Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI Review

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Mercedes-Benz has ventured into the baby crossover market with the dinky GLA. Pricing may scare you, but trust me you'll fall in love with this machine. I've been driving the front-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI and think it's one of the best baby crossovers.

Economical engine

The Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 comes with the brilliant 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine. This engine is available in varying states of tune across all Merc products, but here in the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 you get 100 kW and 300 Nm. Performance off the line isn't anything noteworthy, but the car's strength lies in overtaking ability and fuel economy.

On a roadtrip to Ceres for the weekend, the little Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 was most impressive and the trip computer had 5.3 l / 100km proudly displayed for the majority of the trip. The only downside to this engine is the really blatant diesel clatter on start up - it's a proper tractor, but once it's up to temperature and you're cruising, the engine note settles down nicely.

The drive

This GLA in 200 CDI guise is a brilliant open road cruiser. While ride and handling is firm in the Mercedes-Benz A- and CLA-class, I believe the Germans have got it right with the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI. Yes, the ride is firm, but in no way is it unbearable. On an open and smooth road, the car glides along beautifully.

My only gripe with the drive is the gearbox is a little too fuel consumption-orientated. When in eco-mode the car tries its hardest to get to a higher gear as possible so if you come off the accelerator, the car will change up and save fuel. If you suddenly need to overtake, the car will panic and change down two gears, resulting in lurching. Drive in manual mode and use the paddles located behind the steering wheel and you'll be happy.

Specification and optional extras

Standard specification for the Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI includes seat comfort package, media interface, eco start/stop, attention assist, pre-safe system, collision prevention assist, multifunction steering wheel, audio 20 CD, Bluetooth connectivity and stowage space package.

Our test car was jam-packed with optional extras. There was a reversing camera, active park assist, panoramic sliding sunroof, 7G-DCT automatic transmission, COMAND Online, intelligent light system,  Harman Kardon sound, easy pack tailgate, AMG line, mirror package and light & sight package. Out of those options, I would heartily recommend the sound system, AMG line kit which includes beautiful seats, reverse camera and COMAND navigation.

Summary

While many manufacturers have laid claim to the crossover segment with good offerings, Mercedes-Benz has come along and trumped them all with the GLA. The Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI may only be front-wheel drive, but has just enough ground clearance and high-profile rubber tyres to make dirt road driving easy. You can opt for more powerful engines, higher ground clearance and even a performance version called the GLA 45 AMG. This one will sell well, particularly amongst public who crave status symbols.

Second opinion

The Mercedes-Benz GLA seems better when equipped with the brilliant 2.1-litre turbodiesel. It is best used in Sport mode as it is frustrating to drive in town in Eco mode. Once that's sorted, it's more like a raised A-Class but with a less crashy ride, and that's a good thing. - Ashley Oldfield

Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI quick specs

Price  R422 700 (R532 200 as tested)
Engine  2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power 100 kW
Torque 300 Nm
Transmission  Seven-speed Automatic
Wheels  17-inch alloys
0-100km/h  10 seconds (claimed)
Fuel economy  4.5 l/100 km (claimed)
We like: . Style . Economy . Cool gadgets like automatic boot lid and self parallel park

We dislike: . Gearbox is too good at fuel economy . Options can be pricey. Pick carefully!

Also consider: BMW X1 Volvo V40 Cross Country Audi Q3

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