Mercedes takes on rivals in competitive segment

The GLA is a small vehicle with a big mission - to help make Mercedes-Benz the leading premium car company in New Zealand.

The GLA compact SUV is aimed directly at such competitors as the Audi Q3 and BMW's X1 in New Zealand's fastest growing segment.

Mercedes-Benz NZ launched the diesel version in Queenstown this week with the petrol 4Matic ($76,900) due here in July and the sporty GLA45 AMG ($99,900) set for October arrival.

Priced from $64,900, the GLA 2.2-litre front wheel drive diesel is set to attract new customers to the brand due to the competitive price and impressive list of standard features.


These include blind spot assist, nine airbags, active park assist, reversing camera and collision prevention - where drivers are given visual and audio warning that they are too close to the car ahead.

But it will be the two petrol model GLAs that will be the power players for Mercedes-Benz NZ and with the addition next year of the GLK and in 2016 of the MLC mid-sized SUVs, the company will be able to tackle BMW and Audi, which lead the luxury off-roader market.

Mercedes-Benz NZ general manager, Ben Giffin, said that not only was the German company the number one luxury brand for passenger vehicles here but year on year sales increased 28 per cent.

For the likes of BMW and Audi, the SUV segment makes up to 30 per cent of its sales here, while Mercedes has been sitting at 10 per cent.

"The SUV segment is a segment we haven't been able to compete in because we haven't had the product," said Giffin.

"But the GLA is part of the onslaught of getting to the number one spot in New Zealand."

Giffin expects that by the time the GLK is on sale in New Zealand, he'll have 30 to 40 per cent of his sales in the SUV segment.

In September he will also have the new C-Class sedan plus the S-Class coupe - both were on display at the recent Geneva motor show.

Sitting between the A- and B-Class cars, and on similar platforms as those two hatchbacks, the GLA is a striking looking vehicle as it has inherited similar styling.

The compact SUV is 6cm taller than the A-Class, and 6cm shorter than the B-Class but has a high riding position that is favoured by customers.

With an eight-speed auto transmission paired to the four-cylinder diesel engine, the SUV performs at its best at speed, smoothly moving the gears to get to the sweet spot.

Although its job is not to be an off-roader - that position belongs to the 2-litre petrol 4Matic all-wheel-drive - the GLA 200 coped with a couple of gravel tracks around Clyde during the press launch, and handled the winding roads around Queenstown.

But now the GLA moves out of the Central Otago tourist town and into dealerships where Mercedes-Benz expects it will be on the shopping list of customers looking for a luxury compact SUV.