SUVs are the flavour of the season and are loved by all as they make a lot of sense for our road conditions. If you want to have an SUV from a premium carmaker like Mercedes-Benz, your most accessible option is the GLA. Up until now, the GLA has been more of an urban crossover-kind of a car but for the year 2021, Mercedes-Benz has rolled out the GLA with a slew of updates. Here’s our review of it.
The first thing that you notice is the fact that the new GLA has become more SUV-like. A big factor that helps towards giving this solid first impression is the fact that the GLA now has a significantly higher roof. Additionally, the large 19-inch wheels, the sloping roofline and the wide base of the car give the GLA a very different stance as compared to the older model. It also sports the latest grille design which looks great.2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
Once you are inside the GLA, you notice the big change which is the new interior design. This marks a far better improvement in almost every department as compared to the older GLA. You have new design elements all across the cabin including a nice metallic-finish insert on the dash but the highlight is the driver-side half of the dash. You have a large glass slab in front of you which gives off the impression that there is a continuous, large screen even though there are two screens fitted inside that one panel. Regardless, it looks really nice and will be a conversation starter whenever you have someone sit inside the car for the first time.
What I also liked are the rotate-to-close AC vents which have a meticulous design. Additionally, when you can see the ambient light at night, these vents light up from the inside as well. This, in my opinion, is the party trick of the GLA.2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
Other than that, let’s talk about the steering-mounted controls. Does anyone remember the Blackberry phones? No, just me?
Nevertheless, you have trackpads on the steering wheel which are touch sensitive and the left half of the steering wheel operates the infotainment system and the right half of it operates the all-digital instrument cluster. It’s a really nice and convenient setup. In terms of practicality, you have lots of space around you and you even have a tray that you can slide open which will reveal the wireless charging pad.2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
What I want to talk about also are the USB ports. There are 5 of them inside the car, one you have in the centre console, two of them are in the elbow box and there are two for those seated at the back – all of them are USB-C. I think that’s great future-proofing as everything is going to be USB-C anyway, so good thinking on behalf of Mercedes-Benz. If you are concerned about how to use them for the time being and don’t have a device that has a USB-C port, you can get yourself an adapter that is fairly cheap and can be brought online.
Moving on, Mercedes-Benz has made some rather odd choices with the GLA as it misses some essential features. First, the car has no proximity sensors so you do not get that beeping sound indicating the distance between the car and the obstacle when you are parking it. Then, the doors do not auto-unlock sensing the key’s proximity so instead, you have to take the key out of your pocket and open the car by pressing the button every time. Lastly, while it does have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, you cannot use it wirelessly.2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
Other than these things, though, the GLA covers all the other bases.
Let’s talk about the infotainment system that the car has. This is the new MBUX infotainment system and there are three ways that you can operate it. You’ve got the trackpad, as I mentioned earlier, you can do things by touching the screen as well and then, you also have a trackpad that has great haptic feedback. There are lots of customisation options too and that includes ‘Themes’ which you can select. Once selected the complete display layout, colour and design elements on both the infotainment system and the instrument cluster change completely. The GLA will show you the relevant information based on the Theme that you have selected.2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
Alright, it is time for the back seat experience and the moment you sit here, you will realise that there is a lot more space on offer as compared to the older generation GLA. For reference, I’m 5’10” and after setting the driver seat as per my height, I still had a good amount of legroom, knee room and a decent amount of headroom on offer. The seats are comfortable. Having three people sit abreast will be a bit of a squeeze so it’s best for two. You also have a large sunroof which lets a lot of light in and makes the car feel more spacious. While the cabin is spacious, the boot space is decent at best.2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
Coming to the driving experience of the GLA, let’s keep it real. The chances of it going proper off-roading is negligible and even though it now looks more robust and SUV-like, the GLA will live its life on city and highway roads. In the city, the GLA feels ever-so-easy to drive thanks to its light steering wheel and the big wave of torque that the diesel engine is happy to deliver at low RPM. The gearbox does not disappoint either and altogether, the car feels effortless in the city. Also, in my opinion, this size of an SUV is a great fit for city roads.2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
As for the suspension and the chassis setup, the car absorbs bad patches of the road pretty well but you do have to be a little cautious going over sharp bumps. But as the speeds climb, things get better and the GLA becomes truly delightful. The ride quality becomes even more stable and the car feels responsive and agile even at triple-digit speeds.2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA. (Photo: Manav Sinha/News18.com)
It is also here that you can thoroughly enjoy the 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel engine that makes 190 hp and a sweet 400 Nm of torque. Here, this torquey diesel engine is well complemented by the 8-speed DCT gearbox. The keyword, though, is refinement, not performance. So keep that in mind that this is not an all-out sporty SUV but is so well refined that it will still be a delight to drive in almost all conditions. Just don’t expect it to be the quickest in the segment.
So to sum it all up, the Mercedes-Benz GLA has changed itself quite a lot and that’s not only in terms of the way it looks but in the image that it brings along with itself. This is something that a lot of people who are interested in this car will appreciate. And when you add to the equation the latest design language by Mercedes-Benz with the new interior package, you have a car that’s a really convincing proposition. Yes, there are a few features that are missing but overall, the Mercedes-Benz GLA has gone from a car that I wouldn’t really recommend to it being my pick of the segment.