The all-new GLA, Mercedes-Benz’s latest compact Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) is a little more sports and a little less compact

The new Mercedes Benz - THE EDGE SINGAPORE

The Covid-19 pandemic has radically changed many facets of our lives, some of them permanently. The automobile industry has also suffered its fair share of turmoil, mostly in the production of cars which saw severe disruption to supply chains of parts from China. On the customer-facing side, showrooms were closed and new car launches moved
online as motor shows and in-person launches were cancelled.

But as rules have gradually been relaxed, showrooms have reopened and car launches can now be done offline, although with social restrictions. But some car brands are sticking with online launches nevertheless.

So, I decided to embrace this new normal and attend the launch of a new Mercedes-Benz online and experience a virtual test drive too. Of course, I prefer to be in the car physically but
at the time of writing it had not been delivered to Singapore yet. So, I was getting a sneak preview online ahead of the physical launch.

The car is in question is the all-new GLA, Mercedes-Benz’s latest compact Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV). You could say it has become a little more sports and a little less compact. At a height of 161cm, the new GLA is more than 10cm higher than its predecessor. This means a higher seating position and headroom inside. While its size has been beefed up, the GLA is still the smallest Mercedes SUV in its range.

This new version actually looks like a scaled-down version of the GLC, the German luxury brand’s best-selling SUV to date. “We took what was well-loved and made it
even more — because that’s what we know our drivers want,” says Philipp Hagenburger, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Singapore.

The new GLA started out life as a slightly elevated hatchback but has morphed into its current form as a rather cute-looking compact SUV. In fact, it could now give the BMW X1
(its German rival’s smallest SUV) a run for its money. While it has increased its mass (not just its height but width too) the new GLA feels more spacious from the front seats all the way into the bigger boot.

While quite a few features have been upsized, one thing that crucially has not been is the engine. That remains a 1.3-litre power plant which might sound on the small size for this car, and the proof will be in the pudding when I get to test drive it. But I have a sneaky suspicion that engine size will be more than enough to give this GLA the power it needs, when it
needs it. It is very rare to discover an under-powered German premium car, be it a Merc, BMW or an Audi.

See: Power and sophistication

There is an abundance of technology in the cabin with a long list of driver assistance functions and packages. These include the turning manoeuvre function, the emergency corridor function and the exit warning function which alerts the driver to approaching cyclists or cars. In other words, the GLA is easily able to react when the driver does not. Included as standard is the smart MBUX infotainment system (Mercedes-Benz User Experience). This can be activated by intelligent voice control using natural speech recognition, using the keyword “Hey Mercedes” to start your command. You’ll be surprised what this onboard computer can actually understand.

There is also plenty of technology you can touch with two 10.25-inch displays taking centre stage on the dashboard. These twin widescreens are also in the A-Class and offer the same razor-sharp graphics and slick interface.

Overall, the cabin looks modern and ultra-futuristic, and the turbine-like air-con vents change colour when you adjust the temperature. Gimmicky yes, but still very cool. Dual-zone climate
control is optional instead of standard along with satellite navigation. But Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard with the car.

Another piece of tech I liked was the car wash function, borrowed from the GLS. With just one command, the exterior mirrors are folded in and the side windows and sliding sunroof closed. The information from the rain sensor is over-ridden so that the windscreen wipers remain switched off during the car wash. I’m a sucker for these little gimmicks.

There are two different variants of the GLA — the 200 Progressive at $179,888 and the 200 AMG at $185,888. Only you can decide if the AMG upgrade is worth the extra six grand. After the online preview and virtual test-drive (basically watching a video of someone in Germany driving the car with onboard cameras) I did feel like I had experienced the real thing. Having driven so many Mercedes-Benzes over the years, I almost do not need to test drive the car when it finally arrives here. I already know it will be silky smooth, handle well and feel strangely familiar. But I still want to get behind the wheel all the same.