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The Mercedes-Benz GLA is the Upgrade You’ve Been Waiting For


Unless money is absolutely no issue to you, the decision to buy a new car is never quite as simple as pointing to one and then driving it home. More often, there are infinite considerations to be made, based on your needs and circumstances.

Are you a mid-level executive ready to trade your trusty workhorse for something a bit more upscale? Are you a family guy who values safety and space when you go on grocery runs and drop your kids off at school? Or are you an entrepreneur whose business is finally taking off, and so feel like rewarding yourself?

For each of those three different circumstances, one could choose a different make and model. But Mercedes-Benz makes a convincing argument for just one vehicle that suits all three. If any of those circumstances describe you, then the German brand’s entry level model, the GLA, might just be the upgrade you’ve been looking for.

As a compact SUV, the GLA is bigger than a traditional sedan, but smaller than a mid-size SUV. And because it carries the Mercedes-Benz mark, it bears a high standard of performance and style.

While this new GLA may be a bit bigger than the previous iteration (over 10 centimeters higher), the GLA is still svelte enough that it doesn't feel like a monster truck on tight city roads. And for its size, interior space is absolutely no issue. There’s more than enough legroom in the front as well as the back row of the five-seater.

I know this because I got to maximize the space when I took my family out for a drive in the GLA one weekend. My mother rode shotgun while my sister and her two teenage kids (both taller than her) sat comfortably behind. We filled the trunk with a few supplies for a picnic lunch—food in sealed containers, plates and utensils, a small rug, umbrellas, and a couple of stools. It wasn’t hard to imagine this crossover SUV fitting nicely with the needs of a small family.

Of course, that’s not to say that the GLA isn't also exciting. It isn’t a soccer mom steed. With a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine, the GLA can produce an output of 163 horsepower and 250 Nm of torque.

I kept it simple and restrained with my family in the vehicle with me, but driving solo on the expressway, I really let the GLA go. Zipping effortlessly along an unusually clear South Luzon Expressway, I recorded barely any noise or vibration, which translated to a breezy and fun drive. The automatic switch between gears was seamless and uncomplicated.

There are also driving options through Dynamic Select—Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual. Choosing Sport kicks things up and adds noticeable muscle to the drive. It’s proof of the flexibility of the GLA—it can be docile and disciplined when you’re on your way to a picnic and your mom is poiltely giving you directions in the front seat, but it can also be powerful and ferocious when you need it to be.

A multi-button electronic seat adjustor is located on the driver’s door, ensuring that you’re as comfortable as possible behind the wheel. The seven-inch digital touchscreen is ridiculously intuitive, and parking is a cinch thanks to the rear camera and sensors. You can also make selections for the screen using a trackpad between the front seats. It takes some getting used to, but I appreciated how much more convenient it was rather than continuously reaching over and touching the screen every time you need to need to adjust something.

But as if that wasn’t enough, Mercedes-Benz engineers also installed a small but highly effective touch-sensitive trackpad right on the steering wheel. You can use your thumb to swipe through it like you would a mobile phone when you want to, say, switch to the next track in the album you’re listening to, or make other selections in the main digital screen. It’s a tiny detail in the grand scheme of things in the GLA, but it’s one that sets it apart.

On top of all these, an added convenience: the GLA has a functional voice command system that lets you pull up the software. Just say, “Hey Mercedes,” and your Benz will do your bidding, at least as far as navigation and audio controls.

As a single guy living in the city, there’s no doubt that the GLA is exactly the type of car that fits my own needs and circumstance. I don’t need a gigantic full-size SUV; a compact one is ideal for short drives to pick up a few things from the supermarket or going on weekend visits to see my family in the suburbs. I didn’t exactly wade into flood waters, but I imagine the GLA can handle itself in that situation better than a low sedan. And when we’re finally rid of this virus and it’s safe to travel again, the GLA would be perfect to take on a long road trip to the beach or mountains.

And you don’t even have to have Bezos or Musk-level money to get one.

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