Thursday, August 3, 2017

Devon test drives a compact Mercedes Crossover (GLA)


2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 (X 156) 4MATIC wagon (2015-06-18) 01.jpg


The Mercedes GLA may be a good deal on paper but can it shake the image that the CLA seems to be tarnished by?

Standard GLA250’s turbocharged four-cylinder is good for 208hp while the top of the GLA45 AMG’s 375hp is wicked fast. Pick of the range is simple and the most logical choice, even though we do enjoy how fast the AMG form is, we’d have to say the GLA250 is the only way to go. It’s the more affordable of the two and the running costs are actually quite good. It’s hard to fault it too because there’s decent turn of pace around town and on the highway, plus you can option it with all-wheel-drive if needed.

On the road the GLA does feel more composed than you’d think. There’s plenty of grip with the 4-matic all-wheel-drive system and steering feedback is pleasantly good. The AMG form has a lowered suspension and its setup is more aimed towards agility. However, you’ll be surprised that there is a fair balance between body control and ride comfort; at least the GLA lives up to the Mercedes badge with very minimal wind and road noise to complain of.

There is plenty of space for the front passengers and rear passengers. Headroom and legroom are both decent. The boot space is decent too but nothing to brag about. The infotainment system is too fiddly to operate while on the move, and there are far too many menus to look through for simple functions. Plus we aren’t huge fans of the screen that sort of just pops out the dash instead of raising and lowering into the dash like in the Audi Q3.

Bluetooth audio streaming, 14-way power driver’s seat with memory, power lift gate and eco start/stop system all come as standard. You’ll have to pay extra for navigation system, bi-xenon headlamps and 4-matic all-wheel-drive. Both options that are great but all depends if you really have to have them. Our tester car came pretty decked out and also came with a pretty decked out price tag as well.

The GLA price tag is enticing but you’ll have to walk away with a very sparsely equipped GLA. Even if it does offer decent kit at a decent price, you’ll have to overlook the Q3 which does have a bit more kit standard and of course the more dynamically appealing X1. Getting the GLA to a desired level of kit means you’ll be paying more for it and it becomes even harder to justify especially when there are so many indirect rivals that are larger roomier and has more standard kit too.

Mercedes reliability record is spotty even though Mercedes does enjoy high customer satisfaction scores. The interior materials do feel up to Mercedes par, but the overall reliability of the electronics should be something to look at long term wise. But at least Mercedes doesn’t short change on the safety with collision prevention assist plus, driver attention assist, and adaptive braking technology. Seven airbags are standard; and an alarm system with engine immobilizer is fitted to keep theft at bay.

The GLA is one of those crossovers you’ll either love or loathe. We like the low starting price and the overall badge appeal that comes along with owning a Mercedes, however you will feel short changed with the GLA just like the CLA. Its indirect options are much better and that raises the question is it really worth it? If you have to have a Mercedes yes; otherwise there are better indirect rivals that cost similar money and offer way more.

Likes: AMG form is wicked fast. It’s a practical hatchback on stilts with a low starting price.  Low running cost.

Dislikes: Low price goes bye-bye when options are added. Infotainment system is fiddly to operate and there are too many distracting menus.

Devon’s choice: GLA 250 4-matic all-wheel-drive. If your heart is set on having a GLA this form is the best way to go. You’ll want to keep the options list light with just one or two options added on. Both are a bit pricey but are worth adding; 4-matic all-wheel-drive for the added traction in sticky situations and Bi-xenon headlamps for the added luxury car appeal.

Performance: Standard form is good but AMG form is wicked fast. ****

Ride & handling: Both are surprisingly good. ****

Refinement: Up to Mercedes standards. ****

Buying & owning: Some versions can get expensive but holds value well. **

Quality & reliability: Quality is good but reliability record is spotty. ***

Safety & Security: Comes with all the gear needed for avoidance and in event of accident. ****

Behind the wheel: Comfortable front seats; infotainment system too fiddly. ***

Space & Practicality: Decent space for five; boot space nothing to brag about. ***

Equipment: Decent kit but options are expensive. ***

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