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Big Baby – 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA review NZ

They say (whoever ‘they’ are) that ‘good things come in little packages’ and that may very well be true for a multitude of things, however, when it came to the generation 2 Mercedes-Benz GLA, ‘good’ was not the benchmark that was expected. Never fear, with gen 3 the luxury German carmaker has ironed out the creases and Mercedes-Benz New Zealand gave us the keys to show how they’d made good – great.

One of the biggest issues of the past was the compact SUV’s look (or lack thereof). It’s not that it wasn’t a handsome vehicle, just not an SUV. Crossover or A-Class on stilts maybe but not in keeping with the ‘GL’ line-up. Now I’m no vehicle designer (evidently), but to me, the creation of the Gen 3’s new look would have been one of the easiest jobs ever – they’ve simply shrunk down the GLC (much in the same way the GLC is a shrunken GLE which is a shrunken GLS – you get the point).

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA review NZ

The new GLA looks like an SUV and more importantly, looks like a Mercedes-Benz SUV. From the tip of its propeller style logo on the grille to the diffuser at the rear. It’s taller and wider than before, yet shorter, smothering I thought would cause a problem for the interior but no.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA review NZ

LED headlights and wider looking air curtains give the 2020 GLA a rugged visage and the huge tyre walls on the 19-inch wheels have a ‘go-anywhere’ look about them. The kicker tailgate opens up to 495L of luggage space (1430L seats down) which solves another gen 2 gripe and the overall design is both progressive and powerful.

My review model was the 250 with the AMG-line package, so came with a few extra bells and whistles but the contrasting blacks worked well with the Mountain Grey metallic paint.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA review NZ

Under the bonnet was a powerful 2L turbocharged engine that Mercedes has managed to squeeze 165kW and 350Nm out of. In turn, you can get from 0-100km/h in 6.7 seconds and consume fuel at 7.5L/100km (I don’t believe you can do that at the same time though). 

As outlined earlier, the 4.43m length is shorter than before BUT the interior boasts greater legroom (another bug bearer removed), it’s bizarre. The ride height is increased and so has the driver’s seating position (+140mm) so that SUV feeling is there in spades – plus it’s easier for older hips like mine to gain entry. What’s more, Mercedes has crammed the cabin full of their latest tech.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA review NZ

The infotainment and instrument cluster screens are as one (as seen in the latest A-Class and many of the other Mercedes vehicles. MBUX caters to your every whim, even offering YELP restaurant reviews. The information is personalisable and vast, yet not overpowering, and can be controlled via voice, control pad on the console, touch screen and thumbs on the steering wheel.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA review NZ

The list of driver and safety aids is what you’d expect from Mercedes, full, clever and helpful (but I still switch off the lane-keep) and overall comfort and finishing is lavish, particular of this ‘first rung of the Mercedes SUV’ model.

Aside from the normal household duties, I tool the new GLA on a run out to a national park north of Auckland. I knew that the roads were twisty and also knew that there was a small section of unsealed tarmac – I’m so clever sometimes.

As the GLA sits on the AMG inspired A-Class frame, I naturally assumed that the ride would be a bit too harsh for an SUV but the Mercedes engineers have ensured that I’m not so clever after all. It’s firm but forgiving. Great for corners (even tight ones) but not jarring on metal. Sport mode has the 8-speed box changing a little quicker and has the whole SUV dancing a little livelier but I was pretty satisfied with it in comfort.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA review NZ

Taller, wider, more luggage space, more legroom (+116mm) and packed with technology, this next-generation GLA has really brought this baby SUV in line with the impressive Mercedes-Benz New Zealand range. It looks the part and has that SUV feel when behind the wheel, what’s more, it can’t be confused with the A-Class any more, maybe the GLC though.

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