Mercedes-Benz with the GLA targeted a segment, it wasn’t really part of. Frankly it didn’t have any competition for the likes of the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1. But when the GLA was first launched in India, most dismissed the car as an A-Class on stilts but Mercedes-Benz knew the potential of this car and the facelift finally made its public debut in January 2017 at the Detroit Motor Show. A little over six months and it’s all set to launch in India.
The stance is more GLC inspired on the Mercedes-Benz GLA facelift
Now, let me make it quite clear; this is probably the mildest of facelifts you’ll see on any car but there’s a lot that’s new. To begin with, the front and rear bumpers of the car are new, they’re reshaped and this has helped it look less like a hatchback and more like an SUV. There’s a simulated underguard in bucket-tooth design with silver chrome in the front bumper. It also gets what Mercedes-Benz calls ‘Powerdomes’ on the bonnet and all this adds to the muscular look of the car.
Mercedes calls the muscular lines on the bonnet as ‘Powerdomes’
Yes, for those who might have already noticed, the entire stance of the car has changed and it’s looking more like a baby GLC rather than an A-Class and that’s because the GLA now offers higher ground clearance than before and that’s 30 mm more (210 mm in total). The LED DRLs continue, but the bi-xenon lights are now replaced with LEDs which are standard across variants and a welcome change. At the rear, the tail lamps too bear similarity to the ones on the GLC and they too are LED.
The cabin has been carried over from the older version, save for the new display screen
While majority of the changes are on the outside, the cabin is carried forward from the predecessor. It features the 8 inch multimedia system (no it isn’t a touchscreen) and gets an integral CD drive for both MP3 and WMA/AAC files. The multifunction steering wheel comes in handy to help you gain control of all the operations of the infotainment system and there’s also an integral telephone keypad, a Bluetooth interface with a hands-free function and an Aux-in and USB socket in the stowage compartment.
The rear seats are still cramped for tall passengers
It also comes with smartphone connectivity and so there’s Apple CarPlay as also Android Auto. The connection to the smartphone allows access to up-to-date software and data such as navigation and traffic information, media (Streaming Media and IP Radio) as well as contact data, telephony/FaceTime and messaging. While all these are new, the boot space remains the same at 421 litres and with the second row down there’s 1235 litres of space on offer. But, if you plan to load up the boot, you will have to choose between your luggage and the space saver. There’s also no change in the wheelbase and hence for people as tall as me (6 footers) this means cramped space at the rear, which is why I got into the driver’s seat.
While the 421 litre boot is generous, the space saver ironically takes up a lot of boot
The facelift might be a mild one but there are no changes to the engines on offer. The 2-litre petrol and 2.1-litre diesel motors continue to power the facelift of the GLA and we got down to driving the diesel. The 2.1-litre diesel churns out 168 bhp (which is the same as before) and the torque of 350 Nm kicks in at around 1500 rpm which makes sure you have power at hand early. That 7-speed dual clutch gearbox helps in seamless transfer of power to the wheels and the paddle shifters make your life easier. The 200d and the 200 petrol do not get the AWD system but the 220d comes with four-wheel drive as standard and thanks to this, you get off to a brisk start right from the word go. Sadly, as the revs build up and go past 2500 rpm, the engine grunt becomes obvious. It’s not an enjoyable sound and you immediately get off the gas. There’s a big change though in the way the GLA rides. The bouncy ride has now given way to a bit of comfort, however, I still feel that the suspension could have been tweaked to be on the softer side, but the ride is not a bumpy one now and that’s a big plus.
All Wheel Drive is now standard on the Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d
It’s more agile too and the higher ground clearance has not hampered the performance of the car. As I’ve told you earlier, all-wheel drive is now standard on the GLA 220d and it comes with Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) which helps to handle steep downhill driving. The speed can be set between four and 18 kmph which makes it easier to navigate through terrains. Driving modes include – Eco, Individual, Off-Road and Dynamic and in each you can tweak the setting of the steering and the engine. The best option is individual, where you put the steering response into Eco mode and the engine response into Sport mode and well, it all falls into place. The 18-inch tyres give you the much needed grip and the GLA maintains its composure when driven into a corner. Now, Mercedes-Benz calls it a genuine off-roader and we can’t wait to test that part out.
The GLA facelift has grown to look like an SUV, instead of the A-Class on stilts
Overall then, the GLA facelift is a welcome change to the company’s portfolio and brings with it a fresh look and outlook. It’s certainly not a hatchback on stilts anymore, rather a baby GLC as we’ve already said before. Mercedes-Benz has done enough to make sure that the GLA remains true to its claim of an SUV and I was pleasantly surprised and genuinely happy that the company has managed to pull it off. The NVH levels in the car and the suspension settings apart, the GLA is a genuine winner and the X1 as also the Q3 now have strong contender to deal with.