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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA (H247) Review

This new generation of the GLA as a product, is surely a substantial step in the right direction for Mercedes towards this segment.

BHPian karan561 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Likes

  • Exterior Looks (AMG line kit + a great set of wheels but importantly the GLA finally looks like a compact SUV & not a tall hatchback)
  • Engine & gearbox performance (190 HP & 400 NM & 8-Speed DCT combo)
  • Interiors (modernized & functional)
  • 4MATIC (grip & security)

Dislikes

  • Pricing (this segment has become expensive)
  • Missing features (360 Deg. camera, rear parking sensors, HUD etc.)
  • Ride quality (though better than the stiffer outgoing model, but could have been even better with thicker sidewall & smaller rims)
  • Less boot space (even though the new gen GLA has 15% more cargo carrying capacity than the previous gen, still its the smallest boot in the segment)

Video Review

New vs Old

As you can see, the new generation GLA not only looks modernised but also more self confident. The 2nd-gen GLA gets a new grille (chrome diamond black), new bumpers (AMG Line / body styling), power wedges on the bonnet, restyled multi-beam LED headlights & an overall upright stance are some of the distinguishing features upfront.

At the rear, the new taillights adopt the family look of SUVs from the Mercedes stable. The AMG Line treatment continues with an aggressive rear diffuser. The new GLA also gets a wider track width. Do note that the luggage space has increased & now can accommodate approx 15% more cargo.

From the side, there's no doubt that the new GLA looks and feels much more sporty, confident & SUV-like than the older model thanks to it being 10 cm higher and the squared off wheel arches. Love the 19" AMG wheels (previous gen was equipped with 18"ers) offered on this AMG Line trim now available on the GLA. Do notice the shorter overhangs, both front & rear, but also interesting to note that the old generation GLA is longer than the new but the wheelbase is more in the new generation freeing up more interior space, which we discuss next. The previous gen GLA looked like a bloated, taller A-Class, where as the new GLA somewhat looks like a smaller GLC from the side.

Interior

Interior space was where the GLA really needed an upgrade, especially the rear seat space.

As you can see in the above pic, I am seated in the old gen (Red) car in the rear seat and you can see the lack of space, thigh support and also the headroom. While the pic below is from the new gen GLA & the pic is self explanatory.

This 2nd gen GLA has 116 mm more headroom, 45 mm more elbow room, 43 mm more shoulder room & 114 mm more legroom at the rear. More Legroom is evident and overall airiness has also increased irrespective of this black interior. The new gen GLA's rear seat does get travel and does recline too to free up more luggage area in the boot for oddly shaped cargo.

Front

The new gen GLA gets an all new interior just like the current new SUV / Sedans from the Mercedes stable like GLE, GLS etc. The new layout which we see in the W223 S-Class & W206 C-Class will take time to be implemented (may be reserved for the 3rd Gen, if not the facelift). Overall, love the all black upholstery on the seats, there is a generous use of Alcantara with Red Stitching which adds to the sportiness to the cabin.

Some of the highlighting features are as under:

  • New twin screen dashboard & with a customisable cluster.
  • New gen steering wheel with touch control buttons.
  • Higher seating position.
  • Pan Roof retained.
  • MBUX system.

Overall, the design of the dashboard, material selection, and the overall premium feel delivered to an entry level Compact SUV is really commendable.

Its interesting to see that features like the radar/sensor based brake assist have made way to the Indian market but the 360 Deg. Camera, Rear Parking Sensors & a HUD haven't.

Driving the All New GLA 220d 4MATIC

The All new GLA gets an all new Ppatform called the MFA-2 platform (Modular Front Architecture 2). Cars like the A-Class, CLA, GLB etc. use this platform. In other words, its being used by front wheel drive models, however, it is compatible to use the 4MATIC AWD system which is available in this case which is a front biased AWD, but more on that later as before that, we discuss the engines.

The GLA variant line up in India is largely down to 3 engine options, the base petrol which is the Renault sourced 1.3L Turbo. Then there is a top of the line locally assembled 35 AMG & then there is this, the 220 Diesel. The OM654 220d gets about 190 HP & 400 NM which gives the GLA a really ANIMATED driving experience.

This thing is FAST, I think this engine really makes the GLA very distinctive & if i am not wrong, this may be the fastest car in the segment. I know cars are getting very expensive these days and the GLA is not exactly cheap. But this variant here is making the same exact torque as the GLA 35 AMG which is almost INR 15L more expensive. Hence, this surely makes it a tremendous performer and FAST enough for you to not really consider the AMG at all. Also, if you'd drive sensibly, one can achieve 15+ km/l easily where the added ratio of the gearbox comes in handy. The gearbox is new and now the 220d gets an 8-speed DCT against the 7-speed DCT of the previous generation. This added ratio helps the GLA with better gearing for improved acceleration and also good economy mentioned earlier as it can maintain lower rpms thanks to more gears available.

Suspension / Ride Quality

The suspension, the tuning is really good as it does deliver a good ride quality considering we are on a 19" setup. However, it still won't flatten out deep potholes for you as you do have to note that with an 19" setup on an entry-level Mercedes, the tyre profile (50) is still low for an SUV.

Handling

The GLA handles well for its size & that's not a surprise. If it wouldn't have handled well, then it would have been a downer. Its got the moves & it's agile enough to keep you engaged & on the limit, the 4MATIC will always be on the lookout for you & helping. Hence, a strong point for this variant was the 4MATIC AWD system. It's important to note that this is a full time AWD and not switchable system. Though yes it is surely front biased which is felt when driving hard, but this would be far better than the FWD variant for driving fast or during monsoons and yeah, it also would be very handy Off Road or during Trail Driving.

The steering is also very predictable in most situations and doesn't spoil the handling. However, the previous generation had a stiffer suspension setup and was a bit more friendly in corners. Do also note that the previous generation was lower slung too.

Miscellaneous Points

  • The GLA model compared (Red GLA) in the video & this thread is the previous generation post facelift model.
  • This new Generation Model of the GLA is having the chassis Code H247 whereas the previous was X156.
  • This MFA2 platform also supports full EV & will be available in the form of the EQA.
  • Front seats are now fixed higher enabling the rear passengers to slide their feet under the seats easily. This needed mentioning as in the previous gen, this was not possible.
  • Wheelbase has been increased in the new gen by approx 30 mm.
  • In Eco the Car acts almost like a front wheel drive as upto 80% of the power is sent to the front wheels, in sport/dynamic it goes into a 70:30 ratio but in Off Road Situations the AWD systems' clutch acts as an inter-axle differential lock, to give a balanced 50:50 Power Split.
  • Ground clearance is up by 9 mm.
  • The 220d engine sounds good at almost all rpms.
  • Paddle shifters are a joy to use as they are made of full metal.
  • Indicators have the windscreen wiper controls. Its annoying as I mistakenly set them on quite a few times.
  • Yet another Mercedes with fake exhaust tips.
  • The GLA had a radar/sensor based Auto Braking feature.
  • Rear boot/trunk is now powered, where as in the previous gen, it wasn't.
  • Space Saver has been placed in the boot, eats up the cargo area.
  • The Boot sill has been lowered for better/easier access for loading/unloading.
  • Tyre Profile is 235/50 R19 in the new gen, where as the previous gen GLA has 235/50 R18.

Final Thoughts

The GLA competes with the likes of the Volvo XC40, BMW X1 & Audi Q3. When the 1st Generation GLA was launched about 8 years back, it was clearly positioned as an entry level compact SUV offered by Mercedes. But, it lacked the 'SUVness' and space. This new generation of the GLA as a product, is surely a substantial step in the right direction for Mercedes towards this segment.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

 
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