Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC: The Robust Star

…Mercedes-Benz has once again pushed boundaries, to introduce something sportier, bigger, but yet retaining what it terms as a “compact”.

The new GLA achieves just that.

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Introduction

Chunky, yet stylish – with the unmistakable presence of luxury.

That’s perhaps how one would describe the all new Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. The fourth of Mercedes-Benz’s Modular Front Architecture (MFA) class, the new GLA takes from the architectural platforms of the rest in its range, namely the CLA, A, and the B-Class.

Being Mercedes-Benz’s answer to the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3, the new GLA struck a chord in our hearts the moment we laid eyes on it with its ever sleek front facade.

While Mercedes-Benz cars of the past used to exude pure luxury, we now see the emergence of a sportier touch to this renowned German line-up. The introduction of the CLA captured the attention of many, most of whom comprised of young executives who wanted a sleek, luxurious, and yet sporty ride. And now, Mercedes-Benz has once again pushed boundaries, to introduce something sportier, bigger, but yet retaining what it terms as a “compact”.

The new GLA achieves just that.

Exterior

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With curves attracting the younger generation of drivers, the GLA adopts an aggressive stance from all angles. Standing at just short of 1.5 metres, we can’t fault you if you did mistake it for the A-Class, but a double-take would clear any doubts, especially when it comes to the rear, where the word “compact” might not tie in well in this aspect.

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The GLA adopts many of Mercedes-Benz’s trademark features, one of which is the signature eyeliner daytime running lights, allowing you to distinguish the three pointed star from afar. Like its siblings from the MFA range, the GLA boasts significantly larger wheel arches as compared to the rest of the Mercedes-Benz line up, as well as contours radiating the sportiness and sleekness of this new compact SUV.

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In the rear, the GLA looks equally as sporty as the front. While the face of the GLA presents the slightly oversized three-pointed star clad amongst a newly styled radiator grille finished with chrome inserts, the rear adopts sporty twin-piped exhaust outlets finished with stainless steel, as well as chrome-plated underguards.

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Drivers who fancy technology would also be pleased to note that the GLA comes standard with Bi-xenon headlights, as well as the signature rounded LED tail light cluster. It bears some resemblance to the rear light cluster of the CLA and CLS, but the GLA’s package offers a sportier and more robust look (less the curves and sharp tail-offs).

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And to end off the sportiness of this CSUV, our GLA 250 4MATIC came fitted with AMG’s 19” 5-spoke light alloy rims.

Interior

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If you’re one who is familiar with the presentation of Mercedes-Benz cars, the GLA should come as no surprise. As usual, the GLA, like all other in the star family, offers nothing but top notch luxury, quality finishing, and detailed styling.

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The GLA comes with circular air-con vents, similar to the rest of the cars in the MFA range. The many buttons on the traditional Merc’s interior might scare some off, but you’d be surprisingly well-oriented within minutes of settling into the car.

In the centre of the armrest lies the simple yet sophisticated rotary dial controlling the COMAND infotainment system – nothing too complicated such as the first generation iDrive on BMWs. The COMAND Online interface proves to be a breeze to navigate around the vehicle’s settings and satellite navigation, although Mercedes doesn’t offer a retractable screen feature like the Audi’s MMI.

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You could also say that thought was well put into the design and user-friendliness of the cabin, with all (or most) of the controls literally at your fingertips. While you may need to stretch a little to snap the COMAND dial to navigate, changing from Drive to Reverse can just be done with a push of the steering column-incorporated gearshift lever. We did get confused initially, with the habit of reaching into the center console for the gear knob, only to realise that it was parked where our hands were initially on the wheel.

Sound buffs would also be pleased to note the presence of the premium Harmon Kardon Logic 7 sound system. While I may not be an audio know-it-all, the 12 speakers did exude enough bass and quality to make me feel right smack in the middle of a concert hall.

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With a wheelbase of 2,699 mm, the GLA’s legroom at the rear doesn’t surpass that of the A-Class. However, the meaning of “space” does stand out with the impressive 421 litre boot, which is after all bigger than both its rivals from BMW and Audi.

The Drive

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Owners of the GLA would perhaps have gotten the car for its sportiness. You wouldn’t expect an extremely comfortable and luxurious ride, though we cannot totally rule out these elements here. It is, after all, a Mercedes-Benz.

But that aside, the GLA offers a unique ride as compared to others in its class. The marriage of comfort and sportiness results in a ride that allows you to cruise effortlessly on most road surfaces, providing you with much needed damping on the roughest of surfaces, as well as superb handling on tight corners at high speeds.

Under the hood, the 2-litre turbocharged powerplant puts out 211 bhp, and more excitingly, 350 Nm of torque starting from just 1,200 rpm. You won’t encounter much delay in getting ahead of most vehicles at the lights, although we felt that the GLA tends to drag its gears a little especially in Eco mode.

The 7G-Dual Clutch Transmission gearbox allows for smooth and seamless transitions between gears, giving a boost in its fuel efficiency. The GLA 250 4MATIC completes its century sprint in 7.1 seconds, way ahead of the other variants available here in Singapore (the GLA 200 at 8.8 seconds, and the GLA 200 CDI at 9.9 seconds).

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And for the GLA owners looking for a little tinge of off-road excitement, they’ll be pleased to note that this off-roader CSUV handles reasonably well on any other tropical tarmac apart from our roads. While handling may not be as optimal as a full-fledged SUV, the all-wheel drive on the GLA 250 4MATIC allows ample space for maneuvering off-road and on more pronounced bumps. However, we really don’t foresee many GLA owners bringing this CSUV off the tarmac here in Singapore, do we?

Conclusion

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You may get confused at where the GLA stands at first glance, because really, it doesn’t look anything like what the Q3 and X1 does. However, once you’ve determined its standing, you’ll soon realise that the GLA offers much more in terms of styling and ergonomics as compared to the others in its class.

With the shape of a hot hatch and the build of what we would term as an urban drive, the GLA might just fit in extremely well on our roads, as well as command a stronger appeal to its younger target audience than its competitors – just like how the CLA did upon its entry into the market here.

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What I like:

  • Stylish and yet robust design of this hot hatch
  • The array of features available on this variant

What I don’t like:

  • Passengers above 1.8 metres might face a little headroom problem at the rear.

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This article was first published on Oneshift.com. All information are correct at time of publication.

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