Rise And Shine | Mercedes-Benz GLA 200

BY Azfar Hashim

Right when interest for BWW’s X1 and Audi’s Q3 is beginning to decline, Mercedes comes in with a bang with their GLA; genius…

Photos by Azfar Hashim and Joel Tam

The thing about the new GLA is this: it looks the most youthful when parked next to BMW’s X1 and Audi’s Q3, which are the Mercedes’s nearest competitor. No doubt about that, really. The X1 has been around for more than three years while the Q3 just slightly more than two. And because they are both marketed as premium junior SUVs, it automatically makes both rather niche products.

But not this new GLA though; it has the vibe of an SUV, like the BMW and Audi, true. But it somewhat does not look like one and in fact, is far, far more stylish.

The GLA, as most of you already know, is built on the same platform as the A-Class and CLA. Which means it has rather compact dimension; depending on how you see it, this should be good news as it means the GLA will be an easy car to drive around town, and also maneuver into both reverse and parallel parking lots (we tried, and we’re equally impressed by the sheer ease).

It doesn’t take a psychic to tell you that the GLA is bigger than the A-Class. It is 125 mm longer, 24 mm wider and 61 mm taller than the A-Class.

The variant we have here is the GLA 200, which is the entry-level variant (it sits below the GLA 200 CDI and GLA 250 4MATIC). Despite being ‘entry-level’, the GLA 200 has quite a generous kit list, getting plastic addenda on the front and rear bumpers, including the sides to mimic a true blue SUV. Speaking of which, the design folks over at Mercedes deserve praises for giving the GLA strikingly detailed front and rear-bumpers with twin exhaust pipes. Matte chrome roof rails also come standard, along with the roof spoiler. BTW, those wheels are 18-inch wrapped in 235/50 R-18 Continental rubbers.

Its cabin is a highly practical place to be in. Despite sharing the similar 2,699 mm wheelbase as the A-Class, the GLA 200’s somewhat felt slightly roomier. You can accommodate up to three average-sized adults back there with generous amount of legroom and acceptable headroom (the Q3 offers more in this aspect though). The 421-litre boot is definitely useful, and in case you need more space to help friends move, the rear seat can be folded away to reveal a whooping 836-litres worth of space. The electric boot tailgate opens high too, so placing and removing bulky items should be a cinch.

The cockpit is a brilliantly thought-out space, with every control buttons within easy reach for the driver. There is nothing much to complaint, except I am still getting used to the Samsung Galaxy Tab-like multimedia display, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel like the A45 AMG would be much, much appreciated here (not asking too much, am I?). Those minor issues aside, the generous amount of air-con vents ensures the cabin is constantly kept cool. Oh, the pair of sports seats up front is a brilliant touch — besides being comfortable, it also hugs the body, preventing any sort of dramatic slip and slide during enthusiastic driving…

Powering the GLA 200 is a 1.6-litre turbocharged powerplant that has been mated to Mercedes’s dual-clutch 7-speed ‘box. With that pairing, power is rated at 156 bhp with 250 Nm maximum torque available from as low as 1,400 rpm. It takes 8.8 seconds to haul all that 1,395 kg (the GLA 200 is a front-wheel drive) of sheet metal from 0 to 100 km/h, maxing out at 215 km/h.

While the GLA 200 will not outrun any hot-hatch soon, it does feel brisk and willing without any much need to work the engine hard. Out on the expressway, it remains alert, the transmission working seamlessly during upshifts. However, although Mercedes has done a good job at keeping engine noise at a minimum, you can somehow still hear it when stretched beyond 5,000 rpm.

A pair of paddle shifters comes standard, so that should be good news if you’re the sort who still prefers to shift gears manually.

Handling wise, the GLA 200 behaves more like a hatchback, despite the taller stance. In its entirety, it is surefooted and planted, with the firm steering — although a tad artificial compared to the X1’s - providing good feedback. Body-roll can still be felt, but it does nothing to shake your confidence as you commit to that tight right-hander.

Strange, really; it has the image of an SUV, yet behaves like a hatchback…

As a whole, the GLA 200 is one of the most complete car money can buy right now. You do not know what to classify it; it has the body of a wagon, is elevated yet handles like a hatchback. But whatever it is, the GLA 200 spells the word “c-o-o-l” and is really where you should park your money if practicality and ruggedness is what you want and need. Let’s not forget the good fuel economy too: Mercedes claimed a combine cycle of 16.9 km/L but based on our time with the car, we managed a more realistic 13 km/L, which can be considered good for the average driver.

Thankfully for Mercedes though, the new 9-speed Evoque is some $70k away…