First drive: 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic in the UAE
BMW was the pioneer in creating segments that nobody realised they wanted, with monstrosities such as the 5-Series GT, the 2-Series Active Tourer and the X4 actually doing decently on the worldwide sales charts. Mercedes-Benz took a page out of that same book and created more tasteful segments, such as the CLS-Class and the CLA-Class. At least they did a full reboot of their previously-horrendous A-Class city-car with a proper hatchback, and out of that spawned the GLA-Class. We’re still not quite sure how it differs from the A-Class, but we’ll give it a go.
Visually, the GLA 250 4Matic looks almost exactly like the A-Class, except for some plastic trim bits around the wheel openings and bottom edges all round. The GLA is also supposed to have a bit more ground clearance, although you’d never notice it. Out on the road, it feels just like driving a hatchback, and you actually seem to sit at the same eye-level as drivers of Hyundai Elantras and Nissan Sunnys.
The interior is a very nicely-done design, hip and trendy, but the premium soft-touch surfaces are mixed in with a lot of hard plastics on the dash face and the centre console. Our car also came with a fancy LCD multimedia screen and blind-spot monitors, but the seats are manually adjusted and the keyless-entry is not of the ‘smart’ variety. The ergonomics aren’t too good either, with seat-back adjusters stuffed in a tight spot and tiny a/c buttons that take your eyes off the road.
Space up front is great, in the back seat is average, and the boot is decently-sized if taken in a hatchback context, and not as an SUV.
However, once we started driving, we appreciated the Mercedes-Benz characteristics a whole lot more. The 211 hp 2.0-litre turbo four felt punchy at lower revs, with a good 7-speed dual-clutch automatic sending power to all four wheels, not that the latter made a huge difference in dry weather around the city. It was pretty economical too, managing 10.7 litres/100 km in regular driving.
The GLA rides very smoothly for such a little car with big wheels and low-profile tyres, something that other premium brands have failed to master. It’s reasonably quiet inside and generally pleasant to poot around in.
The handling is good as well, at least in the quick runs we had around the city. There’s no floatiness, and body roll is generally subdued. The controls are direct and responsive, but the well-weighted steering offers no feedback. The brakes are good though, and you can generally experiment with its limits confidently.
Our brief first impressions suggest that the GLA 250 kind-of-a-crossover-but-really-a-hatchback is a very good car. It’s fairly practical, drives very well and makes for a comfortable cruiser. But given its lack of certain premium features, we have to wonder how many consumers are ready to pay just for the three-pointed badge, given that they can have much larger vehicles from other premium marques for the same price, such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport, the Audi Q3 and the Lexus NX 200t. While the Mercedes-Benz badge is arguably more prestigious, it’s still a little Mercedes-Benz.
For UAE prices and GCC specs, visit the Mercedes-Benz buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.