Ironically, I consider myself to be part of that group (or perhaps, used to) so I won’t disagree. But I am also well aware of the allure of SUVs and why they are trending. To the majority of car buyers, the added sense of security (even if it’s completely psychological), increased visibility, and extra space trump handling any time.
The tall ride height may be unnecessary on tarmac, but it raises the seats to an ideal height that’s close to most adults’ hip points, so it’s minimizes the effort of getting in and out. Plus, it’s reassuring to know it can tackle mild flash floods, just like how no one needs 400 horsepower but it’s nice to know you have them under your right foot.
All abovementioned advantages of an SUV are present in the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 when compared to its sedan/hatchback sibling – the Mercedes-Benz A250. But more on that later in the interior aspect.
Exterior - A little bloated
One common feedback from family, friends, relatives, acquaintances, domestic pets – basically from everyone is – the previous generation GLA looks better.
I reckon it’s down to the overall shape and the silhouette of the car. It has the hunchback look that is particularly prominent from the rear three quarter.
It’s a shame because I think the individual design elements are rather pretty. I like the shape of the headlamps and taillamps with all the intricate details within, the mesmerizing diamond grille, and the more aggressive AMG Line exterior kit.
Because its shape, it looks bulbous and appears smaller than it actually is. For reference’s sake, it’s lengthier and wider than a Honda HR-V, with a wheelbase that’s over 100 mm longer. But the shape has one important advantage in the interior.
Interior - As impressive as the A-Class, with more space
And that is space. In the A-Class Sedan or Hatchback, the cabin is best described as cosy. It’s not tight per se, but it certainly doesn’t feel spacious. Whereas in the GLA, the interior feels much airier.
At the rear, there are more than 2 tennis balls of kneeroom and 1 tennis ball of headroom for a 177 cm adult.
One of the best things about the GLA is the ease of ingress and egress. The seat height is just perfect. You’re not crouching or climbing to enter; you just slide in with zero contortion. If you ferry any elderly frequently, they’ll appreciate it.
At the same time, you still get all the glitzy stuff you’d expect from a modern Mercedes-Benz – the 64-colour ambient lighting that lights up the turbine-styled air vents and the dual widescreen displays taking centre stage of the dashboard.
Regardless of the A-Class, GLA or GLB, they all possess the wow factor. Put someone who has never been in a modern Mercedes-Benz, particularly at night, I wager they’d be wowed by interior presentation. The BMW X1 can only dream of impressing with its interior.
Like other Mercedes-Benzes, the GLA uses a touchpad, which I still find it to be fiddly and would resort to touching the screen at times. Call me old fashioned, but to me rotary dials are more precise to navigate especially when on the move.
In terms of the user interface, graphics, and resolution however, I have no complaints for the most part. Except for the Android Auto/Apple CarPlay that doesn’t fill up the entire screen estate.
To my surprise, the no-name audio system sounds rather decent. Bass is controlled, without any boominess or resonance, and the treble has a nice shimmer without getting too harsh. It’s clean and every frequency range from low to high is well defined.
In terms of build and material quality, it’s par for its segment. All the important touch points are either leather, soft plastics or suede material.
However, if you go touching and pushing every panel in the cabin, you’ll find less-expensive feeling plastics and parts that wobbles a little. So it’s not Audi-level build, but you get a nicer presentation instead. It’s a give and take I suppose.
Driving Experience - Smooth and matured
First thing that struck me within 5 minutes of driving off in the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 is the refinement compared to the A250 Sedan.
Also read: Review: Mercedes-Benz A250 AMG Line sedan - is it RM 48k better than the 218i GC?
In the A250, it has this slight lurching feeling as the brake pedal is released and the car moves from a standstill, as if you’ve released the clutch too far into the biting point in a manual transmission. In the GLA 250, the lurch is almost non-existent and it creeps forward naturally.
On top of that, the 8-speed dual-clutch transmission wasn’t caught out juddering at low speeds in my experience, which is somewhat of a surprise in a modern Mercedes-Benz. Other times, it’s as snappy and seamless as you’d expect from a dual-clutch transmission.
Power delivery however, feels less urgent than in the A250, just a tad mellowed. I suspect it’s partly down to the weight and the way it’s calibrated. It’s still plenty quick, 0-100 km/h is tested at a consistent 7.6 seconds.
Steering is relatively sharp, but it does feel rather artificial especially when it weighs up as the speed increases. Brakes are in typical Mercedes-Benz fashion - slightly grabby at low speeds and town driving but reassuring at high speeds.
Ride Comfort - Calm and collected
Just like the current generation A-Class, the Mercedes-Benz GLA rides commendably well for the most part. The suspension soaks up the majority of our rotted tarmac without much intrusion to the cabin.
However, it does crash over the sharper edges on the road, detracting from its otherwise calm ride. And at higher speeds, the GLA doesn’t flow with larger undulations quite like the Lexus UX, resulting in more vertical movements that bops the head.
That being said, most of its closest rivals like the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 do not possess the most accomplished ride quality either. Only the Lexus UX impresses in this aspect.
Also read: Review: 2021 Volvo XC40 T5 Recharge - The gateway drug to pure EV ownership
Front seat comfort is fairly average. There’s good amount of thigh support with its extendable seat base. As for the backrest, I found myself constantly tweaking the recline angle and lumbar support for even distribution of pressure.
For shorter drives, it’s perfectly adequate but when seated for extended periods of time, minor discomfort starts to set in hence the constant tweaks.
In terms of cabin noise, it felt quieter than the A-Class sedan and the sound level meter reflects this as well. The GLA recorded lower dB values at speeds of 60 km/h, 90 km/h, and 110 km/h.
|Cabin noise levels
Fuel Consumption - Similar to the A250
Over a combined driving trip of 103.5 km, broken down to around 60% highway and 40% urban driving, the tested fuel consumption of the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 works out to 8.6-litre/100 km.
The trip computer displayed an average of 9.0-litre/100 km, which is not too far off the actual calculated figure.
As a compact premium SUV to drive about daily, there isn’t much to complain about the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250. It’s acceptably refined, has good interior presentation, and it’s incredibly easy to live with day in and out.
Just like its fully-imported rival, the Lexus UX, the biggest hurdle would be its asking price of RM 285,336 (OTR sans insurance, with SST discount). Expect its price to increase after 30-June 2021, estimated at RM 295,888.
This is well into the territory of the upper range compact executive sedans, the Mercedes-Benz C300 or BMW 330i. As much as I can relate to an SUV’s appeal, I can’t bring myself to pick a GLA 250 over a BMW 330i.
If SUV is a criteria, the recently-launched BMW X3 20i is priced at RM 286,674 (sans SST, with extended warranty and service package). That's a whole segment up.
The less powerful BMW X1 20i is over RM 50k less than the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250, mostly because of where these two are built. However, the Mercedes-Benz GLA is expected to be locally assembled and arrive later this year. That should close the gap in price.
Until then, I find it difficult to recommend the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 despite the praises given. And to answer the question in the title, is it RM 285k good? For me, not quite. Hopefully in the near future, we can revisit this verdict.
Also read: Malaysia to launch CKD 2021 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Sedan, GLA, GLE - 5 new CKD models coming