Colin-on-Cars – Road Review: Mercedes-Benz GLA 200d

There is a saying ‘less is more’ that could well be applied to the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200d, even though the base price kicks in a little more than R700 000 nice to have options are added.

However, this is a slightly more holistic view of that expression given that, as a tester of vehicles, readers often comment cars under review are ‘not representative of the market’ or ‘only aimed at the super wealthy’. Both statements are true of many cars I get to drive but, are absolutely irrelevant since I, and my colleagues, review cars for what they are.

So, to the GLA and the ‘less is more’ comes into play where more has been added as standard fare with less clutter and complexity in the operation of the various systems.

The new GLA (launched locally in November last year) stands more than 10cm taller than its predecessor, at 1 611 millimetres. Although 1,5 cm shorter it has a more spacious interior, offering more legroom in the rear and the boot space – again, less is more.

The GLA has been pitched by the company as the sportier alternative to the GLB and is aimed more towards the urban lifestyle owner than the offroad enthusiast.

The GLA 200d’s 1 950 cc diesel  engine generates 110 kW and 320 Nm of torque, with a combined fuel consumption of 5,2 l/100 km – and this, within that urban lifestyle framework, ticks pretty much all the boxes relating to operational efficiency.

It never feels underpowered and, although perhaps a tad noisily, will drop a cog or two on request and zip past slower moving traffic. Flicked into Sport mode the urgency and responses increase markedly to fully cover the fun driving part of ownership.

The GLA has short overhangs front and rear and and the coupé-like lines on the side windows, giving the car an elegant flair. The doors reach over the sills, improving ease of access, keeping the door frames (and the occupants’ clothing) free of dirt – more importantly improving impact protection in the event of a side collision.

The rear lights are in two parts, with the reflectors positioned separately in the bumper. This makes it possible to open the load compartment wider, making loading easier and the rear end appear wider.

The instrument panel on the driver’s side is dominated by a free-standing display unit, which is available with two 7-inch displays, a  7-inch and 10,25-inch display cm) and, in the Widescreen version, with two 10,25-inch displays.

Included as standard is the MBUX infotainment system (Mercedes-Benz User Experience). The system can be individually configured and features a powerful computer, brilliant screens and graphics, customisable presentation, full-colour head-up display, optional navigation with augmented reality, learning software,and voice control activated with the prompt ‘Hey Mercedes’.

Maybe I’m just old-school (or, just old) and waddling along in traffic having a conversation with my car always makes me feel as if the men in white coats are not too far behind. However, the system is impressive – for example, when reading your phone book will ask if you want to call the landline or cell phone number of the person you requested if multiple numbers are listed.

Conversely, navigation is sometimes an issue with the system battling to grasp some of our town names – and heaven help anyone trying to get to the newly named Gqeberha.

The front seating positions are higher and more upright than before and both the driver and front passenger sit 140 mm higher than in the A-Class and 50 mm higher than in the B-Class. All-round visibility has also been improved. 

The rear seats can be optionally adjusted by 14 centimetres and the rear seat backrest set to a steeper rake, making room for such items as bulky boxes. There is still plenty of room for one or two people in the rear since these backrest variants come with a 40:60 split. The rear seat back rest can be can be split 40:20:40, with each section folding down individually.  

When the rear seat backrests are folded down and the load floor is in the upper position, an almost flat loading area extending to the front seats can be created. For very bulky objects, the load floor can be put in the lower position, the cross member behind the rear seats can be removed and the rear seats with optional fore/aft adjustment can be moved forward. 

Driving assistance systems have also been enhanced in the new GLA and if you opt for the optional Driving Assistance Package, features include turning manoeuvre function, emergency corridor function, exit warning, pedestrian warning, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steer Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, route-based speed adjustment, evasive steering assist, active lane-keeping assist, active blind-spot assist, active brake assist, traffic sign assist and pre-safe plus which detects a potential rear impact.    

The GLA is the first model in its class to feature a car wash function: with just one command, the exterior mirrors are folded in and the side windows and sliding roof closed. The climate control switches to air-recirculation mode and, after a few seconds, the front image from the 360° camera (if fitted) is displayed to assist the driver when driving into the car wash. These settings are automatically deactivated when the driver drives out of the car wash.  

At 1 605 mm and 1 606 mm (front/rear), the track width is more than 4 cm wider than the previous model. The bigger wheel arches and the wider diameter of the wheels, at 17-inches to  20-inches, result in a higher ground clearance (143 mm/+9 mm).

The GLA features a sophisticated 4-link rear axle for maximum driving stability, ride quality and longitudinal/lateral dynamics.

The car remains completely settled on the road even when pothole-dodging and this feeling of confidence takes much of the stress out of everyday driving around. As mentioned Sport mode gives it some urgency and it is quite happy to be pressed with intent into corners.

It remains balanced and neutral and the odds are most owners will never actually push it to the limits so, to sum up I quote Mrs W: “Damn, now that’s comfortable ride.”

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