The 2018 edi­tion of Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic, Stuttgart’s small­est crossover, gets a mid-cy­cle facelift. But is it enough to keep it fight­ing fit in an in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive seg­ment, asks wheels’ Sony Thomas

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While the lat­est GLA 250 4Matic looks pret­tier than be­fore, we won­der if the changes are merely cos­metic?

TThere was a time not long ago when the name Mercedes-Benz would con­jure up im­ages of lux­ury, state­li­ness and pomp. It still does, what with icons like the G-Class and the S-Class be­ing rides of choice for roy­alty and the po­lit­i­cal elite around the world. How­ever, the ex­po­nen­tial growth in the num­ber of au­to­mo­bile seg­ments and their sub seg­ments over the past decade has seen the Stuttgart car­maker join­ing its ri­vals in churn­ing out mod­els in vary­ing sizes and shapes. And these in­clude smaller cars that are less lux­ury-ori­ented than their larger sib­lings and some­what re­moved from the orig­i­nal Mercedes DNA. One such is the GLA, launched in 2014 to stave off com­pe­ti­tion from the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3. Slot­ting be­low the GLC (pre­vi­ously GLK), the small­est com­pact crossover in Merc’s line-up is based on the A-Class hatch, hence also shares its un­der­pin­nings with the CLA four-door coupé. How­ever, other than its slightly raised height com­pared to the A-Class, the GLA barely dif­fer­en­ti­ated it­self from the hatch, and was widely per­ceived as not of­fer­ing much value ad­di­tion. It’s this quib­ble that Mercedes has sought to ad­dress with the mid-life facelift that was an­nounced ear­lier this year at the Detroit show.

To­wards this end, the up­dated GLA gets styling tweaks, al­beit mild, that take it closer in looks to the larger SUVs in Merc’s line-up. These in­clude a re­designed grille, re­shaped bumpers front and back, restyled head­lights and tail­lights, and black plas­tic body cladding along the side sills. Al­though mi­nor and sub­tle, these changes do add to the GLA’s ap­pear­ance and help dis­tin­guish it from the hatch and sug­gest bet­ter off-road tal­ents. So for those who were hes­i­tant to sign the dot­ted line for the GLA be­cause it didn’t look like a proper crossover, these changes would be enough to prompt a re­think. But those look­ing for real prac­ti­cal­ity in a crossover won’t get any­thing ad­di­tional here over the pre­vi­ous model. For all in­tents and

pur­poses, the 2018 GLA re­mains a slightly taller A-Class.

There’s abun­dant space in the front for two adults of above av­er­age size. But leg- and head­room are at a pre­mium for rear pas­sen­gers. The ride qual­ity is marginally bet­ter than that of the hatch, how­ever, if you ex­pect the same level of com­fort and re­fine­ment as larger, more ex­pen­sive Mercs, you’ll be dis­ap­pointed. But the GLA am­ply com­pen­sates with its hatchback-like dy­nam­ics. Steer­ing re­sponse is im­me­di­ate and sharp, and thanks to the 4-matic all-wheel drive, it is re­as­sur­ingly steady and poised when driven en­thu­si­as­ti­cally. And the GLA’s com­pact pro­por­tions make it the ideal city car too – it’s a breeze to park it in tight spots that you won’t need to use the Park­ing Pi­lot sys­tem that comes stan­dard as part of GCC spec­i­fi­ca­tions. The thick B-Pil­lar is still an is­sue though, ob­struct­ing lat­eral vis­i­bil­ity es­pe­cially when chang­ing lanes.

There’s no change in the pow­er­train ei­ther, with the same 208bhp, 350Nm tur­bocharged 2.0-litre four-pot un­der the bon­net, mated to the same smooth-shift­ing sev­en­speed dual-clutch au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Al­though its per­for­mance fig­ures aren’t ex­tra­or­di­nary, the set-up pro­duces more than ad­e­quate oomph for the GLA’s size and heft.

It’s also packed with a raft of fea­tures as stan­dard, in­clud­ing Blind Spot As­sist, panoramic slid­ing sun­roof, tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, and smart­phone in­te­gra­tion pack­age. Our tester also comes with op­tional equip­ment such as elec­tri­cally ad­justable driver’s seat with mem­ory func­tion, au­to­matic cli­mate con­trol, adap­tive high beam as­sist, and a Har­man Kar­don sur­round sound sys­tem.

The orig­i­nal GLA was al­ready a good-look­ing crossover with el­e­men­tary off-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties. With this mid-cy­cle up­date, and with prices start­ing at a rel­a­tively rea­son­able Dh160,000, it will cer­tainly en­tice even more lux­ury as­pi­rants into the three-pointed star.

The UP­DATED GLA gets styling TWEAKS that take it closer in looks to the larger SUVs in Merc’s line-up. These in­clude a RE­DESIGNED grille, re­shaped bumpers, RESTYLED head­lights and tail­lights.

The up­dated de­sign takes the GLA closer to its SUV sib­lings, but it is still an not-so prac­ti­cal crossover

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