The Mercedes-Benz GLA
The Mercedes-Benz GLA now on sale in Ireland as a hybrid for the first time

Caroline drives the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e.

Hybrid is hot right now, appearing in just about every car manufacturer’s line-up. Mercedes-Benz is just one brand who has been steadily rolling out a range of new plug-in hybrids. From the A-Class to the E-Class, there’s a Merc with a plug.

Now Mercedes-Benz takes their compact GLA crossover and fits a very on-trend plug-in hybrid powertrain. Marketed under the ‘EQ Power’ badge, the GLA 250 e combines the brand’s 1.3-litre petrol engine with a 15.6 kWh battery.

The power output is an impressive 218 bhp with the big news being that you can plug the car in and charge to top the battery up for an electric range of up to 61 km. Driving on electric power is an obvious boon for urban drivers who spend a lot of time on short commutes in and around town.

What’s new for the GLA?

But how about the car underneath? Let’s revisit the GLA.

Now in its second generation, the GLA is one of Mercedes-Benz new range of compact vehicles alongside the A-Class, the B-Class, GLB and CLA families. The new model launched in 2020 with improved design and a new cabin. The GLA is pitched as a compact SUV but really it’s more of an A-Class crossover with a fashionable raised ride height and robust styling features. This is a segment that is growing in value for Mercedes-Benz against a sales backdrop of more than 6.5 million units worldwide.

the plug-in hybrid Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e
The plug-in hybrid Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e

In Ireland the new generation GLA is available in a choice of two trims – Progressive and AMG Line – with a high level of standard equipment. Powered tailgate, heated front seats, MBUX infotainment system, reversing camera and 18” alloy wheels all come as standard. A host of safety and driver assistance systems are provided in a comprehensive Driver Assistance Package that includes automatic inputs to assist drivers with routine and accident avoidance emergency braking, distance control, parking, steering, lane keeping, blind spot observation, speed limit keeping, driver fatigue alerts, and more.

The new GLA is available with a suite of the brand’s latest four-cylinder petrol and diesel engine series, and now in 2021 for the first time as a petrol plug-in hybrid. Priced from €48,690 for the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e Progressive on test, there is a premium to be paid for the flexibility of this new hybrid technology. For reference, the petrol range kicks off from €41,215 and diesels start from €41,840. Granted those models have less power.

Inside the GLA

The GLA’s interior is a highlight of this new generation compact Mercedes. It’s a contemporary, high-quality look with stylish details among the latest digital technology at your fingertips. Mercedes has been raising the bar in compact premium car interiors for a few years now. There is a new free-standing driver instrument and infotainment display with the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) system as standard. It can be operated by voice control using ‘Hey Mercedes’ commands as well as by using touch-control pads mounted on the steering wheel.

The interior of the new Mercedes-Benz GLA
The interior of the new Mercedes-Benz GLA

Mercedes-Benz also set out to improve the spaciousness of the vehicle in this new generation of the GLA. It’s now 100 mm taller with more interior headroom for driver and front passenger and considerably more rear legroom for rear seat passengers. For more practicality, the rear seats can now slide by up to 140 mm. Rear seats split fold 40:20:40. There’s also more boot space with minimal change in volume to accommodate the new hybrid powertrain thanks to a new exhaust system design.

Driving the GLA

The new GLA is a little bit shorter than the model it replaces but track width has been increased by four centimetres to improve handling. The seating position for driver and front passenger is higher and more upright, while all-round visibility has also been improved.

Even with a battery on board the car is agile, with light and accurate steering. Whether cruising comfortably down the motorway or nipping in and out of town, the GLA provides a high class drive though at times the automatic can feel a little jerky in slow moving traffic. Yes the electric motor makes it very responsive. There’s a lot of power available so with a bit of modulation on the throttle it can indeed be a smooth drive.

For the first time on a Mercedes-Benz vehicle, the combustion engine is started by the electric motor. Starting in silence and continuing that EV drive if you take the time and have the facility available to charge. The GLA can be charged at a 7.4 kW wallbox with alternating current (AC) in 1 h 45 min. However even when running from the petrol engine mostly, the GLA 250 e will average at about 6.3 litre per 100 km.

The GLA has grown up in the right directions
The GLA has grown up in the right directions

Did you like it?

The GLA sits nicely at the premium end of the market for compact SUVs with a smart new look and a very stylish interior that brings all the best features of the Mercedes’ new team of compact vehicles.

Style is a personal thing, but with the appetite for SUVs and crossovers, the GLA certainly has a market. It carries some extra distinction over the A-Class hatchback for example, and a higher driving position.

Now Mercedes-Benz adds a plug-in hybrid to the mix. Things get interesting indeed. It’s a powerful car with robust power delivery and the flexibility of EV driving for a limited range. Still there is a premium to be paid, though the gap closes to the more powerful petrol and diesel models of the GLA range.

Worth noting that a new all-electric Mercedes-Benz EQA has also just gone on sale in Ireland from €51,125 with a range of up to 426 km (WLTP)…the GLA 250 e could be a stepping stone in the transition to all-electric motoring or is it time to make the switch? I will have a full review of the EQA on Changing Lanes very soon, which should go some way to answer that question.

The new GLA 250 e is on sale from €48,690 in Ireland
The new GLA 250 e is on sale from €48,690 in Ireland

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 e Progressive
Price: 
€48,690
Engine: 
1.3-litre petrol electric hybrid
Power: 218 hp
Torque: 450 Nm
Top speed: 220 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 7.1 seconds
CO2 emissions: 
31 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€140 per year