It’s official. Wellington’s hottest new residence of choice is undoubtedly Clyde Quay Wharf. For those of you a little out of the loop, that used to be known as the much less salubrious Overseas Passenger Terminal. Rest assured, these days plenty of five-bedroom places in Wadestown have gone under the hammer to expedite a purchase in this new residential enclave.
Having won in the best address category, inevitably the question that current and future residents must surely be asking themselves is: what wheels best complement my new pad? And if you downsized on the house front, downsizing on the car front probably makes sense too… which is where Mercedes’ new GLA usefully makes an entrance.
It’s the newest offering in a long line of fresh products from the stalwart German car maker. But it’s not entirely new, as eagle-eyed readers will spot, in that it looks a great deal like the A‑Class launched last year. And they would be right.
Essentially, it’s the A‑Class reinvented as a junior cross-over SUV — a space that is becoming heavily contested judging by all the Euros on offer, but is clearly a segment that’s attracting buyers.
So what’s on offer? For a start, the fact that it’s based on an A‑Class is a big plus. When I drove the A‑Class last year I marvelled at what a great drive it was, how dynamic it was compared to more traditional models, and that it was good looking to boot. Fun is not a word that immediately leaps to mind when you think Mercedes, but the A‑Class — particularly the quite insane A45 AMG — rewrites the rule book.
The GLA, despite an increased ride height and some minor external styling treatment that helps differentiate it from lesser models, retains all of these attributes. We get the GLA 250, which sports a 2.0‑litre turbocharged petrol motor and develops a credible 250kW, and the GLA 200 CDI, which is the one I got to drive.
On first acquaintance, the diesel is noticeable for all the wrong reasons. It rattles away like Dad’s old bach tractor. But once underway, it starts to make sense. Despite the 2.1‑litre displacement, there’s only 100kW on tap, but it’s the 300Nm of torque — available from a very modest 1,600rpm — that catches your attention. While it doesn’t have quite the zing of a petrol-powered A‑Class, it packs some real punch when required, and there’s no discernible lag across the range. It’s assisted by Mercedes’ excellent seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox, which is a delight in every regard. Engage the Sport setting, and the little GLA will happily boogie from apex to apex — the heightened ride being offset by low-profile (and snazzy) 19-inch AMG wheels, which ensure road-holding and grip are first rate.
Like its A‑Class sibling, the GLA has a contemporary interior with clean surfaces and modern touches, including ultra-cool air vents — most unlike Mercedes past. The dash-mounted ‘command centre’ (read navigation and entertainment screen) is also growing on me as a concept. The cabin materials, meanwhile, feel genuinely high quality, while the sports seats — standard kit across the range — are excellent.
The GLA continues the positive design trend for Mercedes by pushing the traditional boundaries. Given the premium over the A‑Class, the only question punters are really left to answer is what price to place on a more lofty position?
A further entry to the increasingly crowded mini-SUV sector, but one with the all-important three-pointed star on the bonnet. Dynamic and almost as much fun as its lower-riding A‑Class sibling.[warning]
Model reviewed: Mercedes Benz GLA 200 CDI
Price: $64,900 ($71,470 with extras such as gloss black wheels, AMG sports pack and seat comfort package)[/warning]
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