Ever since a few years ago, Mercedes Benz started rolling out a new line-up of small sized cars and cross-overs; The all-new A, CLA, GLA, and the GLC. It was the first time that the brand ventured and invested heavily into smaller sized vehicles targeting and bringing younger generations to the three pointed star.
While their larger and established models got even better, I was intrigued to see what these new models were all about and I was fortunate enough to start this off with the 2015 Mercedes Benz GLA250 4Matic!
Special thanks to Mercedes Benz Abu Dhabi – Emirates Motor Company for my weekend test drive of the GLA250
I have driven several of the new generation Mercedes Benz models like the A, A45 and the CLA45 and it has given me good insight into the new range of cars, not just the GLA, which will support this review.
Mercedes Benz GLA250 4Matic Introduction
To kick things off, the GLA250 is Mercedes’ cross-over version of their A Class hatchback and shares its external and internal looks.
Mercedes has made life simple with the GLA in the UAE by providing only two engine options, the GLA250 4Matic with a 2 litre turbo pushing out 211 horsepower, 350nm of torque, good for a 0-100 time of 7.1 seconds and the GLA45 AMG with a 2 litre engine with a bigger turbo pushing out an adrenaline rushing 360 horsepower, 450 nm of torque and a 0-100 time of 4.8 seconds!
Both models are 4 wheel drive and on the reviewed GLA250, the power is driven to all 4 wheels through a 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
The GLA comfortably fits 5 adults and has good enough ground clearance to allow for all those soft off-roading needs. you definitely wont be left behind when little sand or rocks block your way.
The GLA250 4Matic on the outside
Mercedes Benz did not fall back on design on their new range of cars, and the GLA is certainly a beaut!
Without a doubt the front looks very similar to the A Class and although people have criticized Mercedes for being the new BMW or Audi when their cars all looked different a few years back, I completely think the GLA was spot on.
The front of the car is nicely heightened with beautiful lines taken from various models on the line up and from the past. Large twin-blade grille, LED daylight running lights, large air intakes and a swooping bonnet with two nostril like curves lives up to the vehicle’s name: Always restless.
The GLA comes standard with Xenon headlamps, although it always bugs me why high-beams would be halogen instead of a bi-xenon system.
There is a lot of standard “Mercedes” on the car, including the popular two-lined LED wing mirrors.
The GLA250 4Matic had the optional 5 twin-spoke alloy wheels. The vehicle does have an array of braking technologies but I am surprised how hard it is to find the actual brake size on the GLA250. They might be standard but they stop quite well.
Moving around to the rear, the GLA starts to bore me personally. Although there are some nice elements to the rear of the GLA including chrome, metal and in-bumper exhaust, I found it hard to capture a good picture of the rear.
It doesn’t stand out like a Mercedes should, and I believe the curve makes it look more hatchback than it should.
The GLA is a handsome looking car overall, especially at the front, and without a doubt is a recognizable Mercedes Benz, I only wish the rear was more special.
The GLA250 4Matic on the inside
Being that I have experienced the A and CLA classes, the GLA was a bit of a disappointment. Not because it wasn’t good looking, but because it was identical!
Knowing the industry, having a familiar look not only gives people familiarity with the model and saves costs but I would wish they had some differentiating factor to make the GLA look and feel unique.
Putting this fact aside, the GLA has a good looking interior with unique air vents and balanced center console, which makes the car look and feel more like a sedan than a cross-over (They tend to lower the dashboard to give an increased ride height feel in some brands)
All vehicle audio, temperature and drive settings are set up from the central control display which is operated through the circle click wheel which is pretty straight forward. I would have preferred more shortcut options like on the bigger models but this gets the job done. I personally prefer other brand’s entry level entertainment system as this one is a very basic model of what the bigger vehicles get and looks so. All other controls are pretty basic and typical Mercedes Benz.
There is a special screen for when the vehicle is off-road that informs you of all the angles and power delivery to each of the 4 wheels – which comes in handy when off-roading
People often are concerned about space in a small sedan or hatchback, which is what makes the GLA more appealing to people as it covers the essentials in terms of looks and engine while providing the often compromised space. The GLA will seat 5 comfortably with a decent sized boot too. Seats are nice, and soft but the cushioning is a tad hard for my liking. There is little support in the seats as these are more focused on comfort than for enthusiastic driving.
The GLA does come with standard start/stop function to save fuel at traffic lights, but sadly for this region is useless as it turns off air conditioning leaving just the fans to blow not so cool air. Another feature standard on the GLA is hill-decent control, which is often a feature on bigger SUVs.
Space in the rear is reasonable, and can sit 3 people as mentioned before, and the best part would definitely be that there is a low center tunnel, so the rear passengers can get in and out pretty easy. Seating is pretty decent and fairly comfortable for road-trips.
Drivers enjoy a very sporty instrument panel taken from the sportier models with all the necessary information clear and visible at all times. Drivers have quick access to essential settings as on the main screen with the additional settings for the driving aids such as blind spot assist, collision prevention assist, attention assist and others.
The overall driver feel of the GLA from the interior is amazing with great visibility, driving position, steering feel and features as one would expect from the brand. The steering does come with gear shift paddles and the only criticism I would have to admit is the fact the gear lever is a tad too close to the paddles. I am not a fan of the gear lever being behind the steering wheel, but that is just Mercedes Benz today.
Overall quality of the interior if mediocre for a Mercedes Benz as there are a lot of rough surfaces, hard plastics and rubber.
Before I move on from the interior, the GLA had a little party piece, a dual sunroof which brought in very good interior light, making it feel even more spacious. There is a display at the rear of the roof-line to display the parking sensors when viewed through the rear-view mirror. I would prefer a 360 camera linked to the screen instead of all these sensor displays – which is a tad 90s.
This section is probably the most important section for the GLA. With a car priced upwards of 150,000 Dhs that is a little higher than modern hatchbacks, the GLA has a lot to prove in terms of driving ability to justify this.
First of all, lets start by the GLA’s road etiquette
The car drives quite comfortably on roads. Typically low profile tires would be noisy and that is very true on the GLA, it doesn’t feel very refined as it’s bigger siblings with quite a bit of road and tire noise, especially on highways.
Putting the noise aside though, the car is very civilized! It is comfortable, easy to drive, easy to see out of and very smooth. Power delivery in low speeds is a tad annoying with the double-clutch gearbox as it wants to drive off all the time, so expect jerkiness and sudden movements in parking lots and when driving in low speeds.
Putting the car into sport mode doesn’t do a lot to the driving dynamics, just makes the gearbox hold on to gears longer and the ride doesn’t seem different.
Taking the GLA off-road is where the fun begins! The car is surprisingly capable off-road!
At first, I drove the car on rough surfaces and it handled the terrain quite easily and so I kept pushing the GLA further and further until I found myself driving through small dunes with the large SUVs. The GLA was very capable and although I did not take it into a sandy desert, I took it into off-roading terrains that would stop regular sedans and hatchbacks with ease.
Power delivery off-road is superb and the car was always so composed. The confidence to push the car further kept growing and before I knew it I was throwing the car around like it was an GLE or G class, not thinking twice that it was a small cross-over!
Mercedes Benz claims a combined fuel economy rating of 6.5L/100kms but with enthusiastic driving on-road, off-road and on highways, I achieved a combined rating of 10.2L/100kms, which can extract over 500kms out of a single tank of petrol (5.6l tank without reserve) and it manages itself pretty well trying to save fuel where ever possible.
If this was a daily ride with normal use, the GLA250 could easily achieve around 9L/100kms.
A lot of people have been skeptical about Mercedes Benz’s new direction, including myself, but after a weekend with the GLA, it all makes sense. The GLA250 4Matic is a great mix between a small car, great off-road capability, driving confidence and an iconic badge all in a decent priced package.