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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Road test: 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA

The GLA offers three-star action without exploding your bank account

The new Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National
The new Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National

Among roads polka-dotted with G-Wagons and S-Classes, you could be forgiven for assuming that the only good Mercedes in the UAE is a flipping great big one. And large, in this case, requires a similarly proportioned wallet. But what of those of us who don’t have the GDP of a medium-sized nation at their disposal, yet still would like their lives to feature a helping of premium German metal?

For the past five years in its current form, the first port of call has been the A-Class, but for a modicum more road presence, its pumped-up großer bruder, the GLA, which debuted in 2014, is the next logical step. If not quite a Baby Benz, the compact crossover is, let’s say, a Teutonic toddler.

The facelifted 2018 model grimaces forth with a redesigned grille that gives it a hint of mini Jeep Cherokee, although in all honesty, anything that breaks from the model homogenisation that sometimes blights the lower end of Mercedes’ range is something to be celebrated. It is particularly memorable in the Jupiter red of my test car, the all-wheel-drive GLA 250 4Matic.Even in this top spec level before the range reaches the AMG models, the stats don’t quite require a crash helmet and roll cage, but the 0-to-100kph time of 7.1 seconds is nippy enough and 211hp proves plenty in a car that weighs almost dead-on a tonne and a half. There is also a reassuring 350Nm of torque available from an impressively low 1,200rpm – a level at which some cars are barely idling.

Speaking of idling, when you are at a standstill, the stop-start engine aids the attractively low fuel consumption, while it also automatically switches back to Eco mode if you find yourself on an extended cruise having engaged Sport.

As well as cruise control, the new Mercedes-Benz GLA has a speed-limiter function. Pawan Singh / The National
As well as cruise control, the new Mercedes-Benz GLA has a speed-limiter function. Pawan Singh / The National

As well as cruise control, there is a speed-limiter function – a handy addition for avoiding fines that ensures that even if you try to override it by putting your right foot to the floor, you can’t accelerate behind the designated top speed. Another little step on the rocky road towards being a safer driver is the red stopping-distance warning light, which blinks an annoying shade of rouge next to the speedo – irritating drivers into leaving a decent space between them and the car in front might just be the only way to break the curse of tailgating in the UAE. The fact that the dash meters are so nicely laid-out and pleasing on the eye only heightens your desire to keep that warning beacon unlit.

There is contrasting news on two of my personal driving essentials: the Harman Kardon sound system somehow lacks punch, but at least you won’t be sweating while pondering your stereo’s foibles, because the air conditioning is one of the most-effective set-ups that money can buy.

My only concern on the road, however, are the poky door mirrors, which are restrictively sized to the point where I find myself turning my head far too often to check for other traffic approaching from behind.

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Run-flat tyres come as standard, but as per the preconception of German luxury cars, a lot of the fancier tech embellishments on my test car require additional outlays – optional extras include reversing camera, blind-spot assist and rain-activated windscreen wipers.

The debate might be a thorny one over what this incarnation offers that a regular A-Class doesn’t, beyond a slightly improved ability to tackle mildly rough ground, but the GLA has an agreeable enough entry-level price to offer some three-star action without exploding your bank account.

The specs: 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA

Price, base / as tested Dh150,900 / Dh173,600

Engine 2.0L inline four-cylinder

Transmission Seven-speed automatic

Power 211hp @ 5,500rpm

Torque 350Nm @ 1,200rpm

Fuel economy, combined 6.4L / 100km