For some years under banners like ‘First Choice’, Mercedes-Benz Australia has been asserting the value-for-money of its passenger cars. With the all-new GLA 200 CDI, ‘Benz needn’t push too hard because even the most hard-nosed critic must concede the Stuttgart-based giant has nailed the value proposition.
The fact is Mercedes-Benz is a dominant player in every segment in which it competes and so its glamorous new entry in the compact SUV segment had to be sharply priced – because that’s what buyers demand. Starting at just $47,900, the GLA is a Mercedes-Benz in every detail but that remarkable sticker shows how serious ‘Benz is about its new direction.
And while the GLA’s arrival and price has no doubt created some grumpy folk at Audi, BMW and Range Rover, it’s good news for buyers of compact SUVs.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI Overview
Like other new arrivals, the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI (the entry-level $47,900 model) as tested by Car Showroom drives the front wheels but is still classed as a (compact) SUV. Relevance? Not sure about that and buyers don’t care because this is one of the fastest-growing segments of the automotive world.
The GLA sits on the same platform as the A-Class hatchback and CLA-Class sedan. That’s a good start as the aforementioned are both standouts for refinement and driving dynamics.
And here’s where that value-for-money thing steps-in. Despite its entry-level status and under $50K swing tag, the GLA 200 CDI boasts the expected armory of Mercedes-Benz technology/luxury and safety such as a beautiful leather-trimmed interior, Becker Map Pilot satellite navigation, reversing camera (an option on the BMW X1), electronic tailgate, Active Park Assist (parallel or 90-degree), Blind Spot Assist and Collision Prevention Assist.
Our Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI test car was fitted with the optional ‘AMG Line’ pack (19-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, flat-bottom sports steering wheel and 15mm lowered sports suspension amongst its inclusions). If we’re buying we’d definitely stretch to this pack – over 30 years in this business we’ve yet to see anything with an AMG badge which wasn’t a winner!
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI Engine
Under the bonnet of the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI is the familiar 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine (as used in the C-Class sedan). In the GLA guise, this refined European turbo-diesel is good for maximum power of 100kW between 3400 – 4000rpm and peak torque of 300Nm is delivered between 1400 – 3000rpm.
Drive is to the front wheels via Benz’ 7G-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Predictably, Mercedes has got this whole dual-clutch thing much better fettled than its German rivals with none of the clunkiness for which they’ve been criticized.
Fuel consumption is rated at 4.6l/100kms and the GLA is equipped with Mercedes’ auto/start stop system which is one of the least intrusive we’ve sampled.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI The Interior
In creating the GLA it seems like the Mercedes-Benz folk who craft the interior materials met the styling and engineering departments and they collectively said: “Rightio give it your best shot and see who comes out on-top!” Quality and style met cleverness and delivered a compact SUV which is oh-so- nice, practical, environmentally smart and very Mercedes-Benz.
Perfect example – the luggage compartment. It’s 481-litres with the rear seat in-place or 1235-litres when folded flat but it also has a ‘Cargo Position’ which allows (admittedly cramped) rear seat occupancy but boosts the load area to 481-litres.
Environmentally smart you’re asking? Well, there’s the lightweight parcel shelf in that luggage compartment which is made from a unique material which is part re-cycled paper. It’s as strong as any parcel shelf and is one of 46 components in the GLA made from natural materials.
But this is a Mercedes-Benz so buyers demand a Benz-like interior and the GLA delivers with its A-Class inspired style. Sure, in catering for SUV buyers tastes, the front seats are slightly elevated (for a better view) but straight from the A-Class come the horizontal lines, round air-vents, dashboard layout, instruments and free-standing satellite navigation/audio screen.
As mentioned, our test car was fitted with the AMG pack which brought the usual flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel and superb sports front seats.
A 125mm gain in length over the A-Class delivers rear seat space which is the envy of some in this segment. Although admittedly it’s not massive.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI Exterior & Styling
Park a Mercedes-Benz GLA alongside an A-Class hatchback and CLA-Class sedan and notice how different these siblings are. That’s ‘Benz clever design at work.
With its prominent side sculpturing, multi-ducted front-end and the latest iteration of the hallmark Mercedes-Benz grille (a twin-louver design to enhance the width visual), the GLA looks smart and has real ‘Benz’ presence. This is enhanced on start-up by the usual distinctive LED DRLs.
We like the steeply-rising side glass which combines with the ML-Class reminiscent bold C-Pillar to provide some muscle. And the blending of that C-Pillar with the rear hatch spoiler is a work of art.
In a similar way, the rear-end introduces some extra sportiness with a small, sharply-curved window, large ruby two-piece tail-lights and under-bumper guard/diffuser.
As you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz the GLA body is aerodynamically efficient with a Cd value of 0.31.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI On The Road
Cold morning diesel clatter…well, erm no actually. Perhaps like no-one else, Mercedes-Benz has its passenger car diesel engines in fine shape and honestly, in the driving dynamics department, it’s hard work to identify you’re driving a diesel.
Part of that story is the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission which as well as the ubiquitous extra-tall seventh gear for relaxed highway cruising has the other six ratios nicely spaced to provide very handy acceleration for overtaking or freeway merging.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA sits on a MacPherson strut/multi-link independent rear suspension set-up which includes significant use of aluminium to keep unsprung weight down. Our AMG Line Pack-equipped test car provided a 15mm reduction in ride height and the ‘Sports Direct-Steer’ system.
And despite the massive sunroof (64 per-cent of the roof is glazed), with the help of 73 per-cent of the bodyshell being high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel, the Mercedes-Benz GLA feels rigid and taut.
So, while this compact SUV was no A 45 AMG or CLA 45 AMG (two of the best cars we’ve driven in recent times) over our high-speed mountain roads test route, it did drive as a Mercedes-Benz should. That means precision and crispness.
That means when the corner suddenly tightens, the GLA’s nose tucks in immediately when you dial-in more lock with none of the front-end bounce of some rivals.
And that means handy balance mid-turn and instant acceleration on exit.
Around town, the Mercedes-Benz GLA was generally easy to maneuver. The handy 11.8-metre turning circle and excellent reversing camera - it folds into its own storage unit when not in use to keep the lens clean – adequately compensate for the small rear window.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI Issues
Criticizing a car as excellent as this and which has a global waiting list of people waiting to unload their ‘hard-earned’ seems more than a little banal.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI Verdict
It’s no exaggeration to say the Mercedes-Benz GLA is the Don Bradman-Jack Nicklaus-Michael Schumacher of compact SUVs. The best of this generation by a comfortable margin.
And remarkable value-for-money.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI The Competition
Audi’s first diesel-powered Q3 starts at $47,500 for the 2.0TDI Quattro with a 103kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel. The Q3 is excellent and, unlike the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI, drives all four wheels. As always it pays to directly compare the standard specifications in detail versus the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI.
You’ll need $47,593 for the BMW X1 sDrive18d (eight-speed automatic). The X1 is powered by a 105kW/320Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and rivals the Mercedes-Benz 200 CDI for driving dynamics but is a bit cramped inside. Like Audi, do carefully check what’s standard and optional to get a true value picture.
And it’s a bit more ($55,875) for the Land Rover Evoque Pure TD4. Land Rover wins the power race with its 110kW/400Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel but loses on the transmission front with only a six-speed automatic. Apart from its head-turning looks, the Evoque’s all-wheel-drive chassis is a cracker and the interior is exceptional.