, though there are some minor visual differences. Also, the crossover is much better equipped as compared to its smaller cousins. The seating position for the driver is much higher in the GLA, offering a better all-round view. The passenger seat is also powered and comes with three slots for memory function.
At the back, the seats are spacious, and despite the sporty roofline, offer decent headroom, the leg room is decent, too. Two occupants should be able to travel in comfort, though putting a third passenger in would be a squeeze.
The GLA-Class, apart from its styling, has its generous equipment levels as a major USP. Mercedes India have launched the GLA 200 CDI in two trims, namely Style and Sport. Only the diesel option is available in the base Style trim, though. The long list of the features on the GLA includes a panoramic sunroof, reversing camera, Attention Assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, Sat-Nav, Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system, seven airbags, 5-star Euro NCAP rating and a whole array of active electronic safety aids as the most mentionable elements.
Boot size is decent at 421 litre, expandable to 1,235 litre with the 60:40 split rear seats dropped down fully. The useable space, however is lesser, thanks to the space saver spare which rests atop the loading bay. The GLA also boasts the lowest boot sill height in its class for ease of loading.
Ride and handling
The generous 183mm of ground clearance makes the GLA a decent tool to tread the road less trodden. Though not equipped with an All Wheel Drive system, the GLA does manage to handle a fair bit of challenge off the road.
On the road, the petrol and the diesel variants ride and handle in a perceptibly different manner. The petrol variant, of the two, is the more inviting machine. While steering on the GLA 200 is relatively lighter, it still feels nicer to use and gathers sufficient weight as speeds builds up.
There may not be enough feedback or feel available at the palms, but it enables the driver to place the car reassuringly and precisely on the road. As long as you’re not doing something momentously stupid, the GLA 200 comes across as a reassuring and forgiving car which would engage the discerning driver to a fair degree. Even with the bumped up ride height, the GLA 200 offers a good mix of absorbent ride and dependable handling.
The GLA 200 CDI, on the other hand feels a bit lacklustre as compared to its petrol sibling. The diesel’s steering is heavier than the petrol’s and somehow doesn’t feel as nice and natural to operate. The car feels slightly nose heavy and even the suspension feels a tad stiffer.
There’s no questioning the fact that the GLA is a standout product in its segment when it comes to visual appeal. The equipment list is liberal and the natty crossover scores high in terms of practicality, too. While naysayers would point out the lack of an all-wheel-drive, we really don’t think buyers in this segment are going to miss that piece of equipment much. The GLA has its visual appeal and equipment going in its favour. Go have a test drive today if those two things are high on your agenda.
Rs 32.75 lakh (GLA 200 CDI Style)
Rs 36 lakh (GLA 200 Sport)
Rs 36.9 lakh (GLA 200 CDI Sport)
BMW’s contender in the premium compact SUV segment scores high with regard to driving dynamics and handling, but doesn’t get brownie points in terms of space and comfort. The X1 is the most powerful option in the segment with 184 bhp on tap from its two-litre diesel engine. Features and equipment list is not very generous on this one, though the performance is unmatched. The top of the line xDrive variant features the tech to get you out of a rut, too. The X1 should appeal the most to those who love driving themselves.
Price: Rs 30-36 lakh
The Q3 has been running away with all the sales in its segment ever since its debut in India. The subtly-styled crossover is appreciably spacious, very comfortable and comes with the capable Quattro all-wheel drive system to make it a reasonably capable off road tool, too. Audi has also introduced a heavily loaded Dynamic variant of the car to offer more features to its customers. With Audi Drive Select, some design related changes and more equipment, the Q3 makes a strong case for itself.
Price: Rs 26-38 lakh
Volvo V40 Cross Country
New Volvo cars, unlike their older counterparts, are getting increasingly appealing stylistically, even overshadowing their German counterparts in some cases. The Volvo V40 Cross Country crossover offers the legendary safety of Volvo in a contemporary, well-equipped package. The Cross Country is a beefed-up version of the basic V40 hatchback with bigger alloy-wheels, wider tyres, body claddings, roof rails, skid plate and blackened rear view mirrors. It’s a great family package, but not meant for the driving enthusiast.
Price: Rs 32 lakh