15 September 2020
15 September 2020
It is truly remarkable how happy people can be about driving around in circles.
When I lent the new Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 to my Real World Wife (her professional title, as she provides me with the kind of non-expert car-testing feedback money can’t buy), I was entirely sure I could predict her reaction.
She would be madly in love with the seating position, which is a full 10cm higher than in the previous GLA (and a whopping 14cm higher than it is in the A-Class hatch on which this urban SUV was originally based).
Sitting in a commanding driver’s seat, looking down on creation, makes her unfeasibly happy; as does any car with what she calls “good vision”.
And, to be fair, she was glowing in her reports about how glassy the GLA 250’s cabin is, thanks to its standard, double-paned panoramic roof and big windows.
But no, what she was excited about was the turning circle, which is, apparently, “miraculous”.
In more technical terms, it would be described as 11.9 metres, and it is very impressive. It’s also just part of the efforts that have been made to make this new GLA 250 – which has more headroom and vastly more legroom in the back (a whole 12cm) yet somehow manages to be 14mm shorter overall – easier to manoeuvre in the tight spaces of the urban jungle where it will mostly live.
What’s clear from the outset is just how attractive the new GLA 250 looks. While the original was described as an A-Class not so much on stilts as on stilettos, this new one takes on more of the rugged family shape of the Mercedes-Benz SUV range, to which it is now the elegant entry point.
From its ruggedly attractive grille to svelte rear end, it is a masterful piece of exterior design.
As something of a walking, and driving, male cliché, however, what I loved most was the high-tech cabin, which looks and feels like a slice of future fantasy brought to life.
Truly, the long, luminous stretch of digital screen that forms both the driver’s display and the touch interface for all the controls – as well as providing a suitably iPad-like surround for your Apple CarPlay output – looks like something you’d expect to find in a concept car at a motor show, not on the road.
That central screen also allows you to access the car’s fabulous MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) system, which lets you pretty much run the car’s various systems just by saying “Hey Mercedes”. You don’t have to press a button.
Frankly, the GLA 250 is so good to look at, and so pleasant to be inside, that the fact it’s so much fun to drive seems like the most splendid bonus. With its 2.0-litre engine making a potent 165kW and 350Nm, it has grunt to spare, and while it’s a smooth machine in Comfort mode, pushing it into its Sport setting really brings out the beast, and its howl.
The fact that the 250 variant is also equipped with 4MATIC all-wheel drive means this particular GLA also comes with an Off-Road mode, for tackling loose surfaces or the snowy climbs to a ski resort.
What my wife noticed, after she stopped spinning around in car parks, is the ride quality. It feels solid, effortless and Teutonic. German engineering at its best, and what you’d expect to find in a car more than twice the price of the GLA 250.
This article was commissioned by Mercedes-Benz New Zealand.
By Stephen Corby