I have been quite vocal about my dislike of crossovers. Especially cars like the Seltos, Sonet, Brezza that have bonkers styling ques on them and are more hatches than a real SUV in any form of way. Funnily enough, my father was very close to buying a Skoda Kushaq which I feel is a little less sacrilegious, but nevertheless, I would choose the new Slavia over the Kushaq.
Mercedes got in touch with me for our next media car collab. We had just gotten out of the A35 AMG and that experience had left me a little sour. The car was great, plenty fast, very good as a package, but it just didn’t have that X-Factor that we car enthusiasts want. I was really trying my chances to get some real AMG thunder under my belt with the E63 AMG.
But unfortunately, the E63 wasn’t available at the time. So, I was left with 2 choices – the GLA35 AMG or the GLA220d 4MATIC. Now, most people in my position would choose the AMG any day. But me being me, I thought to myself, I already know what to expect from the GLA35 since I just got out of the A35. So when I said GLA220d to the Mercedes representative, even he had this weird shock that I chose the diesel over performance petrol.
A few days later, the shiny new Mercedes was under my building.
Unfortunately, the morning the car was delivered, I wasn’t home, I was out filming with the Triumph Street Triple RS, I know, what a first-world problem. In the evening, once I chilled out for some time in the afternoon, I took the car out for a spin in the evening to meet a few friends.
Immediately, a certain level of confidence was shot up my spine when I went over the first speed breaker. You see, I drive a Skoda Laura 1.8 TSI that has been modified to Stage 2 with 30mm Lowering Springs from Cobra Suspension. So, comfort really isn’t a word in my dictionary and ground clearance is something very alien.
The GLA220d isn’t the most comfortable car in the world, but the compact dimensions, punchy diesel motor, impressive ground clearance and floaty suspension meant that it was the perfect city blaster. Yes, not everyone can afford a 50-lac rupee luxury crossover but if you have the money, why not?
The GLA220d is a really good product in that space currently. The current X1 is ancient, they haven’t come out with the Audi Q3 and the XC40 just doesn’t have the support needed. The GLA220d moreover trumps everything else in the segment with its stylish interior. Yes, the quality of some of the parts, especially the plastics isn’t as solid as a BMW’s but the design and functionality of it are just amazing. The cabin doesn’t bore you at all and always seems to have something fun hiding up its sleeve. The dual-screen setup has really grown on me and moreover, the MBUX system, when I first tried it out, felt really annoying to use, but over time, with me experiencing more and more Mercedes products, felt easier and easier to use.
BMW’s iDrive has just a different level of simplicity to it, even a monkey can operate it, that’s how easy it is, but the Merc one, once you understand the controls and shortcuts, is a real delight. More importantly, Mercedes have used the functionality of its steering wheel to its maximum potential with the infotainment controls on the left-hand side and the instrument cluster and cruise control functions on the right-hand side.
Not all is a fairytale wonderland about the MBUX in the GLA though. The Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t wireless and don’t even cover the whole screen.
Overall, the cabin is a joy to be seated in, the model we got was the AMG line model, which meant we had the fancy steering, sports seats and some cool little red stitching and AMG touches everywhere.
We took the GLA220d to our shoot location on a cold Monday morning and our objective was to try and slide the GLA on the loose gravel track we found in Kharadi. Now most of these small crossovers, are really difficult to get sliding, be it on tarmac or even gravel. The not-so-powerful engines disable them from overpowering the wheels and more importantly, most of these small luxury cars have safety embedded so deep inside them, that even when the ESC is off, it never really is, especially with Mercedes.
So, I whacked the car into sports mode, turned the ESC off, and started to roll. Once I was at an angle the camera wanted, I buried my foot into the throttle and flicked the steering and surprisingly, the GLA220d reciprocated quite well to this. The next thing you know, I am doing massive 4 wheel slides on the dirt and the GLA220d could hold a slide for quite a distance before the engine fell out of oomph to keep it going. More impressive was that, the GLA could actually kick the tail out at the initial part of the slide which meant I was having to do the opposite lock in the steering which is a very weird sensation in compact luxury diesel crossover. These shenanigans helped me understand that the GLA was actually a decent handling car. I hadn’t gotten the chance to take it to any twisties but the learnings from this activity helped me to understand that the GLA might actually be fun in some bends.
When it came to the looks, the new GLA definitely looks more muscular and “SUV” than its predecessor. The old GLA looked like they had taken an A-Class, jacked it up and slapped some black plastic on the outside and called it day. Whereas this new one, yeah, calling it a proper 4×4 offroader is quite the stretch, but definitely carries more SUV DNA than the last one. The AMG rims are shared with the likes of the A35 AMG and the AMG line bumpers and rear bumpers give it that aggressive and intimidating road presence. But Mercedes being Mercedes has added the fakest exhaust outlets ever.
Overall, the GLA220d was a really positive experience. I can see why you would buy the GLA220d 4MATIC. I am still not sold on the whole mini-SUV, crossover thingies but the GLA220d is definitely a more acceptable version of that formula. I don’t think I will buy an SUV-crossover thing anytime soon just because I like my butt as close to the ground as possible but I would definitely recommend it to my south Mumbai and Koregaon Park friends who claim to be adventurous.
Mercedes GLA220d 4-Matic
Engine: 1950cc / Inline 4-Cylinder Diesel / Turbocharged
Transmission: 8-Speed Torque converter Automatic with paddle shift
Power: 188bhp @ 3800rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,600rpm
|– Looks more butch and Muscular than its Predecessor|
– Punchy powertrain
– Surprisingly capable dynamically
|-Very steep pricing|
TDH Verdict: It's a winner in the premium 50-Lakh crossover shootout but fails to justify its pricing. The Diesel is the one to pick.