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19/10/2021

Motoring Review: Plug in and play with Mercedes

The new Mercedes-Benz GLA Plug-in Hybrid is now on the market

Motoring Review: Plug in and play with Mercedes

The new Mercedes-Benz GLA Plug-in Hybrid

The new Mercedes-Benz GLA premium compact SUV is now available as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) for the very first time.

Badged ‘GLA 250 e’, the plug-in hybrid joins the petrol and diesel engine variants, with an automatic transmission coming as standard.

The original Mercedes-Benz GLA arrived on Irish shores back in 2014 and it quickly became a popular choice amongst premium compact SUV buyers. Based on the A-Class of the time, Mercedes-Benz gave its smallest model some SUV flavour with clever body cladding and a raised ride height.

More SUV-Like Than Ever

Launched in 2020, the second-generation GLA also shares its DNA with the latest A-Class, but it gained a more traditional SUV shape. Standing 10cm taller than its predecessor, the new GLA’s wheel arches are more squared-off in shape and are clad in protective black plastic. Its wheelbase has also been increased to create more passenger space, while the wheels are pushed out to each corner, resulting in much shorter front and rear overhangs.

Pitched directly against rivals like the BMW X1 and Volvo XC40 hybrids, the new GLA 250 e uses the same powertrain as the plug-in A-Class (A 250 e) — a 1.33-litre petrol engine and 101bhp electric motor, drawing power from a 10.6kWh battery. The fuel tank in the GLA 250 e is located ahead of the car’s front axle, which leaves space under the boot to fit the hybrid battery. Importantly, this means that the GLA avoids the awkward box-shaped intrusion into the boot area seen in some plug-in hybrid cars.

Specification Details

The new Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e is available in a choice of two generously-equipped specification levels — Progressive and AMG Line — both of which come with standard features such as stylish five-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels, parking sensors with reversing camera, LED high performance headlamps, Light and Sight package, hard-disc navigation, MBUX multimedia system, digital radio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Seat Comfort package with heated front seats, automatic climate control, roof liner in black fabric, Mercedes-Benz emergency call system, galvanised steering-wheel gearshift paddles, Easy-Pack tailgate, Dynamic Select, acoustic ambient protection, Active Lane Keep Assist, and Speed Limit Assist, along with many more comfort, convenience and security features.

Additional AMG Line specification includes lowered comfort suspension, AMG body styling, carbon-structure trim, 19” AMG 5-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels, Artico leather/Dinamica microfibre black upholstery, and AMG floor mats.

Test Car

My GLA 250 e ‘Progressive’ test car was finished in Night Black paint (a no-cost option) with contrasting Macchiato Beige/Black Artico leather upholstery (a €170 cost option) for maximum impact.

With a 100% battery charge, my test car estimated its own electric range to be 59km’s. The car defaults to Hybrid mode when started up, so you proceed in zero-emission fashion at speeds of up to 130km/h, as long as the battery has charge and you accelerate gently.

When the petrol engine cuts in performance is strong, as it and the electric motor combine their power in a smooth and orderly fashion. With a combined power output of 218bhp and a mighty 450Nm of torque, the GLA 250 e can sprint from 0-100km/h in as little as 7.1 seconds, and can achieve a top speed of 220km/h (where permitted).

The petrol engine only really makes its presence known when you ask for more performance, while neat handling and sufficient grip from the driven front wheels provides great confidence on the road. The car’s steering is light but direct, and the ride is more than comfortable enough to deal with rutted road surfaces and speed ramps with ease.

Cabin space is impressive, with excellent head, leg and elbow room available for all occupants, while a 445-litre boot capacity will be more than adequate for most families. However, the GLA’s standard split-folding rear seat backs allow for the transportation of larger items when called upon, with up to 1,430-litres of space on offer in this mode.

The cabin of the new GLA certainly feels vastly improved over the original GLA in every respect. This has been made possible by the latest Mercedes-Benz MBUX interior layout, with crisp digital displays replacing the analogue instrument dials and flowing across onto the dashboard.

Buttons have been largely replaced by a controller ahead of the gear-lever and voice control, which uses artificial intelligence similar to that found in home smart devices to recognise more natural speech and commands. The turbine air vents from the original GLA have been retained, but the dashboard has been slimmed-down for a more spacious feel.

Verdict

Overall, the new Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e is a competent all-rounder that offers a decent electric range, low emissions, predictable handling and a luxurious, technology-filled cabin — encased in a stylish and practical premium compact SUV body.

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