Mercedes Benz’s compact luxury crossover, the GLA Class was formally unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show in October 2013. Earlier in the same year it was exhibited as a concept vehicle in Shanghai Motor Show. Positioned below the GL Class, it is now the entry level SUV in the Mercedes range and competes with BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Volvo V40 Cross Country. Before the GLA Class, Merc did not have its player in the segment where the X1 and Q3 are placed.
The GLA Class was brought out for the showrooms in India on 30th September 2014 and the company had already bagged more than 600 bookings before the actual launch. Based on front-wheel drive MFA platform which is also used for the A Class, this SUV arrives with two engine options in India:
GLA 200 is powered by 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol motor that churns 181 bhp at 5500 rpm and has 30.59 kgm of torque at 1200-4000 rpm.
The diesel version GLA 200 CDI has 2.2 litre engine generating 134 bhp at 3600-4400 rpm and 30.5 kgm of torque at 1600-3000 rpm.
There is 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission for both the models. While the diesel GLA Class gets two trims – GLA 200 CDI Style and GLA 200 CDI Sport, the petrol car has only one - GLA 200 Sport variant. At the time of launch, the prices for GLA CDI Style and Sport were announced at Rs. 32.75 lakhs and 36.9 lakhs respectively. For the GLA 200 Sport it stands at Rs. 36 lakhs (all prices ex showroom, Delhi).
As compared to the grand GL Class, the boxy G Class and the magnificent M Class, the GLA Class belongs to a very different and new league of Mercedes SUVs. It does not have a rugged appearance and when viewed from the front, it looks more like a car. The silhouette is swoopy and not quite upright. The two louver grille with big three pointed star seems quite prominent on the face. And there are pronounced power bulges on the hood. The bi-xenon headlamps optimised by daytime running lights have a pleasing design, similar to that for the A Class. Stretched across the front bumper, the large air intake has chrome surround and this is a feature that differentiates it from the A Class hatch.
Moving over to the side you will see a distinct plastic cladding for the wheel arches and the door sills giving it the typical crossover persona. Merc has given 18 inch alloys with 235/50 R18 tyres to the GLA. Aluminium roof rails are standard but they are simply design elements and not functional enough to strap up some luggage on the roof. The GLA Class has a ground clearance of 183 mm which may not be enough for an SUV but considering the fact that this crossover will be used more on roads than on uneven tarmac, it is good enough. In other words, it can deal with reasonable speed breakers and most potholes. And for a front wheel drive, it also has some off-roading abilities.
The black cladding continues at the rear too and another crossover attribute is the prominent scuff plate that houses the twin exhaust pipes. With their curvy design the tail lamps blend well with the rear look. There is 421 litres of space for luggage behind the rear seats.
Inside the cabin you will notice some resemblance with the A Class and therefore the refinement of the materials is pleasing. Indeed the plastic used on the dashboard, centre console and steering wheel looks more premium and feels like the units used in upper end Mercedes cars. The multi-function steering wheel has an aptly sculpted grip area. But the audio control buttons on it could have had a more tangible feel. Paddle shifters are offered as standard. There is a reversing camera to make parking simpler.
The tablet like COMAND screen is easy to use though it just looks loosely stuck to the dashboard and the resolution needs little improvement for a vehicle in this class. Aux and USB ports are provide in the stowage compartment. Along with Bluetooth interface you also get an integral telephone keypad with the infotainment system. Harman Kardon 3D Surround speakers provide a nice audio experience.
By placing the parking brake on the dashboard and the gearlever on the steering column, considerable space has been freed up on the centre console which has multiple cubby holes (not very deep though). And there is more stowage space beneath the centre armrest.
Seats are upholstered in Artico leather and there is choice between black and beige colour. The driving position provides a good view of the road ahead because of the extra height that the GLA has over its hatch version A Class. However, there is a downer in the form of space on the rear seat. The seats are very well cushioned but the under-thigh support could have been better and the upright backrest angle also feels little uncomfortable on long drives.
GLA Class is equipped with standard safety features of Merc family – ABS, ESP, brake assist, acceleration skid control, tyre pressure monitoring, Attention Assist, airbags for driver and front passenger, windowbags for passengers on outer rear seats and ISOFIX child seat attachment points.
The colour range for this crossover includes Polar Silver, Orient Brown, Jupiter Red and Cirrus White.
While India gets only the GLA 200 and GLA 200 CDI variants for now, the international versions of GLA Class include GLA 180, GLA 250, GLA 45 AMG in petrol range and GLA 180 CDI, GLA 220 CDI in diesel line-up. Mercedes is expected to launch the AMG trim in India later next year.