2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

‘Affordable’ Mercedes



  • 박재승 (james@koreatimes.net) --
  • 07 Feb 2018

By James Park


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For a luxury automaker, brand recognition is a double-edged sword.

   To keep the value, one needs to be exclusive. Unfortunately, exclusivity does not always guarantee satisfying profit margins. But reducing price (unthinkable!) or adding cheaper models to attract new customers may lead to significant dilution of the brand value. Everybody knows maintaining balance is the key, but it’s not as easily done than said.

   Mercedes-Benz is not immune to this conundrum. The German manufacturer has built its reputation as premier luxury carmaker on the backbones of S and E-Class sedans. On the other hand, Mercedes also has to make money and pay its growing number of employees.

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   All this is to point out the significance of relatively inexpensive models such as the B-Class hatch, CLA sedan and the GLA utility vehicles added to the Mercedes line-up. These cars should go a long way in attracting younger and less affluent customers, as well as bolster the company’s coffers.

   The question is: are they truly good enough to earn the vaunted tri-star logo?

   Let’s focus on one example of the cheaper Mercedes – the GLA 250. In and of itself, this smallest of the company’s utility lineup is a nifty little runabout that boasts decent power and agile handling.

   Introduced to the North American market in 2014 as a 2015 year model, the GLA sports an attractive hatchback design that is easier, at least to this writer’s eyes than its larger sibling, the GLC. For 2018, the car’s exterior is largely unchanged except for the slightly modified front grill and bumper. A newly designed 18’ alloy wheels are also available.

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   The car uses a front-wheel-drive (FWD) platform, but most Canadian customers would probably ask for the all-wheel-drive (in Mercedes-speak, 4Matic) option.

   Weighing in at relatively svelte 1,565 kg (3,450 lb), the GLA 250 can scoot to 100 kph in less than seven seconds, thanks to the boosted two-litre four-cylinder engine capable of producing 208 horses and 258 lb-ft of quite respectable torque. Those who demand more power can pay extra for the AMG massaged version.  

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   The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission attached to this engine, however, needs a little more refinement. As you press the gas pedal, the car’s reaction is little sluggish at first and then the power comes on abruptly. Things smooth out once the car gets moving and using the manual mode, via paddle-shifters, is also enjoyable for a while (enthusiasts would prefer the ‘real’ manual, of course).

The drive modes consisting of Comfort, Sport, Individual, Off-Road and Eco seem like overkill. For about ninety-five percent of the time, Comfort does the trick. More finicky driver can set the steering weight, suspension damping and the power mapping to his or her like by fiddling with the Individual settings.

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   In the Sport mode, the car hunkers down some and the tranny holds each gear a tad longer for more vigorous acceleration. Downside is the obtrusive engine noise unbecoming of a Mercedes product. The ride is bit choppy, but the GLA handles well and the steering is communicative and nicely weighted.

   Also impressive is the overall fit and finish of the car. The heated leather seats are very comfortable, as well as supportive. The rear seats are also suitable for two adults. However, with rear seats up, the cargo area is significantly reduced.

   Compared to more recently restyled models, the GLA’s instrument panel is in need of an upgrade. The Mercedes’ infotainment system is not the most intuitive in the industry, but one can get used to it pretty quickly.

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   This writer has complained about locating the gear-shifter in the place where wiper stalk should be, but Mercedes seems to be convinced of this arrangement. (I’m reminded of BMW motorcycles with turn signal on each handle. After years of insisting, BMW finally admitted its error and has returned to the proper way of doing the signals.)

   Anyway, the GLA makes an enticing argument for purchase with the starting price of $38,500. Don’t be fooled, however, because Mercedes and many other German manufacturers make long lists of option packages and charge extra for them.

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   Case in point, the test-car, which is equipped with almost everything from the panoramic sunroof to the requisite electronic nannies, wants you to fork over $46,970. Tack on the taxes, destination and other fees and the fifty-thousand dollar demarcation would be easily breached.

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   So, is the GLA 250 worth that kind of dough? The short answer is probably not. However, if you are someone who really wants to buy a Mercedes vehicle, go check it out. After all, the decision to buy any kind of automobile is seldom rational. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)

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2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

Price: $38,500

As tested: $46,970

Engine: 2 litre turbo four

Power: 208 hp/258 lb-ft

Transmission: 7 spd DCT

Drive: AWD

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