GLA 200d

Still the Benz it always was, better balanced, prettier second GLA now has it all

The second generation of Mercedes-Benz’ mud-plugging A-Class, the GLA actually isn’t a mud-plugger at all. It’s front-wheel drive. So unlikely to succeed hanging off a cliff or dicing in the dues. It’s all about the pose, you know. All-wheel drive is reserved for this one’s bigger brothers. But as a spacious, stylish family taxi or even a bloated hottish hatchback, this GLA certainly touches the spot.

GLA Benefits ITS best A-class Genes

Now far more balanced and prettier than the car it replaces, GLA benefits the best of its A-class genes. There’s a healthy dose of GLC and GLE in there too, which is pretty cool. Rather that than just different lengths of the same old sausage that some of Benz’ favourite rivals churn out ad nauseum. This car is quite different to the step above GLB and flagship GLS. Kinda like boerewors versus bratwurst. Or bangers.

Talking styling, we thought that Mercedes miscued on the old GLA’s design. It’s sad looking head and taillights looked like they just taken a Christmas klap. Happily that’s now all history and then some, second time around. Not that it mattered — they sold over a million old GLAs worldwide. We’ve often told you that styling is subjective. If you disagree on what we say about a car’s looks, just ignore us.

Still, the new one looks a million bucks in comparison. And that’s probably the biggest plus point of our creamy full-spec black as the night GLA 220d AMG Line. Its bold style even prompted a risqué evening shoot. Strutting a pair of power domes on the bonnet atop a sparkly grille with a central star, GLA also gets all-round protective cladding to add to that rugged appeal. Bigger wheel arches also make space for this one’s full-sizes 20-inch alloys, which further contribute to a 9 mm taller 143 mm ground clearance. In black, of course.

GLA’s Sexy Cabin is its Party Trick

Step inside and there’s extra front headroom and rear legroom. That despite GLA’s body length being cropped by 15 mm. It however rides on a 30 mm longer wheelbase and stands some 110 mm taller than the old one. Load capacity is up behind those versatile optional new individual 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats. They bring 140 mm fore and aft, as well as backrest rake adjustment. GLA also has a cool standard height-adjustable load floor that you can store more private stuff under, too.

This car’s party trick however has to be its sexy cabin. And that’s another bit of this GLA 200d that we really like. A mini me GLS 400d (its basically the square root of that car) our tester came with Merc’s industry standard 7-inch instrumentation and 10.25-inch MBUX Hey Mercedes infotainment touchscreens. They are merged into a mighty single display atop those classy turbine climate vents. The gauges sit behind a multifunction steering wheel, to the right of a full MBUX infotainment unit.

That includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and the rest. Ours also had augmented reality navigation with learning software, voice control and a full colour head-up display too. It’s all best run by Merc’s state-of-the art multifunction steering wheel’s tiny touch pads. Driving functions to the right. Infotainment left. Interestingly the GLA dash is smaller than the one on big brother GLS. But it does the job just as well and packs pretty much everything that flagship does too, on both of those screens.

GLA 220D Quicker than Mercedes’ Claims

This one has Merc’s 110 kW 350 Nm 1.95-litre turbodiesel and an 8-speed dual-clutch autobox under that muscular bonnet. They promise it accelerates to 100 km/h in 8.9 seconds and on to 205 km/h. How the hell can we believe them? Well, that’s why we test cars in the first place. Anyway, our man blasted down our test patch half a second quicker than that in 8.45 seconds with our faithful test kit strapped to this black GLA. We like test cars that are quicker than claimed. The most important numbers are listed below, as always.

Solid and impressive on the road, it certainly drives more like a hot hatch than a sport ute. Handling is progressive, it rides well, solidly in fact and that turbodiesel gets on with it, with aplomb. The eight-cog box is seamless, but nice and responsive when flappy paddled gear-to-gear. It’s mighty economical. And it has a pleasant demeanour about it too. Oh yes, it turns heads. Even though its the baby of the G bunch.

Our GLA 200d was well safety-stacked too. It packed the full driving assistance gamut including the optional Driving Assistance Package with a turning manoeuvre function, emergency corridor function, exit and pedestrian warnings. Add Active Distance, Evasive Steer, Lane Keeping, Blind Spot and Brake Assistants, Speed Limit with route-based traffic sign speed adjustment and rear impact pre-safe plus. And a carwash assistant!

It’s a Mercedes-Benz After All

The Mercedes-Benz GLA 200d AMG Line is an impressive little number. Sure, it comes at a little bit of a premium, especially in this fat cat get-up. It plays an interesting role in the entry SUV arena, for the want of a better word. That’s a hugely competitive space, where the GLA always has been a strong rival. Now the new one is just all that much better. And clearly good enough to consider. Even if you’d never considered going premium. It’s a Mercedes-Benz, after all… — Michele Lupini

Images & data — Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d AMG Line
Engine: 110 kW 350 Nm 2-litre turbodiesel I4
Drive: 8-speed Double Clutch Auto, FWD
0-60 km/h:        4.09 sec
0-100 km/h:       8.45 sec
0-120 km/h:       11.59 sec
0-160 km/h:       21.34 sec
400m:             16.22 sec @ 143 km/h
80-120 km/h:      5.58 sec
120-160 km/h:     9.75 sec
VMax:             205 km/h
Fuel:             5.1 l/100 km
CO2:              133 g/km
Warranty/Service: 2y unl/5y 100K km
LIST PRICE:       R813K
RATED:            8
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