Seven years after the Mercedes-Benz’s first successful stab into the subcompact crossover segment, the GLA returns for a second generation completely overhauled with, as expected from the brand, innovative new tech, more comfort and even an option to make traversing unpaved roads in the tiny SUV a possibility.
“The launch of the new GLA marks the culmination of the complete renewal of our compact car family,” says Britta Seeger, Daimler AG board of management member, in a news release. “The high demand for our SUVs shows that we can offer the right model for all of our customers. Reflecting customer demand, these include two off-road models complementing each other perfectly: the GLB is the most functional and spacious representative of our compact class family, while the new GLA is positioned as its sporty brother and as a lifestyle-oriented SUV.”
Slightly larger, the vehicle now stands at 1,611 millimetres tall, which is 100 millimetres taller compared the outgoing version, providing additional headroom for passengers. The headlights have a more streamlined shape, echoing the rest of the crossover’s aerodynamic form resulting in a low 0.28 drag coefficient.
Like the rest of the lineup, the grill now features a single blade, sitting above an aggressive blacked-out cut-out stretching the length of the front bumper. Other sporty details include shorter overhangs, raised “Powerdomes” on the hood, and reflectors, skinnier tail lamps and a wider load compartment accentuating the width of the rear end.
From a practicality standpoint, the GLA utilizes a unique door design that reaches over the sills making ingress and egress easier. As a bonus, it keeps the door frames and pant legs cleaner, and improves side impact collision in the unfortunate case of an accident.
Occupants are greeted with a modern, clean looking cabin inside, dominated by two high definition displays — either seven-inch or 10.25-inch widescreen units — side-by-side acting as both the instrument cluster and infotainment screen. The latter is powered by the Mercedes-Benz Use Experience, or MBUX for short, a voice-activated control system. Like Siri or Google Assistant, users can say “Hey Mercedes,” followed by a command such as “turn on the air conditioning,” or “find the closest Chinese restaurant.”
There are two turbocharged four-cylinder engines available — one making 302-horsepower in the grade-topping GLA 35 trim, and a still capable 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque variant propelling the base GLA 250 loaned to Darpan for testing. Our punchy motor, mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, is fine for daily driving and demonstrates above average fuel economy for its class rated at 10.1 L/100 km in the city and 7.6 highway.
The company’s proprietary 4MATIC variable all-wheel drive is standard equipment in Canada, and acts differently depending on which mode the DYNAMIC SELECT is switched to. Eco/Comfort sends torque primarily to the front axle for optimal stability, Sport favours extra power to the rear wheels and Off-road locks a 50:50 balance.
For consumers seriously thinking of veering from the beaten path, choosing the Premium Package bundles the Off-Road Engineering Package adding one more DYNAMIC SELECT setting that not only modifies the 4MATIC behaviour, but the engine and ABS as well for operation in slippery, uneven terrain. In addition, a live animation of the gradient and inclination angle can be shown on the main monitor, and a Downhill Speed Regulation function helps navigating steep declines.
Motor: 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder
Horsepower: 221 @ 5,500 rpm Torque (lb-ft): 258 @ 1,800 rpm
Gearbox: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic Layout:
Front engine, all-wheel drive Fuel economy: 9.0 L/100 km (city) 7.6 L/100 km (highway)