Mercedes-Benz are looking to draw a new, or should I say younger crowd with its compact car range. If you’re wondering what exactly comprises of such a range, it’s the A-Class; B-Class; CLA and the new GLA SUV crossover, the latter being the reason we went to Cape Town to drive them. On a global scale, Mercedes has sold over 2 million compact cars since 2011.

The GLA range was first introduced in 2013, and makes up a variety of models that can get confusing (to me at least). There are seven in total: GLA, GLC, GLC Coupé, GLE, GLE Coupé, GLS and G. This is the range that Mercedes face-lifted and invited media to drive in Cape Town, along with its other compact cars. The one thing I have to point out first is that the ‘cheapest’ in the range is R485 400. Yes, that’s correct, almost half a million rand; with a younger crowd being the target market. And if you want the AMG model (GLA 45 4MATIC), it goes up to R856 700. Yikes!

To me it seems like this is the car a wealthy parent would buy for their kid. Or if you managed to climb the corporate ladder early on, and you want to drive a car that will ‘impress’. The company says that the average age of European A-Class drivers are about 13 years younger than its preceding model series. Back in South Africa, our reality is very different, and if I’m being honest, I see the compact range mainly as one that rich kids would be driving.

I drove a bunch of models on the launch, some of which were GLA 200; GLA 220D 4MATIC; GLC 200; GLA 250; GLC 200D; and the GLA45 AMG (I hope I am not mixing up the models). The driver and car changes meant I didn’t get to drive certain models for longer than I would have preferred, but I did enjoy the AMG the most. I didn’t expect to get stuck in traffic leaving the Cape Town CBD and it was slightly confusing using the car’s navigation and Google Maps both gave complete opposite directions to the same place. So while a little daunting, I managed to get on the highway after going in circles, and then some traffic. I got to try RACE mode on the AMG model, and man, let me tell you, that was amazing. This mode is separate to Sport, and Sport+ (give me all the modes)! I only did what I could on a short stretch on the highway, and then there were trucks… everywhere. But, so much fun!

The base model, the 2.1L turbodiesel GLA 200d has 100kW of power, and the top of the range GLA 45 4MATIC goes up to 280kW. The 1.6L GLA 200 petrol variant has 115kW, while the 220d 4MATIC has 130kW. A new addition to the face-lifted models are the hands-free safety features with a 360-degree camera; modified bumpers; new light-alloy wheels; and a new “canyon beige” colour. The 360-degree camera recordings the surroundings of the car and is shown in seven split-screen views on the media display.

I loved the interiors of the cars, they look and feel every bit luxurious; even the air vents. The cars with electric seat adjustments are just that much nicer, you know, since I hate fidgeting and looking for seat adjustments before driving off. Some cars featured an 8-inch infotainment screen on the top of the dashboard, controlled by a physical button further below, i.e. it was not touchscreen. I was disappointed to discover this. It was a bit confusing using the knob and button to select options, only because it felt like I was going back in time instead of forward, lol.

Anyway, I also tried CarPlay and it was just so strange to use a physical button to move around instead of touching the screen, which I did a few times in disbelief. Eventually I got the hang of it. Some models also let you open the boot by making a semi-circle motion under the back of the vehicle (with the keys within close proximity), which is handy when your hands are filled with shopping bags, haha! 

There are various trims and finishes available under the ‘luxury exclusive package’ if you want leather seats, aluminium, satin-finished wood, glossy brown, or the fancier matt black ash wood or AMG trim in carbon fibre. There’s also a “Night” package; and a Yellow Night Edition on the AMG 45 4MATIC.

GLA 200 – R485 400
GLA 250 4MATIC – R654 700
AMG GLA 45 4MATIC – R856 700
GLA 200d – R513 000
GLA 220d 4MATIC – R592 500

Yellow Night Edition – R105 000 extra
A45 4MATIC (R768 100 + R105 000)
CLA 45 4MATIC (R874 500 + R105 000)
GLA 45 4MATIC R856 700 + R105 000)

One of my highlights of the trip was stopping at Harbour House in Kalk Bay for lunch… I’ve seen loads of photos on Instagram about the stunning views of the ocean, and the food was delicious… (didn’t take a pic of my calamari starter)! Thank you for the fun trip (and amazing lunch & dinner) Mercedes-Benz!