Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Honda CR-V
- 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
- Great practicality
- Good value
- Walk away locking
- Advanced safety kit only on top-spec
- Sunroof limits rear headroom
- CVT drones on
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|
Honda's CR-V is one of the original compact SUVs, and when it appeared in Australia in 1997 its only real rival was the Toyota RAV4, so it didn't leave us with much choice. It was a case of that one or the other one.
Now that's all changed, and there are currently more than 20 different mid-sized SUVs under $60k on sale in this market.
All that could change with the arrival of the fifth generation CR-V. We went along to the Australian launch to see if the CX-5 has anything to be afraid of, and found out a lot more in the process, including that it might be worth waiting before you buy one.
|Engine Type||1.5L turbo|
|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.
In the mid-sized SUV world the X-Trail is known for being super practical, the Mazda CX-5 for its looks and the way it drives, and now the new CR-V slides into the gap between them. Great value, practical and good to drive, the sweet spot in the range is absolutely the VTi-S; well equipped, with the option of AWD. Keep your eyes peeled though for when Honda updates the base grades with advanced safety kit. We'll let you know when it does.
Is the CR-V going to steal you away from the Mazda CX-5? 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.
This fifth-generation CR-V looks like it found a gym and reappeared as a beefed-up version of the last model. The dimensions don't lie – the new CR-V is 11mm longer at 4585mm end-to-end, it’s 6mm taller at 1679mm for the FWD and 4mm more in the 1689mm AWD.
At 1820mm across, it's 35mm wider and the wheelbase is 40mm longer. Ground clearance is also up by 28mm in the FWD at 198mm, and 38mm in the AWD, with its 208mm.
Just look at the pictures, there are those swept back headlights, that huge black and chrome grille, adorned with an oversized Honda badge, the muscular front wheel guards, which seem to push up and make the bonnet bulge.
From the back the CR-V looks wide and planted, but busy with all those creases and angles. While the profile isn't as sleek as others, such as the CX-5, it’s designed for practicality.
You might not have noticed, but the A-pillars either side of the windscreen are super thin to improve visibility.
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.
While the new CR-V misses out on a sleek profile, it gains in practicality. Tall, wide doors which open at almost 90 degrees to the side of the car make getting kids (and yourself) in and out a lot easier.
The tailgate opens high enough for me at 191cm to just walk under, and the low load lip means you don't have to hammer throw your shopping over the bumper into the boot.
Cargo space is 522 litres in the five seater and 472 litres in the seven-seat CR-V, an LED light which can be flicked on and off is great for when you're fumbling for gear in the dark.
That auto tailgate can sense if there are fingers in the way and will stop just as it touches them but before it crushes them – I know I tested it myself, with my own fingers, and all of them are still on my hand.
The increase in wheelbase means more legroom in the second row and I can sit behind my driving position with about 10cm of space - that's verging on limo territory.
The third row in the seven-seat VTi-L is cramped for me, and my knees are tucked under my chin, but your kids will love it - unless they're giants.
Climbing into the third row isn't too much of a challenge – the footpath-side seat slides and flips forward to open up a little pathway through to the back.
Each row has two cupholders (yup, even in the VTi-L's back seats) there are small bottle holders in the rear doors and bigger ones up front.
The centre console storage bin is excellent – you can configure it several ways.
The lock and go function is excellent, too – walk two metres away from the car for more than two seconds and it will lock itself. You only have to touch the handle to unlock it again.
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.
Prices have gone up… and down, depending on which grade of CR-V we're talking about. The entry-level VTi lists for $30,690 (a $900 increase), the front-wheel drive (FWD) VTi-S above it is $33,290 (a $1000 jump) while the all-wheel drive is $35,490 (up $200). The VTi-L has dropped by $300 to $38,990 and the top-of-the-range VTi-LX is down $1500 at $44,290.
Honda says it's added between $2600-$4350 of value across the range with this new model, which sounds awfully nice of them, and going by the healthy standard features list, and in comparison to its rivals such as the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, and Toyota RAV4, the value for money is good.
Standard on the base-spec VTi is a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, multi-angle reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity, an eight-speaker sound system, dual-zone climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, push-button ignition and proximity unlocking.
Stepping up to the VTi-S adds front and rear parking sensors, power tailgate and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The VTi-L is the FWD seven-seater and gets all of the VTi-S's features and adds a panoramic sunroof, auto wipers, and heated front seats with the driver's being power adjustable.
King of the range is the VTi-LX, which picks up all the VTi-L's gear and adds leather-appointed seats, LED headlights, tinted windows and an advanced safety equipment package which includes AEB.
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.
Simple. One engine for the whole range. It's a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol which makes 140kW/240Nm. That's not a great deal of grunt, but it’s more than the same engine makes in the Honda Civic, and at no point did it feel like it needed more oomph during our hilly drive.
The automatic transmission is a CVT. They're prone to making the engine drone loudly without producing much in the way of acceleration. Honda's CVT is one of the best I’ve encountered, though.
Do you need an AWD CR-V? Well, the CR-V is not an off-roader, the on-demand AWD is really for a bit of extra traction and stability in the wet or on dirt and gravel. My advice is to get it if you can afford it and not worry about the fuel bills. The CVT is so good at being economical the difference is almost zilch. Read on to find just how much zilch.
Despite my gripes with CVTs, they are super fuel efficient. In the FWD VTi Honda says it'll consume 91RON at a rate of 7.0L/100km (we recorded 8.9L/100km) then step up to 7.3L/100km in the VTi-S FWD, then 7.4L/100km in the AWD version. The seven seat VTi-L is also officially 7.3L/100km (we recorded 8.3L/100km) and the AWD VTi-LX is 7.4L/100km.
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.
We drove three of the four grades of CR-V at its Australian launch – the base spec VTi, and the VTi-L seven seater, which are FWD, and the AWD only VTi-LX.
Honestly, there is next to no perceptible difference in the way any of them drives, apart from the AWD being more sure-footed on gravel roads.
That engine is a good thing. It's small, but delivers a decent output. Our drive route included hilly country, and it didn't feel underpowered, at all.
The CVT drones on and is joined by quite a bit of road noise from the tyres filtering into the cabin, but the ride is comfortable and the handling impressive for an SUV in this price range.
Visibility is excellent around those super thin A-pillars, but the curvy bonnet limits vision in car parks.
Front seating is comfortable, but the chairs feel too large, and lack bolstering to hold you in place in corners. The back seats are flatter and harder.
All models have excellent brake response, thanks to and electronic brake booster system. And steering is quick compared to the old model, with fewer turns of the wheel required to turn the same distance.
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.
Okay, first up, the new CR-V isn't fitted with Takata airbags, which are the ones at the centre of the current worldwide recall.
The new CR-V has not been given an ANCAP rating yet, but the previous model did score the maximum five-stars.
What you should know, too, is that only the top-of-the-range VTi-LX grade comes with advanced safety equipment such as AEB, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control.
Honda told us at the launch that the advanced safety tech would soon be available on all grades, but could not tell us when. So, you might like to wait until it arrives on more grades.
You'll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts for child seats across the second row, and all grades of CR-V have a full sized spare wheel.
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.