Review: 2022 Mercedes-AMG GLA35 (CKD) - School run and trackday star, but light on fizz
Arvind · Jul 30, 2022 02:00 PM
Fast and nimble sports SUV that’s quick everywhere
Cossetting interior, nicely tricked out with AMG goodies
Scores excellent on paper, but does it have enough character to sway you
As opposed to most of our reviews, which are as objective and empirical as possible, we have to start this review with a quirky quote from Grand Tour host, James May, who said “driving an exciting car gives you that sort of a fizzy feeling”.
Not to digress, but that fizz or fizzle doesn’t necessarily mean a car has to be very fast or luxurious, but it has to evoke a certain sensation when behind the wheel. Sat behind the beautifully trimmed steering wheel of the CKD 2022 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 4Matic, I’m just getting too little of it.
At its price point, it sits squarely between theA35 sedan (RM 344k), and GLB (RM 406k) 7-seater SUV.
There is just one direct rival to the GLA 35 - the MINI John Cooper Works Countryman which retails for just under RM 390k. The JCW Countryman offers the exact same 306 PS but 50 Nm more torque (450 Nm) through an 8-speed auto to all four wheels.
Besides the MINI, neither BMW nor Audi sell the hotted-up versions of the BMW X1 orAudi Q2 respectively, so as it stands, the GLA is positioned and priced rather attractively.
Exterior - Understated with a touch of aggression
On the outside, the AMG GLA 35 ticks all boxes for a small sporty SUV in my opinion. Its snazzy yet rounded proportions offer a youthful exterior, while the AMG additions give it just enough aggression without being overly gaudy.
As for the AMG additions, at the front, the GLA35 gets a unique radiator grille with vertical louvres, a front bumper with lateral louvres in the air ducts and a front splitter.
Round the sides, the GLA 35 is fitted with 20-inch AMG 5-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels, which cover large 350 mm cross-drilled rotors up front and 330 mm units at the rear.
Wrapping up the rear is an AMG rear bumper with two round tailpipes (versus the regular oblong trim pieces) and the AMG spoiler lip just above the roof spoiler.
Interior - Premium, with all the AMG goodies you'll ever want
Getting inside the GLA 35, the bucket seats, contrasting topstitching, and red seatbelts really create a sense of occasion.
Alongside, the twin 10.25-inch screens and ambient lights come to life to deliver in my opinion, the best in class experience with regard to quality, design, and user-friendliness.
Courtesy of the AMG-specific aditions, the instrument cluster now gets the AMG menu and display designs, similar to more expensive AMG models.
In my opinion, the biggest highlight of the GLA 35's interior is the steering wheel. Superbly designed and lovely to hold, it now gets AMG's rotary knob drive mode selector and switch stalk - just like the AMG GT supercar.
The front seats though superbly supportive, are too hard for my liking, such that you tend to feel a strain on your back after an hour or so of driving.
With that said, the rear seats are quite accomodating, and not too bad even on longer journeys.
Overall, the GLA 35 scores well for the interior, and the cabin refinement is decent as well.
Save for tyre roar, which becomes a bit pronounced at higher speeds, the GLA 35 actually scores better overall than GLA 250, as per our dB measurements at speeds of 60 km/h, 90 km/h, and 110 km/h.
Fuel consumption - the best of any AMG you can buy
There's little to fault in terms of the GLA 35's efficiency, it's one of the best we've ever sampled in an AMG model.
Over a combined driving trip of 102.1 km inclusive of highway and city driving as well as our 0-100 km/h tests, the tested fuel consumption of the Mercedes-Benz GLA 35 worked out to be 10.1-litre/100 km.
The trip computer displayed an average of 10.8-litre/100 km, overly pessimistic for how well the GLA 35 actually performed.
Driving experience - Every bit a fast AMG, but...
The GLA 35 ticks all the boxes as a trendy and stylish compact SUV, and the fact that it allows for AMG bragging rights should be reason enough to buy one.
I know you sense a but coming, but let's concentrate on the positives - first off, the driving position is spot on. It's great that one can sit snug and low within the cabin and yet have a superb view of the outside due to the GLA 35's elevated ride height.
The steering weightage is a tad too light in Comfort mode but weighs up beautifully once in the Sport and Sport+ modes. Courtesy of the rotary mode selector, you simply flick it once to the right and the GLA 35 sharpens up almost instantly ahead of a series of corners.
On the other hand, the GLA 35's suspension isn't quite as finessed as I would like.
Yes it's an AMG, but it is a Mercedes first before it is an AMG, and there is certainly a level of expectation that any car wearing the three-pointed star must match. If a Honda Civic Type R can set lap records and still ride so comfortably, what more a Mercedes.
The front end is superbly set up such that it's composed on a spirited drive or even if you're cruising around the city. The rear, however, is simply too stiff, it's good on a twisty backroad but around town, the rear feels overly sprung and excessively bumpy, especially if you have passengers at the back.
That said, the brakes are simply excellent. Providing superb feel and stopping power to anchor down this 1,680 kg welterweight with ease.
Add to that the massive amounts 4Matic AWD grip available on-demand and you have an SUV that's quick on any given road.
This brings us to the aforementioned fizz, a recurring theme you will find even in our Volkswagen Golf R review. For better or worse, both the Golf R and GLA 35 are so good, almost to a fault.
Between the 306 PS and 400 Nm of torque on tap and sublime traction, there's little in the way of dexterity and intuition to make the GLA 35 go fast.
And because you aren't as engaged in proceedings, it simply doesn't not put a smile on your face like how a Honda Civic Type R orMazda MX-5can. This, depending on how you look at it, may be good for some drivers and not for others.
The GLA 35 excels for its styling, power, traction, and efficiency and it's priced competitively.
The rear suspension setup can be a deal breaker if you are looking for a great balance of comfort and performance, but otherwise, it's plenty surefooted on a twisty backroad.
The GLA 35 is best surmised as a superb entry point into the Mercedes-AMG family, albeit if it lacks the vital fizz and organic feedback some drivers so long for - but if you want a fast SUV, then this is a great place to start.
Arvind can't remember a time when he didn't wheel around a HotWheels car. This love evolved into an interest in Tamiya and RC cars and finally the real deal 1:1 scale stuff. Passion finally lead to formal training in Mechanical Engineering. Instead of the bigger picture, he obsesses with the final drive ratio and spring rates of cars and spends the weekends wondering why a Perodua Myvi is so fast.