New GLA is Mercedes on autopilot

The compact SUV is not a bad car, but it’s not great, either, at least not by its manufacturer’s high standards, says Declan Colley.

Mercedes-Benz's GLA 220d 4MATIC compact SUV is a nice car, but nothing special.

I ONCE got into terrible trouble for using the word “adequate”.

I won’t bore you with the detail, but it was an expensive lesson, even if it has comedic value for stories told over dinner or a few drinks.

But adequate is not a word you’d normally associate with any products from Mercedes.

Its cars could never usually be described as passable or sufficient.

Rather, the company prides itself on the quality and excellence of its products.

Like everyone else in this industry, the German giant is still prone to the occasional howler, and such events usually generate way more column inches than would be expended on any other manufacturer — precisely because they are so rare.

Mercedes lives in a premium world and the company’s customers expect nothing less than premium product from them.

However, in the rush to fill ever-growing niche segments, companies previously only involved in the manufacture of a small number of finely crafted models have accelerated production into a bewildering and diverse number of cars.

The death of the MPV and the rise of the SUV have shifted the emphasis for manufacturers and the chase for ever-greater sales has created all sort of new areas of endeavour for car-makers.

Mercedes is no different and that is why cars such as the GLA have emerged onto dealer forecourts.

The original car — described as an A-Class on stilts by some unkind souls — was possibly regarded by Mercedes as an entry-level machine for those with aspirations to company products.

It was good-looking, but not terribly practical and not terribly cheap, either. Now, it has been revamped and, to be honest, it is hard to see much difference between new and old.

There have been minor exterior detailing changes (lights, bumpers, and alloys) and miniscule interior revisions, but nothing terribly obvious on either front.

That being said, the GLA has a price just south of forty grand, making it a premium product and not something every pocket will reach.

The tester was fitted with the de-tuned 200d (2,143 cc) engine, with some 135 bhp on tap, as well as a top speed of 205 kph and a 9.5 second 0-100 kph. I did not find the engine to be particularly pleasing; it was uncouth and noisy.

On the plus side, it will deliver a claimed 4.2 l/100 km (66 mpg) — but not with me behind the wheel — and only emits some 108 g/km, so it should be cheap to run and cheap to tax, with an annual bill here of just €190.

It drives very well — despite the clatter from under the hood — and handles like a solid Mercedes should.

But it is very tight inside and while the front passengers are comfortable, the ones in the back aren’t, as leg and shoulder room are not generous.

Also worth noting is the use of grim plastics in some areas of the otherwise well-appointed cabin.

It is a nice car, but nothing really special, like you expect any Mercedes to be. Sure, you expect a bit of dumbing down the further you descend the pecking order of the company’s offerings, but here you get the feeling that Mercedes is playing the three-pointed star for all it is worth.

The GLA might be a little bit more than adequate for a Mercedes, but not by much.


The Cost: From €38,855 - €40,767 as tested

The Engine: Nothing special

The Specification: Not particularly eye-catching

The Overall Verdict: Adequate

Star Rating: 

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