Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d first drive review

Mercedes-Benz has given its smallest SUV, the GLA, a facelift for 2024. We drive the GLA 220d variant to see what it's like.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA has received an ultra-mild facelift for 2024
The Mercedes-Benz GLA has received an ultra-mild facelift for 2024Shot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

There was a time when there was just one ‘G’ in the entire Mercedes-Benz range — the OG Gelandawagen. But thanks to the soaring popularity of SUVs, Mercedes-Benz has added the ‘G’ suffix to every possible vehicle and created the ‘GL’ lineup. This range contains everything from the gigantic Mercedes-Benz GLS to the remarkably rapid Mercedes-AMG GLE 53. However, there is also a runt in this litter that Mercedes-Benz has recently lavished its attention on: the 2024 Mercedes-Benz GLA. As the A in the name suggests, a Mercedes-Benz SUV doesn’t get any smaller than the GLA, but does it still possess the core values that define the ‘GL’ name plate? We took it for a drive to find out.

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d styling

The current generation of the GLA, first introduced in 2019, has a significantly more cohesive design than the first-generation GLA, which looked like a jacked-up A-Class. Mercedes-Benz has given the GLA a subtle facelift for the 2024 model year, but you will need a jeweller's eye to tell it apart from the 2023 model. The GLA comes in two distinct trim levels: the base progressive line and the sporty AMG line that we have on test.

Up front, the biggest change is the new LED headlights, which now get adaptive high beam assist. The AMG line now gets body-coloured trim on the front bumper and the wheel arches, which lend it a sleeker and sportier look. In profile, the new 19-inch five-spoke AMG wheels shod with 235-section rubber give the GLA a purposeful stance, while the rear is adorned with new LED tail lamps and a slightly reprofiled bumper with dual exhaust finishers.

Overall, the GLA looks quite sharp, particularly in the new for 2024 Spectral Blue that our test car was finished in. It may not be a butch SUV in the traditional sense, but it is still a cohesive and well-rounded, albeit somewhat staid, piece of design.

The Mercedes-Benz GLAs interior remains exquisitely finished
The Mercedes-Benz GLAs interior remains exquisitely finished Shot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d interior and equipment

The GLA takes a leaf out of its bigger siblings playbook and offers an impressive interior ambience. The dash is well laid out, featuring dual 10.25-inch screens for the infotainment and driver display as well as physical controls for the HVAC system. The infotainment system gets the latest MBUX software, which allows for wireless Apple Car Play and Android Auto as well as digital key handover. The GLA also features a 360-degree camera, blind spot assist, and active parking assist, which does a far better job of parallel parking than most people on the road.

The AMG line gets a sporty flat-bottom steering wheel with metal shift paddles that are a joy to use, but its touch-sensitive controls are not. The facelifted GLA also ditches the trackpad in the centre console in favour of additional storage space. The cabin offers plenty of space for full-size adults front and rear, while the seats themselves are trimmed in supple leather and alcantara on the AMG line. My only gripe with the entire interior is the use of faux carbonfibre on the dash and the door card, which lack depth and appear distinctly two-dimensional.

The diesel GLA 220d gets a 2-litre turbo producing 188bhp and 400Nm
The diesel GLA 220d gets a 2-litre turbo producing 188bhp and 400NmShot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d engine and drivetrain

The GLA comes in two guises: the petrol GLA 200, which gets a 1.3-litre turbo-four mated to a seven-speed DCT producing 161bhp and 270Nm of torque, enough to sprint to 100kmph in 8.9 seconds. The sportier choice, however, is the diesel GLA 220d 4Matic that we had on test. It gets a 2-litre turbo diesel and an eight-speed DCT that makes 188bhp and 400Nm of torque. It puts the power down using the 4Matic all-wheel drive system and accelerates to 100kmph in a short 7.5-second dash.

While outright performance is impressive, the real-world drivability of the diesel engine is simply outstanding. There is an abundance of grunt all across the rev range, and the GLA accelerates with tenacity while emitting a surprisingly pleasing growl for a diesel. The DCT is the perfect partner in crime, firing off shifts with a fair bit of aggression in dynamic mode. Combine this with its compact dimensions, and the GLA proves to be a hoot to drive in the city.

Out on the highway, it's a similar story. Overtakes require nothing more than a gentle dab of the throttle and the occasional flick of the left paddle. But take things down a notch, and the GLA is happy to sit at triple-digit speeds for hours on end while the engine hums along in near silence.

The GLA rides well despite being on 19-inch wheels
The GLA rides well despite being on 19-inch wheelsShot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d ride and handling

The Mercedes-Benz GLA is definitely stiffly sprung, yet it rarely ever gets uncomfortable. The suspension does a great job of soaking up smaller bumps in the road, and the high-speed ride is very composed. The AMG line’s 19-inch wheels do give the ride a harsher edge on the sharpest of bumps, but it's nothing that you can't live with.

The upside of this stiff setup is the excellent body control that the GLA exhibits through the twisties. The GLA is keen to turn in, with its 235-section tyres providing plenty of grip and the all-wheel drive system providing the traction to haul it out of corners. The sole drawback detracting from the overall experience is the absence of tactility and feedback in the steering.

The GLA 220d 4Matic comes equipped with an off-road engineering package that sounds a lot more serious than it is. In essence, this package enables an off-road mode that adjusts the power delivery and ABS intervention for off-road use and adds hill descent control. There are no low-range or diff locks to make this a mini Gelandewagen, but it is useful nonetheless when driving around the vineyard.

The diesel GLA 220d makes an excellent mile-muncher
The diesel GLA 220d makes an excellent mile-muncherShot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

2024 Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d verdict

This mid-cycle refresh to the Mercedes-Benz GLA is relatively minor, but why mess with a recipe that gets so much right to begin with? The diesel powertrain is a stonker, the interior is class-leading, and the ride and handling are well sorted. The styling is not as butch as you would expect from something wearing a GL badge, but it is in no way offensive. In terms of pricing, the 2023 GLA is priced between Rs 48.4 lakh and Rs 53.3 lakh (ex-showroom), and the 2024 GLA is expected to cost a slight premium. These prices are certainly at the upper end of the segment; however, the GLA offers a combination of qualities that the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3 are unable to match. Consider the GLA an off-road SUV, and you might be disappointed. However, view it as a premium crosshatch with India-spec ground clearance, and there's very little that can match it pound for pound.

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