Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Holden Acadia
- Exterior styling
- Interior and cabin appeal
- Rear space, and space overall
- Lack of boot space
- Driving position not too high for some
- Engine noise slightly un-sexy
- Truck-like exterior
- Third row spacious for class
- Good value
- Truck-like interior
- V6 needs to be pushed hard for results
- Handling not as good as CX-9
Apparently there is an ugly Kardashian, but you don’t care, or if you do, you shouldn’t, so let’s talk about the Hemsworth brothers instead.
In any other family, Luke Hemsworth would probably be called handsome, if a little short. Unfortunately for him, standing next to Liam and the God who walks amongst us that is Chris (I had to interview him once, he really is dreamy), Luke looks like he’s barely keeping his chin above the water line at the shallow end of the gene pool.
The Mercedes-Benz SUV range has quite a variation of lookers in its family tree as well, but I would argue that the new, entry-level GLA is pretty much the Chris of the range, or at least the Liam. The unfortunate, slightly large-foreheaded GLB would obviously be the Luke.
The only problem with all this, of course, is that the car that originally gave birth to the GLA - the A-Class - is more attractive than all of them, and Craig Hemsworth, sire of the family, doesn’t quite pull that off.
The point is that the new GLA is going to be even more popular than the original one, which sold a staggering one million units worldwide, because it is not only bigger and taller, but better looking, inside and out.
And let’s face it, no one is buying an urban SUV like this for the way it can climb a snow-covered alpine pass. Even all-wheel drive is optional.
But the GLA has this niche nailed, and the new one - thanks to its style, space and the effortless way it rides - is going to be an even bigger success.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The Acadia is now here and finally Holden has a proper seven-seat SUV in its range. Yup, the now redundant Captiva can rust in peace because the Acadia is bigger, safer, more practical and high tech.
The thing is, there are some excellent seven-seat SUVs out there already – Mazda’s CX-9 is outstanding in terms of its cabin refinement and on-road dynamics, while Kia’s Sorento is great value and there’s the popular Toyota Kluger.
Made in Tennessee in the US of A, the Acadia has some serious competition. So, can the American with a Holden badge do anything the others can’t?
We attended the launch of the Holden Acadia and learned a lot. Let us tell you…
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
You can tell that this car is going to be a success just by looking at it. For a lot of people, to see one will be to want one, and when they sit in that hugely high driving position and gaze upon the future-fabulous interior they’ll be even more sold.
It’s fair to say the GLA 250 does everything well - aside from providing boot space - and with great comfort, and in terms of looks, inside and out, it reaches the level of outstanding.
Personally, I’d take the lower and sleeker A Class every time.
The Acadia offers a tough-looking American take on the seven-seat SUV which won’t be appealing to everybody but will be loved by others. While the interior quality and design falls short of rivals such as the CX-9 and the handling isn’t as sharp as that SUV either, the ride is comfortable, the features list is extensive, the cabin space is outstanding and the level of advanced safety equipment is impressive.
The sweet spot for the range is really the base grade LT, but the best car is the LTZ-V.
What do you think of the Acadia's tough truck looks? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
I have to say that it’s quite an effort for a car company to get me interested in the look of an SUV, but from its tough, bold and yet stylish grille to its taut back end and BMW-aping rear light cluster, the new GLA really is a looker.
I had the good fortune to bring our GLA 250 test vehicle home and park it right next to the previous model, in the same colour, thus properly ruining the day of one of my neighbours.
The growth in size is clear - the new car is 12cm taller, 30mm wider and has a 30mm-longer wheelbase, yet overall it is 14mm shorter, which makes it look neater as well as stronger - but it’s the little tucks and tweaks of design that have really improved the look. The rear-light cluster is worth mentioning again, as it's just so much nicer.
While the original GLA was simply a case of making an A Class on stilettos, its success has encouraged Benz to really pour some effort into its successor, and the result is clear. This thing is a real looker.
Made in Tennessee in the United States, the Acadia couldn’t look more American, with that blocky profile and truck-like face. Only the Toyota Kluger comes close to matching its macho design, while Mazda’s CX-9 and Kia’s Sorento have sleeker and more curvaceous styling.
Some people aren’t going to be fans of those bold, angular looks, but this is a large seven-seat SUV that’s obviously not trying to please everybody, and that will probably be part of the appeal to its fans – the Acadia is unapologetically tough looking.
However, refined isn’t a word you’d use to describe the interior, because while its truck-like looks make the Acadia appealing on the outside, the commercial styling in the cabin is disappointing.
Moulded plastics around the doors and hard plastics on the dash and centre console feel cheap and look tacky. The Acadia’s cabin lags behind the more stylish cockpit of the CX-9 with its excellent fit and finish.
Buying a higher grade in the Acadia range won’t really improve the cabin scenery much either. The LTZ-V is the top-of-the-line Acadia and while it comes with ventilated leather seats, the rest of the cabin looks almost identical in styling and materials as the base-grade LT.
The exterior differences between the grades isn’t that obvious either. While all grades come with rear privacy glass and LED tail-lights, the LTZ-V comes with square exhaust tips, aluminium roof rails and a dual-pane sunroof.
What are the Acadia’s dimensions? The Acadia is just under 5.0m long, while the CX-9 is 5.1m end-to-end. The Acadia is 2.1m wide (to the mirrors) and 1.8m tall.
The colour range is fairly limited with 'Glory Red', 'Mineral Black', 'Blue Steel', 'Summit White', 'Scorpion' (brown), 'Nitrate Silver', 'Dark Shadow' (a dark blue) and 'Abalone White' your only choices.
The main goal of the GLA’s new, more SUV-like shape, in practicality terms, seems to have been to lift the driver even further off the ground, because the command-seating position is obviously a big selling point for someone who finds the A Class too ground-hugging.
So, while some of that growth in height has been used to increase head room to the point where I could easily wear Abraham Lincoln’s hat while driving, much of it has gone to making the driving position a full 10cm higher than in the previous GLA (it’s also 14cm higher than in an A Class).
Personally, the height of the seat drove me slightly spare, and every time I got in I tried to lower it, only to find it doesn’t go any lower, but, tellingly, my wife - who is not far off being an elf - loved it.
What I did like was the back seat, which is truly voluminous. Through clever packaging, Benz has managed to liberate no less than 12cm of extra legroom back there, and I could properly stretch out.
With its standard double-paned panoramic roof and huge windows (part of huge doors, which do come close to scraping on any gutter higher than a match box), it’s a very glassy interior indeed, and visibility is excellent.
There are two cupholders between the front seats, and there’s storage for big bottles in each door. Oddment storage is plentiful, although they could have more if they did away with the now redundant mouse pad and the so-called “arm rest” behind that, which feels more like a gear-shift lever they forgot to remove when they put the shifting functions up on a column stalk.
There’s no need for the track pad any more because the giant and truly very lovely 10.25-inch touch screen does everything via touch, and sits next to another screen the same size that acts as your dash readout, making the whole thing look like a particularly long iPad.
While other car companies, including Audi, which has long been the winner in any interior-design conversation, are still just jamming big screens on top of dashboards, Benz has turned its entire dash into a digital display, and it looks amazing, and futuristic. Like a concept car you can actually buy.
The overall feeling of quality and tech - particularly at night when it all lights up beautifully in a colour of your choosing - in this alluring interior is one of the main reasons buyers will flock to the new GLA.
The seats are not as sporty as some, but they’re comfortable enough.
The one letdown, however, which comes as a shock with all that space in the rear, is the boot, which is just 435 litres, compared to the Audi Q3’s far more practical 530 litres. It really is a surprise when you open the back and see so little there, and that really does lower the practicality mark.
All Acadias are seven-seaters, but not all seven-seater SUVs in the world really fit seven adults. I can’t sit comfortably in the third row of the CX-9 – the sloping roof line destroys headroom back there and my legs are wedged into the seat back.
Here’s the big news: even at 191cm tall I can sit in the Acadia’s second row (behind my driving position), and then behind that in the third row all without my head touching the roof or knees hitting the back of the seat in front. That is exceptional.
The dual sunroof in the LTZ-V limits headroom, so think about the LTZ if you’re going to be carrying tall freaks like me all the time, but it’ll be plenty spacious for kids.
Climbing into that third row is easier than the CX-9 thanks to the Acadia’s tall roofline, although being American-made the larger folding section of the second row is on our kerb side (not the case with CX-9).
Still, the second row slid far enough forward to make getting into the back easy enough for me.
Cabin storage and utilities are excellent. Third-row passengers have two cupholders, a hidey hole for loose items, air vents and a USB port. Second-row dwellers have two USB ports, a large storage drawer, two cupholders in the fold down armrest, climate control dials and air vents, plus decent-sized door pockets.
Up front, the centre console bin is large and deep, the storage compartment in front of the shifter fits my iPhone 8 (in the LTZ and above there’s wireless charging in there), you’ll also find two large cupholders, a large glove box and door pockets. There are two 12-volt power outlets – one in the cockpit and the other in the cargo area.
Boot capacity with the third row in place is 292 litres, but that is measured to the roof (Mazda measures to the cargo cover). With the third row folded flat the luggage space of the Acadia is 1042 litres, and with the second and third rows folded you have 2102 litres of cargo room.
Price and features
I find it hard to believe I’m saying this about a Benz, but at a starting price of $66,500, the GLA 250 4MATIC does seem like quite a lot of car for the money. This might be influenced by the fact that I know a couple who recently dropped more than $70K on the smaller A Class (they actually went shopping for a GLA, but then fell in love with the look of the little hatch).
There, are of course, always issues with the Germans when it comes to what you do and don’t get for your tempting entry price, and in the case of our test vehicle it would stick in my craw quite badly to pay $385 extra for its Polar White paint. Yes, white paint costs extra.
While the Titan Grey Pearl and Black Lugano Leather is nice, it’s only in the car as part of the $2838 AMG Exclusive Package. Throw in the Sports Package at $1915, which gets us the sexy 19-inch AMG alloys, and the Driving Assistance Package for $1531 worth of extra active safety, drop on a dollop of LCT at $1329 and the asking price for our urban SUV hits a less-enticing-sounding $74,498.
Your standard inclusions for the $66,500 are a very lovely panoramic electric sunroof, heated and electronically adjustable front seats, with memory function, lowered comfort suspension and sports-direct steering, plus the Off-Road Engineering Package, while the standard, non AMG wheels are also 19-inch alloys, presumably just less sexy ones.
And you don't have to pay extra for Apple CarPlay, which is nice.
The Acadia range has three grades to it – the entry level LT which lists for $43,990, then the mid-spec LTZ for $53,490 and at the top of the range is the LTZ-V for $63,490. These are the prices for the front-wheel drive Acadias and you can have them in all-wheel drive, but it’ll be an extra $4000 on top.
The LT comes with a mountain of standard features, including an 8.0-inch touchscreen with sat nav, reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, three-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, proximity key, rear privacy glass and 18-inch alloy wheels. There’s also an impressive array of advanced safety equipment which I’ll take you though further down this review.
The LTZ gets all the LT’s features and adds leather seats, power adjustable and heated front seats, rain sensing wipers, wireless charging for phones, power tailgate, front parking sensors, and this will make some people very happy – automatic parking.
The LTZ-V comes with all the LTZ’s features and more including ventilated seats, 20-inch wheels, dual-pane sun roof, 8.0-inch virtual instrument cluster, eight-speaker Bose stereo with amplifier and subwoofer, and adaptive suspension.
That’s great value and it’s on the same level as the CX-9, although the Mazda comes with a head-up display on all grades. You can’t get one even on the top-of-the-range Acadia.
Engine & trans
The GLA 250 comes with 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes a handy 165kW and 350Nm, which is sent to all four wheels using 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The claimed 0 to 100km/h time is 6.7 seconds.
Your silky smooth gearbox is an eight-speed, or 8G-DCT automatic, in Benz speak.
The engine feels powerful enough, without being exciting, and sounds pleasant enough, without sounding sporty - it's pretty much Goldilocks for an urban SUV.
Now the engine – it’s a V6 petrol that makes stacks of power at 231kW and plenty of torque at 367Nm. The problem here is the maximum torque comes in at 5000 rpm. Torque is the force that’s sent from the engine and turns the wheels and it’s preferable to have all the torque come in low in the rev range.
See, most of the time I drove the Acadia the revs never got above 3000rpm. If I wanted to overtake I needed to hammer it. The CX-9 makes 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm – it’s under your right foot almost always. It’s preferable to have low-end torque for towing, too.
Talking of that, the braked towing capacity of the Acadia is 2000kg.
The transmission is a nine-speed automatic – a torque converter. It’s an excellent transmission, that shifts intuitively and smoothly. The Acadia offers a choice of front-wheel drive or the optional all-wheel drive.
It’s a V6 so it’s going to be thirsty right? Yes, but this engine can deactivate two cylinders to run on four when not under load. That said even on the country roads that the Acadia launch was held on, the mileage the trip computer was reporting ranged from about 10.0L-11.0/100km for both the all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive Acadias.
You can bet that will head higher in the traffic of the suburbs and city. Holden says that after a combination of urban and open roads the FWD Acadia should use 8.9L/100km and the all-wheel drive will need 9.3L/100km. Those are pretty optimistic numbers and the real-world fuel economy will certainly be higher.
With such a high driving position, the worry is that you’re going to feel like you’re sitting on the new GLA rather than in it.
But the fact is that, once I became accustomed to the fact that I couldn’t get the seat as low as I wanted to, it all became comfortable enough, and I could get on with fully appreciating the ride quality.
While the GLA has a good, Germanic solidity to the way the interior is bolted together - the doors are almost too heavy, I fact, and can be tough for little people to close - it’s the way it sits on the road that really impresses.
The little Benz soaks up the bumps, particularly in Comfort mode, and provides the kind of ride and handling quality that you’d expect in a six-figure German car. Or a Benz of old, you might say.
Critics of A Classes past were heard to complain that they just didn’t ride as softly or richly as a Mercedes should, but the company has put things to rights with its smaller cars in recent years and you really feel like you’re getting the badge you paid for here.
Step out of the cruisy, snoozy Comfort setting into Sport, however, and the CLA feels out of its, well, comfort zone. It’s almost too toey for its own good, wanting to lurch around, holding each gear desperately and making noises that are merely loud rather than sexy.
Engine noise is a little intrusive whenever you try and accelerate fiercely in the GLA, in fact, but there is some handy pace there if you really need it.
Fast driving does feel out of character for the GLA 250 variant, however, and those who want that kind of thing should wait for the AMG-fettled version that will arrive in the next month or so, bringing 225kW and 400Nm.
As a cornering weapon, this car is more of a butter knife, smoothing its way around bends with minimal bodyroll. It’s an urban SUV, and it drives like one, albeit a very good one.
Typically, the steering is also light and easy to use rather than heavy and talkative.
Being the 4-MATIC variant, the GLA 250 also offers an Off-Road mode, which takes full advantage of its torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, but sadly our slightly brief introduction to the car didn’t provide us with the chance to hurl it down a scree-covered mountain side, nor to test out its version of hill-descent control.
If you’re a fan of SUVs because they can make you feel like you’re a hundred feet tall wearing a Transformers suit, then you’re going to like driving the Acadia. Yup, it looks like a truck and feels like one when you’re looking out over that high, broad bonnet.
The dashboard is also tall, and this combined with the truck-like bonnet meant I had to raise my seat higher than the setting I’d normally use, just to see clearly over. Even then visibility isn’t great thanks to long and wide A-Pillars framing the windscreen.
There are other ergonomic issues you’ll face in this cabin. I found the centre console armrest way too high and my elbow kept hitting it as I turned the steering wheel it also made changing the drive modes on the rotating dial in front of it awkward using your left hand to scratch your left armpit. Made you do it, didn’t I?
The indicator and wiper stalks are also positioned at a high angle and on the highest wiper setting I had to take my hand off the wheel to turn them off. If my hands aren’t big enough to reach them while holding the steering wheel, there’s no way Donald Trump could.
So how does the Acadia drive? Well there are two very different feeling Acadias in the range. There’s the one Holden brought to Australia to test rigorously around its test track and Australian roads, tuning the adaptive suspension to offer a comfortable ride that suits our conditions – it’s the LTZ-V.
Then there’s the LT and LTZ, which didn’t get the full Holden suspension work-over. Sure, Holden went to the US and helped develop a suspension system for these two grades, but they had to make a compromise and agree on a tune that would make the American drivers happy, too. In the US drivers prefer a softer, more cushioned ride, while in Australia we tend to like a firmer sportier one with better handling.
That means the LT and LTZ just don’t handle as well as the LTZ-V. Not only do those lower grades have a softer ride that feels almost like you’re bouncing on a space hopper at times, they also don’t have the great adaptive suspension of the top grade LTZ-V. The adaptive suspension can not only be set in a sport setting, for better handling but is constantly adjusting itself to the driving style.
On the highway all grades cruise beautifully, like battleships ploughing through the miles of road – this is where they are really in their element. You’ll also find them all comfortable for suburban adventures, too – even on patchy streets with bad surfaces the ride is composed and compliant.
But when I took the LT with AWD along a fantastic bit of familiar road with a great surface and plenty of twists, I could feel that suspension doing everything it could to rein in the body roll, but not winning. This is a 2.0-tonne and tall SUV and I don’t expect it to behave like a sports car, but Mazda’s CX-9 feels more agile with quicker steering and better handling than the Acadia.
The LTZ-V has an exceptional ride – almost limo like with adaptive suspension ironing out the road ahead.
Even as a passenger in the second row the journey was comfy and serene, the cabin well insulated, although those rear seats are unsupportive and in the corners I felt myself sliding around back there. And that’s the thing, even in the corners the Aussie-developed LTZ-V still struggled to control its heft, and when pushed more the tyres began to chirp in the bends. The LTZ-V wears Continental ContiCrossContact high performance all-terrain tyres (235, 55 R20) if you’re wondering.
Still I didn’t feel the Acadia lacked grunt, the V6 is smooth and there was an instant connection between the accelerator pedal and the acceleration that you don’t get with the turbo-charged CX-9.
The thing is you really need to get the Acadia up to 5000rpm to really get good oomph – and that’s going to harm your fuel economy.
Choosing a front-wheel drive variant will save you a bit of money at the pump, and while the all-wheel drive adds some reassuring traction on wet roads and gravel, it’s not essential. Front and all-wheel drive Acadias had identical comfort levels in terms of ride.
The GLA has not been ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash rated yet, but the first car got five stars from the Euro test and was never ANCAP tested. It’s safe to say they design their cars around being damn sure they get five stars.
You’ll also be getting no less than nine airbags - front, pelvis side and window bags for driver and front passenger, sidebags for the rear occupants and a knee bag for the driver.
In terms of active safety, the Active Brake Assist - which works up to 60km/h - is standard, as is Blind Spot Assist, with exit-warning function, which alerts the driver to approaching cyclists or vehicles when they’re about to open their door. Active Lane Keep Assist is also standard, as are the Active Bonnet, Traffic Sign Assist and Cross Wind Assist.
But you will have to stump up for the Driving Assistance Package to get things like Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Braking Assist and Evasive Steering Assist.
The Acadia has yet to be given an ANCAP crash rating, but the level of advanced safety equipment is outstanding. All grades come with AEB (on the LT and LTZ it’s a city speed version, while the LTZ has higher speed AEB), there’s blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance and lane departure warning, plus lateral impact avoidance which will swerve to avoid a vehicle that drifts into your lane.
Also excellent is that the side curtain airbags extend all the way back the entire third row – the CX-9’s do, too, but not the Kia Sorrento’s.
The chink in the Acadia’s safety armour is a low-tech but essential item – the spare wheel; it’s a space saver, which is not ideal in Australia where distances between towns can be vast. Also, to get the space saver out requires a stack of effort – it’s under the boot floor but you’ll need to remove the storage under the floor to get to it. We tried it on the launch and the process was overly difficult.
Your GLA comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is Japanese good, if not Korean good.
In terms of servicing, you can choose to purchase a Service Plan or pay as you go with capped-price servicing.
The costs for three annual services are $2050 for the Service Plan, or $2550 with the Capped Price Servicing (first is $550, second is $750, third $1250).
Service Plans can be bought in four or five-year lots, at $2950 and $3500 respectively.
The Acadia is covered by Holden’s five-year/unlimited km warranty. Servicing is recommended annually or every 12,000km. Servicing is capped at $259 for the first service, $299 for the second, $259 for the third, $359 for the fourth and $359 again for the fifth.