All eyes on Merc s new GLA crossover

By Liz Dobson

Luxury carmaker offers addition to popular compact SUV segment

The GLA diesel has been on the market a month now, with the petrol version due next month. Pictures / Ted Baghurst
The GLA diesel has been on the market a month now, with the petrol version due next month. Pictures / Ted Baghurst

While pop-up stores are popular with foodies and clothing labels, there's a consumer sector that could benefit from setting up a temporary shop -- luxury car companies.

Mercedes-Benz NZ tried a pop-up dealership last year to promote the A-Class hatchback and is doing it again this month in Auckland and Queenstown -- but it's focusing on business areas.

Instead I reckon Mercedes, along with other premium brands, should set up shop outside high-end supermarkets especially if they plonk their wares near the door so consumers can't help but have a squiz as they squeeze past.

While on holiday in Sydney over Easter I noticed Peugeot Australia did exactly that -- plonk an RCZ at the entranceway to a popular mall in the central city.

My pop-up supermarket plan came to me when I was testing the recently launched Mercedes-Benz GLA compact crossover. While the diesel model was the first to land here, the petrol version is due next month and the souped up AMG sports edition is expected in September.

The GLA diesel has been on the market a month now and Mercedes-Benz NZ boss Ben Giffin is happy with the pick-up.

"We are extremely pleased with the customer response to the GLA 200 CDI since launch, and even more pleasing is the excitement that's building around the soon to be released GLA 250 4MATIC," says Giffin.

"We really feel the choice of engines and high standard specification levels have given the customer a definitive choice when it comes to buying a compact SUV."

While the GLA 200 CDI has the standard retail price from $64,900, my model was pimped up with a panoramic glass roof, 19in AMB black alloy wheels, the AMG styling package (including red stitching on the black dash) and comfort seats - adding $7000 to the bill.

So on day one of my test, I had parked the GLA in front of New World Freemans Bay and when I returned with a few bags of food for my ever-hungry teenage kids, I found an Audi Q7 owner peering into the window.

As the GLA was fresh off the boat, Mr Audi hadn't seen one before and was keen to inspect the new addition to the highly popular compact SUV segment.

And he wasn't the only curious driver I encountered during my seven-day drive programme.

Heads turned when I drove past packed sports fields on the Saturday; as I left my work carpark opposite the Auckland District Court, lawyers did double takes at the GLA and even Driven's usually cynical photographer was impressed with the look of the vehicle.


Under the bonnet, the front-wheel drive 2.1-litre diesel is paired with Mercedes' seven-speed auto transmission. The manufacturer's fuel economy figure is given as 4.6l/100km -- while my best effort was 4.9l/100km over a seven day drive programme.

The diesel engine is at its optimum performance once in seventh gear, with a slight delay in response in lower gears. But being lower to the ground than its competitors, the GLA handles body roll well, and gives a firm ride.

Style-wise, the GLA closely resembles the A-Class but with 155mm ground clearance, it sits slightly higher than the Mercedes hatch -- but doesn't have that high drive position that many compact SUV owners love.

The GLA has the same console as the hatch -- even retaining the centre screen that looks as if it was plonked in at the last minute.

The standard safety features of the GLA are impressive: blind spot monitoring (an all-time favourite of mine); reversing camera, parking assist, collision warning and airbags galore.

Sitting at 1.494m, the GLA is shorter but cheaper than its main German diesel rivals -- the Audi A3 (1.608m and $72,500) and BMW Z1 (1.545m and $67,000).

But my pick for GLA's nearest competitor is the Volvo V40 Cross Country. The vehicles are similar in price (the V40 diesel is priced at $62,990), are of similar height (with the V40 36mm shorter) and maintain similar angular looks.

While the diesel GLA will pick up buyers, it will be the petrol four-wheel-drive that will see an influx of luxury compact SUV buyers to Mercedes. Especially if the crossover is parked near swanky supermarkets.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 28 Dec 2014 01:02:26 Processing Time: 555ms