Review and road test of the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?
Mercedes doesn't boast a lot of experience in the compact crossover vehicle game, but the GLA 250 4MATIC shows that as a company, it's an extremely quick learner. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review of the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC
With 211bhp from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine driving all four wheels, you might think Subaru Impreza Turbo but no, this is the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC. Rehashing a classic engineering formula with the sort of modern efficiency that sees this compact crossover achieve a decent combination of power and efficiency.
Mercedes-Benz isn't a company that tends to get caught on the hop when designing cars. For a manufacturer that has had such brazenly niche vehicles as the R63 AMG on its books, it's an astonishing oversight that, for right-hand drive markets at least, it has never had a compact SUV or crossover vehicle to compete with the likes of the Audi Q3, the BMW X1 or upmarket versions of countless Japanese contenders. This has been such a massive and lucrative market sector that the absence of a Mercedes product has become ever more pointed. Yes, you could buy the boxy GLK model on the continent, but that was never sophisticated enough to make the big numbers here.
Stuttgart's answer is the GLA-Class. It's spun off a modified version of the A-Class chassis, which would have once meant it was awful, but now promises only good things. The GLA 250 4MATIC is a punchy petrol-powered version that might well show the talents of this chassis at their best. Can it carve a niche for itself?
Since the demise of the psychotic GLA 45 AMG model, this 250 4MATIC is now the quickest variant in the range. The engineering has an inherent rectitude to it; all-wheel drive, with the motive force coming from a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine. Stop us if you've heard that one before. In this guise, the 1991cc four makes 211hp, which is enough to punt the GLA to 62mph in a more than respectable 6.9 seconds before running out of go at a brisk 143mph. Torque is rated at 350Nm at just 1,200rpm, besting Audi and BMW's efforts quite easily here. It's deployed via a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox, which offers a manual mode, although it's best left in Sport. In normal, it continually tries to shuffle into seventh at the earliest opportunity for fuel efficiency purposes and as a result can feel a little dull-witted when you attempt to prod it into action.
Ride quality is firmish but acceptable given that with standard AMG Line trim, this variant rides on 15mm lower sports suspension. The 4MATIC system is a permanent all-wheel drive set-up featuring fully variable torque distribution. The components of the 4MATIC system include the power take-off to the rear axle that is integrated into the 7G-DCT automatic dual clutch transmission, plus the rear-axle gear with integrated, electrohydraulically controlled multi-disc clutch. There's also DSR (Downhill Speed Regulation) and an off-road transmission mode as standard. When the off-road transmission mode is selected, the gearshift points and accelerator characteristics are modified to better suit off-road driving. Ground clearance will clearly limit the GLA's ultimate capabilities in the rough and few owners will venture onto anything other than a gravel track, but this looks to be a vehicle with a certain inbuilt versatility.
Design and Build
The GLA is rounded, it rides fairly low to the ground and it looks more like an A-Class that's been boosting up on nandrolone than anything particularly hardcore. It measures 4427mm long, 1805mm wide and 1495mm height, which are dimensions broadly similar to most of its key UK-market rivals. The GLA rides on a 2699mm wheelbase - so don't expect limousine-standard legroom in the rear seats. Luggage space is 421-litres with the seats in place, and 836-litres with them folded down completely. An optional 'Load Compartment package' moves the rear seat backs to a more upright position, freeing up a further 60-litres of load space.
Market and Model
The GLA 250 4MATIC opens at a fairly serious sum -a round £35,000 in its single AMG Line specification. Mercedes-Benz takes safety extremely seriously and you only need to take a look at the GLA's standard safety equipment to realise that there aren't many in its class that can rival its attention to detail here. Standard-fit features for the SUV include Attention Assist drowsiness detection and radar-based Collision Prevention Assist with adaptive Brake Assist, which now helps to protect against collisions from a speed of 4mph.
Cost of Ownership
Even with a decently pokey 211hp at its disposal, the GLA 250 4MATIC will still squeeze almost thirty five miles from a gallon of petrol and the emissions of 169g/km aren't bad either given the performance on offer here. It's also worth factoring in the value of that twin-clutch transmission when comparison shopping against rivals who might well charge extra for such a gearbox.
Weight reduction and a drag coefficient of just 0.29 help here, as well as a raft of other fuel-optimising measures. Modern four-cylinder engines with turbocharging and direct injection, as well as an ECO start/stop function as standard, make for this high efficiency. Residual values are bound to be sturdy, as the A, B and CLA-Class cars have already proved. The promise of a small Mercedes SUV with low running costs and high build values isn't going to be lost on used buyers.
Although it could have been a bit more adventurously-styled, there's otherwise very few areas where Mercedes-Benz could have done a lot better with the GLA, especially in this top '250' guise. Genuine niggles are extremely few. The ride quality could have been a little gentler and the transmission a little more responsive to manual commands but beyond that, the minus column is empty provided you can afford the premium asking prices. No vehicle in this class is particularly spacious in the back, so it would be invidious to single the GLA out for criticism there. Build quality is good, the engine is a cracker and its handling is as good as you'd expect from something with A-Class underpinnings.
Efficiency is excellent for a 211hp petrol-powered crossover and residual values are certain to stack up well as a result, driving down the overall cost of ownership. Safety? This is a modern Mercedes-Benz; enough said. The GLA 250 4MATIC isn't cheap, but making a case for buying one isn't too difficult. Mercedes may have been late to this game, but it's making up for lost time.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC review by Jonathan Crouch