Tuesday 20 March 2018

Looking good for the Mercedes-Benz GLA isn't enough

The Mercedes-Benz GLA is very easy on the eye but its lack of visibility is appalling

POOR OUTLOOK: The Mercedes-Benz GLA falls down on vision
POOR OUTLOOK: The Mercedes-Benz GLA falls down on vision
Campbell Spray

Campbell Spray

THE Mercedes-Benz GLA is a very smart and appealing car in many ways. As one used to say, it's easy on the eye. So much so that one of the more intelligent and hard-working people here asked me just to leave the keys at the front desk because she "wanted to take it home" for keeps.

And that wasn't the only admirer the GLA had the same day. A gentleman carrying a couple of bottles of cider wrapped in brown paper informed me I was his "bud" and that he had always "wanted a Merc and that's a bloody beautiful one, that is" and he would have one "soon".

I now feel that I am letting down both my new "bud" and my colleague by saying that they are a bit deceived. The GLA may be very lovely to look at from the outside, especially when it was dressed in the Cirrus White of my test car. It's pretty tasty on the inside, too, again courtesy of some nice light leathers.

Yet unfortunately, looks aren't everything and the GLA, which aims to be a premium contender in the massively popular Crossover market pioneered by the Nissan Qashqai, falls at its own Becher's. Based on the new A-Class, which aimed for a younger audience by dumping the square and upright old model for a lower, sleeker and more coupe-like machine, the GLA has been pumped up for a "brawny, sporty-like appearance".

It does give a much more confident and refined ride than the A-Class and there is the option of four-wheel drive versions. However, one of the points of these Crossovers is the extra height and outlook they give – yet the GLA is quite appalling in this respect: the rear view is too small, a comfortable seating position means that your forward and side views are compromised and, if you want to look left and back a bit, the one-piece seat, narrow rear windows and thick door pillars get totally in the way.

I felt it just wasn't safe. Changing lanes was a bit of a nightmare and I nearly got caught out a few times.

This is a great pity as otherwise the car, like all Mercs these days, is positively bristling with safety features. The 200 diesel engine on board the test car was very economical and came within the €200 road-tax bracket. It was rather noisy at times but did settle down to a nice purr on the M50. Space for two in the back is passable with good head room but I wouldn't like to have a rugby front-row there.

Luggage space was again adequate but not that easy to access, yet this is a young person's car so they will be better at it than me. There was a real touch of quality about all the materials on board, which was only spoiled by the touch-screen on the dash – it seemed to be an afterthought.

My test car cost €44k before p&p but that did include more than €2k for a very nice panoramic electric sunroof. It was an automatic, very well specced and pleasant to drive. Yet the visibility concerns make it a definite no-no. It will probably do well among those with money but not sense. It's a pity; it could have been a contender.

Sunday Independent

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