Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d: Beauty Wrapped In Speed And Performance

The A-Class and its derivatives – the CLA sedan and the GLA crossover – stand out from the rest of the Merc family. They are front-or all-wheel-drive and have a lot of non-Germanic exuberance in their styling. And it seems it’s time for a mild refresh for the GLA crossover in its third year of life. The changes are purely cosmetic. The bi-xenon headlights have given way to all-LED headlights. That’s not LED daytime-running lights or LED turn-indicators. The headlights itself are LED-powered. The grille is new and so is the cluster under the bumper. Plus there are some minor, non-obvious tweaks to the aerodynamics. And the ambient, or mood-lighting inside has 12 colour schemes and there’s an 8-inch screen for the in-car interface.

Under the hood, there’s the same 2.0-litre 181bhp petrol that comes with the GLA 200. Then there’s again the 2.1-litre diesel in two states of tune. One making 134bhp, which you’d recognise by the GLA 200d label at the back. If you see a GLA with the 220d label then that makes a healthy 168bhp. And the 220d is the one that comes with Merc’s 4Matic all-wheeldrive. The ride is still a tad firm at slow to medium speeds. But high speeds is where the GLA really comes into its own. This pseudo-crossover based on a pseudo hatch isn’t even close to Merc’s flagship performance machines.

Yet, it’s brilliant at autobahn speeds. Be it sudden turns, sudden lane changes, sudden braking, the GLA remains as calm as a hermit and as confidence-inspiring as seeing your child riding a bicycle with training wheels. And the chassis and the steering keep you well-informed about what’s going on. Inside, you don’t get climate control even in this top-spec GLA. The air-con is effective and silent though and you do get electric seats up front. The COMAND system is still a two-screen, confused affair. You control it via the rotary dial and via the steering buttons. And you can access it via the big centre screen or the small multi-information display between the speedo and tacho. Confusing, right?

There’s a single button above the AC controls to select the driving modes – Sport, Comfort and Individual. But to check which mode you are in, you need to look at your instrument console. It needs to be a one dial, one screen thing. The refreshed GLA comes to a very different market. One where there are traditional rivals like the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. Then there’s also the VW Tiguan, the Jeep Compass (possibly once prices are out) and the bigger and better-value Hyundai Santa Fe. The GLA isn’t the best with space or ride quality, but if you love driving and need a part-time almost-SUV, the GLA is what you should go for.


2143cc, 4cyl turbodiesel, 168bhp, 350Nm, 7A, AWD

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