Mercedes-Benz has sent a brand new GLA into the world. Unlike its predecessor, this is really its own model, but the world has changed a lot. We would like to discover whether the new GLA can handle that world.
We can hardly imagine it now, but in 2013 it was still the most natural thing in the world that you filled an extensive hall complex with the latest cars, and then let hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts walk shoulder to shoulder in between and around it. We think back with melancholy to the IAA of that year, when the German International Fair was still held in Frankfurt. The biggest news at the Mercedes-Benz stand was the GLA, a crossover based on the A-class. You could argue, and we did, that Mercedes made it a bit easy for itself, but you have to realize that crossovers were on the rise then, but were not nearly as booming as now. In 2020, just about the maximum expiration date of that first-generation GLA, the world has changed drastically. The competition field has become bigger and fiercer and that is why Mercedes devised a full-fledged crossover to replace the first GLA. Hence, in this generation change, unlike usually the case, the difference is immediately noticeable at first glance. The new GLA is clearly higher, despite the slimmer impression it makes thanks to a clever play with the lines of the side windows. The high nose and the more vertical stern also make the second GLA much more crossover than its predecessor.
The interior of the new GLA offers a lot more news, because just like the higher-positioned models, the A-class, and now also the GLA, has that enormous screen that covers two-thirds of the width of the dashboard. Besides looking beautiful and high-tech, it also offers mountains of information, plus the possibility to arrange everything according to taste. You do this by choosing from all kinds of ‘experience worlds’. Unfortunately, the operation of all that beauty is less successful. Ideally, you do everything with voice commands, but that often leads to some misunderstandings between man and machine. More certain is the touch panel between the seats, but that requires dexterity and attention, which you can better focus on the road.
Although shorter than its predecessor, the wheelbase of the new GLA is three centimeters longer, which bodes well for interior space. In the back, the headroom has shrunk a bit, but there is enough play to call it still more than adequate. The legroom is quite ample, all the more because there is a lot of space under the front seats, so you can sit almost with straight legs. You can also adjust the angle of the backrest and the sofa can also be moved in the direction of travel for an additional fee. In the front you are also in the right place in this Benz, with a great all-round view. The trunk space is fine with 435 liters (expandable to 1,430 liters).
Externally, the new GLA has become a real crossover. That also applies to the driving behavior, although we mean that slightly less complimentary. The GLA clearly tends to comfort and Mercedes-Benz may have gone too far, making it a somewhat shaky character, especially with firm steering. The fact that it is ‘only’ at 17 inches will be partly to blame, as well as the fact that the GLA leans out over its nose in fast corners. The controls are also on the light side and do not offer much experience. The downside of this medal, which will not surprise many, is that the GLA is wonderfully comfortable with quiet use. Certainly on slippery road surfaces, but he also knows how to defy those insufferable Dutch speed bumps above average. The engine keeps well in the background; only when you push it to the limit does the somewhat raw sound of the modest 1.3-liter machine come out a bit too emphatically. With little load, two cylinders are switched off, but you just have to know that, because you hardly notice it. The seven-speed automatic transmission also does its job almost unnoticed, it is a pity that he needs quite a bit of time to think about the switch from D to R. Not a deal breaker perhaps, but that irritates maneuvering.