THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Crossover utility, reasonable fuel economy and stylish design in a Mercedes package not out of reach for entry-level customers.
- What’s Worst: Typically Teutonic engineering solutions that are seldom intuitive and usually result in a search through the owners manual.
- What’s Interesting: Which way will customers go, with barely a price difference between the CLA four-door coupe (ha, sedan) and the GLA crossover?
It’s hard to believe that nine months have gone by since I attended the Mercedes-Benz launch of a brand new 2015 GLA.
But enough time has passed to take a second look at the crossover that broadened the company’s entry-level lineup with a sporty derivative blending SUV and wagon design cues and building on the successful foundation of the already popular CLA sedan.
Mercedes-Benz Canada opted for two distinct GLA flavours – the baseline GLA 250 4MATIC ($37,200) and the performance-oriented GLA 45 AMG 4MATIC ($50,500).
My colleague, Lorne Drury, recently sang the praises of sport utility on steroids when he reviewed the GLA 45 AMG 4MATIC.
There’s an understandable attraction to the flashier sibling of the duo, complete with its boy-racer add-ons, deep-breathing AMG engine and all that wheel-spinning hoopla.
But it’s no problem for me getting stuck with the little sister because the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC is more than just some plain-Jane, second-choice wallflower at this automotive dance.
The GLA 250 4MATIC shares the same stylish SUV-influenced design with its AMG sibling – a somewhat squat but smooth-lined body perched on a raised platform and standing aggressively on big alloy wheels.
Starting up front with a bold grille and a longish contoured hood with twin powerdomes, the design flows to the rear with a sleek profile accented by an aluminum beltline and standard roof rails, with black grain panelling edging the fenders and side skirts, and finished in the rear with LED tail lamps and an integrated roof spoiler.
There are “simulated underguards” up front and in back, sort of mimicking off-road skid plates while over-sized rectangular exhaust ports poke out to add a little hot rod Jones to the whole package.
Inside, Mercedes sticks to it mantra of quality, with lovely tactile materials and excellent fit and finish that belie the GLA’s entry-level positioning.
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The interior, on the one hand classically dark and Teutonic with black ARTICO leather upholstery also has a bit of a more youthful edge to its style which, I think, fits this segment perfectly.
Five “jet engine” vents dominate the twin-sectioned dashboard. I couldn’t help but wonder how those four-vaned vents would look if they were shaped like the three-bladed Mercedes logo instead.
Hmm, probably styling overkill and proof that I have no future in design after all.
The cabin is comfortable for four, will accept five passengers in a pinch, and the hatchback opens to a 421 litres of luggage space that can be maximized to 1,235 litres by flipping the second row forward.
Interior content on our tester includes a multi-function, three-spoke sport steering wheel; a freestanding display screen with COMAND navigation and an excellent audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, along with all the other expected bells and whistles.
Our as-tested model, designed to impress the press, came stacked with a Sport Package ($1,700) adding 19-inch wheels, AMG body kit and aluminum trim pieces, a Premium Package ($3,800) that added THERMOTRONIC climate control, Passive Blind Spot Assist, PARKTRONIC with Active Parking Assist, Panoramic Sunroof and the navigation system, and a Premium Plus Package ($2,000) that bolstered the content further with an EASY-PACK power tailgate and storage system, auto-dimming mirrors, bi-xenon headlamps and other features too numerous to mention.
Under the hood, the GLA 250 4MATIC harnesses Mercedes’ M270 2.0-litre direct-injected, turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 208 hp and 258 lb/ft of torque.
Okay, that’s nowhere near the more monstrous muscle of the AMG version but this competent four-banger moves the GLA 250 4MATIC up to speed very nicely, returning a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 7.1 seconds and offering a competitive fuel economy rating of 9.8/7.4L/100km (city/hwy). My real world test results of mixed driving worked out to 9.2L/100km (comb).
Power is translated through a 7G-DCT automatic (seven-speed dual clutch transmission) and the permanent 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. Normally, that system will revert to economical front-wheel-drive but it can shift to a 50/50 power distribution for sport driving and, with fully variable torque distribution between the front and rear axles, it provides for secure and worry-free driving in all road and weather conditions.
The GLA 250 4MATIC is also loaded with complementary dynamic technologies that include a standard Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) system for occasional off-road forays and a long list of other standard and available tech goodies – ESP with Dynamic Cornering Assist, Attention Assist, Collision Prevention Assist, Distronic Plus Lane Tracking with Blind Spot and Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive High Beam Assist and some of the other driver assist tools mentioned earlier.
Add in a taut and sport steering system, a smooth ride and competent handling feel and handsome cabin appointments and you have a pretty complete package in a crossover that blends the best of all segments, from sport utility attitude to wagon roominess and sedan comforts.
Customers shopping for a starting position in the stable of Mercedes-Benz products have an excellent alternative choice with the GLA 250 4MATIC ($37,200), priced competitively against the Audi Q3 2.0 TFSI Quattro ($36,800) and BMW X1 xDrive 28i ($36,990), and even within range of other comparably-equipped starters in the Mercedes lineup itself, including the CLA 250 4MATIC ($36,800) and the B 250 4MATIC ($33,500).