Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Hyundai Santa Fe
- 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
Hyundai Santa Fe
- Ride comfort and driveability
- Luxurious interior on Elite and Highlander
- Cloth seats on base grade Active
- Petrol four cylinder lacks grunt
- No front wheel drive variant
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|
Hyundai Santa Fe
Kona, Tucson, Santa Fe. What is it with Hyundai naming its SUVs after sunny places in the United States? Also, the Santa Fe name may have suited what was once a cheerful and rugged looking little SUV when it first appeared in the year 2000, but over the years it has grown up into the big serious flagship of the brand.
So perhaps it needs a new name? And seeing as the car was tested so extensively in Australia for hot weather suitability and suspension tuning then maybe it should get an Aussie name? The Hyundai Gosford? No. The Hyundai Frankston. Nup. The Hyundai Mooloolaba? Nah. The Hyundai Freemantle? I’ve got it: the Hyundai Albury-Wodonga? Too long. Hyundai Byron Bay? Nah, that’s pretty much the same feel as Santa Fe. This naming thing is harder than it looks.
Okay, it doesn’t matter what it’s called, what is important is what’s changed – and a lot has, but then some things haven’t. Read on to find out more.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
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.
Hyundai Santa Fe7.9/10
The previous generation Hyundai Santa Fe was excellent, and this giant leap forward in design and technology has turned it into something better. Not overly large, but seven seats and great storage make it super practical, the new suspension makes it pleasure to drive, and a new look inside and out takes the Santa Fe’s refinement to the next level. It doesn’t matter what this SUV is called because it’s exceptional.
The sweet spot in the Santa Fe range is the Elite, not only does it come with luxuries such as leather seats, and a bigger touchscreen with sat nav, there's the added advanced safety equipment, too.
Is the new Santa Fe the new benchmark for big, mid-sized SUVs? 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.
Hyundai Santa Fe9/10
This new-generation Santa Fe looks totally different to the previous model, inside and out. The front now has the same ‘upside down face’ as Hyundai’s smallest SUV the Kona with the LED DRLs placed high and the headlights low, either side of a super-sized version of Hyundai’s so-called 'cascading' grille. Running along the edge of the grille is chrome strip which looks so menacing that if you walked into a pub holding one the cops would be called immediately.
Like the Kona the Santa Fe’s design has more angles than a protractor. Apologies for the Dad joke, but just look at it – there are combinations of shapes and lines even Salvador Dali would find weird, but somehow it works, and the result is an SUV that’s stunning and different.
You might not be able to see it clearly in the images, but the bonnet is pressed with a ‘power bulge’ shape you really only find on muscle cars like the Ford Mustang. Also, hard to see is how the wheelaches are actually indented rather than bulging out. I like that high shoulder line which runs from the tip of the LED DRL to the tail-light accentuating the length of the SUV, then at the rear things get more high society and refined with sleek and clean lines.
It’s near-on impossible to tell the difference between the three grades from the outside. Which is good if you buy the base-spec car where the only giveaways are the 17-inch alloy wheels and the lack of bling on the grille which comes on the Elite and Highlander along with 18-inch and 19-inch wheels respectively. The body kit you see is standard on all Santa Fes including that subtle roof-top spoiler.
If you thought the outside had changed a lot from the previous Santa Fe, take a look at the interior images – not only is the cabin vastly different it’s next level stuff for Hyundai in terms of refinement. Again, there are some weird shapes such as the low dash with that rockpool-like area above the glove box, and the air vents which protrude like wasps nests, but the overall effect is sophisticated.
The Active’s grey/back cloth seats let the tone down a tad, but the leather ones in the Elite and Highlander grades are luxurious looking in Black, Dark Beige and Burgundy colours. There are stone, wood effect and carbon-fibre door and dash inserts on the top two grades, as well.
Body colours include the standard White Cream Mica and Stormy Sea Mica (blue). Then there are Typhoon Silver, Wild Explorer (grey), Magnetic force (another shade of grey), Earthly Bronze, Rainforest metallic, Horizon Red and Phantom Black.
The new Santa Fe looks a lot longer than before, but the dimensions show an increase in length of 70mm for a total of 4770mm end-to-end. Width has increased by 10mm for 1890mm across while at 1680mm tall (1705 with standard roof racks)the Santa Fee is 10mm shorter in height compared to the previous model.
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.
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
All Australian Santa Fes are seven seaters. While this new-gen one has grown in length by 70mm and the wheelbase is 65mm longer, the interior dimensions have stayed much the same. In fact, legroom in the third row is 20mm less, while the second row gains just 1mm. Still, because the second row is on rails, when it’s pushed back to its furthest point I can sit behind my driving position with about a 50mm gap between my knees and the seat back, and I’m 191cm tall.
If I slide the second row forward to give myself about a hair’s breadth of room, I can then sit in the third row with the same amount of space. Not ideal, but not a deal breaker either when you consider the third row really is for kids or a good save if you need to ferry adults unexpectedly. You need to remember the Santa Fe isn’t as big as say a Toyota Kluger or Mazda CX-9, instead look at it as a large mid-sizer with a bonus third row.
Entry into that third row has been improved, too, with the second row sliding further forward to offer easier access with a push of a button. The entry is still not super easy for somebody of my height (and lack of coordination) but it’s better than the previous model.
A huge strength of the new Santa Fe is storage. Up front there’s a big centre console storage bin under the centre armrest, more storage under the dash and in front of the two cupholders, a big glove box and a shelf with a grippy surface above it, plus big bottle holders in the doors.
Second-row inhabitants have a two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, bottle holders in the doors and a storage tray in the rear of the centre console.
People in the backrow have two cupholders on the right-hand side and a storage bin on the other.
All Santa Fes have two fast changing USB ports in the second row, and one up front along with a regular USB port for media input, as well as a Qi charging pad. There's also an AUX port and a 12-volt outlet in the hidey hole under the dash and another in the boot.
Talking of the boot, the increase in length has given the Santa Fe more luggage space with cargo capacity increasing by 31 litres to 547 litres. There’s also storage under the boot floor for your muddy shoes and wet togs.
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.
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
There are three grades in the Santa Fe range: the base-grade Active which starts at $43,000 (before on-road costs) for the petrol and $46,000 for the diesel; the middle of the range and diesel-only Elite for $54,000 and the top-spec $60,500 Highlander which is also offered just in diesel form.
The Santa Fe is Hyundai’s flagship and the enormous standard features list reflects this king-of-the-brand status.
The entry-grade Active comes standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, air-conditioning with rear temperature controls, cloth seats, 'Autolink', LED daytime running lights (DRLs), auto headlights, roof rails and 17-inch alloy wheels.
There’s also an impressive amount of advanced safety equipment which you can read about below.
Stepping up into the Elite adds leather seats (power driver’s and passenger), an 8.0-inch screen with sat nav, front parking sensors, proximity key, paddle shifters, Infinity stereo system, dual-zone climate control, tinted rear windows with sunshades, power tailgate and electric folding mirrors.
The top-of-the-range Highlander has all of the Elite’s equipment plus a panoramic glass roof, auto parking, surround view camera, LED headlights and tail-lights, 7.0-inch virtual instrument cluster, heated front and rear (outboard) seats, Qi phone charger and a head-up display.
The Santa Fe’s new direct rival is the Mazda CX-8, both are a close match for size and price. Also consider the Kia Sorento – it’s the Santa Fe’s brother from a different mother and shares the same platform as the Hyundai. Nissan’s seven-seat X-Trail, or its French twin the Renault Koleos, are also absolutely worth a model comparison to the Santa Fe, too.
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.
Hyundai Santa Fe7/10
There are two engines in the Santa Fe range – a 2.4-litre 138kW/241Nm four-cylinder petrol with a six-speed automatic transmission and a 2.2-litre 147kW/440Nm four-cylinder turbo-diesel with a new eight-speed auto. Both have been carried over from the previous generation Santa Fe and have the same outputs.
Only the Active grade gives you a choice of both engines, while the Elite and Highlander are diesel-only.
Drive is distributed to all four wheels via the HTRAC AWD system which offers four modes: Comfort, ECO, Sport and Smart (complete with dash graphic showing drive distribution). The first three are obvious but Smart analyses your driving style and puts together an engine, transmission and steering configuration to suit you.
Towing capacity remains the same at 2000kg.
Both engines have a timing chain rather than a timing belt – the chain has a lifetime service life which saves on maintenance costs of changing a belt.
Hyundai Santa Fe7/10
Fuel economy has been improved in both engines – but only slightly. According to Hyundai the 2.4-litre petrol uses 9.3L/100km (down from 9.4L/100km) and the 2.2-litre diesel uses 7.5L/100km (down from 7.8L/100km) over a combination of open and urban roads.
The trip computer in the Active petrol reported an average of 12.3L/100km for the launch drive, while the Elite diesel's read 9.9L/100km. That’s not great mileage, especially when compared to comparable offerings from Mazda, a company which is taking big steps to improve the efficiency of its combustion engines.
The petrol engine isn’t fussy about fuel and will happily drink 91 RON regular unleaded.
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.
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
CarsGuide’s test pilot Matt Campbell drove the new-generation Hyundai Santa Fe in Korea early in 2018, but the SUV he steered reflected an engine and suspension that won't be seen in Australia. So, this was our first opportunity to drive an Australian Santa Fe and see how it feels on local roads.
You may already know this, but Hyundai has an engineering team in Australia that ‘tunes’ each new model to cope with the type of roads we drive on and to suit local preferences. For example, Australians like their suspension on the firm side for a sportier feel, not soft and wafty like they do in the US of A.
Not all car companies carry out this type of local tuning. Many are taken ‘straight out of the box’ and put into the showroom, but we’re not going to name names here. You should know, though, that Hyundai put this new-gen Santa Fe through intensive testing on Aussie roads, changing the shock absorbers in the front 27 times and the rear 22 times along the way. Steering, too, was calibrated specifically for Australia.
The local launch saw us drive about 300km through the wilds that lay inland from Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast, over a combination of dirt roads, motorways, winding coarse-chip bitumen and the not-so-great surfaces of country town streets. What was missing were the types of city and urban roads where many Santa Fes will probably spend their entire lives.
Still, it was more than enough to learn the new suspension set-up has resulted in a Santa Fe which feels comfortable but sharp at the same time. Big dips are absorbed well with next to no bounce coming out of them, while the body stays composed on patchy surfaces.
I drove the mid-grade Elite first and found the Kumho Crugen tyres (235/60/R18) a bit noisy on coarse-chip roads despite the sound deadening which Hyundai says has been added to the Santa Fe’s underbody.
Steering was light enough for me to carry out a three-point turn using just my pinky finger – which is what you want for parking and piloting through supermarket car parks.
That steering is quite direct, meaning you don’t have to turn the wheel far to change direction.
There’s a good feeling of connection between the wheels on the road and your hands on the steering wheel. This, combined with the composed, comfortable, but firm suspension, adds a lot of confidence and surety. It’s the difference between running in gum boats and sneakers.
The Elite has a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine (there’s no petrol alternative in this grade). It’s smooth, with plenty of grunt, and while it's not as quiet as Mazda’s equivalent, it’s more refined and quiet than most – so fear not, this diesel engine is not ‘truck like’ at all.
The new eight-speed automatic is excellent. A weakness in the previous Santa Fe was the six-speed auto and having another two gear ratios is welcome – especially for highway driving.
The base-grade Active rolls on Hankook Ventus Prime tyres (235/65 R17). I spent just 25km driving this grade but the difference in ride and comfort between it and the others is almost indiscernible. If anything, those tyres, with their taller sidewall, are likely to give a slightly softer ride.
The Active grade gives you a choice of petrol and diesel engines. I drove the petrol and immediately missed the mumbo of the diesel, which boasts almost double the torque and more power. That four-cylinder petrol with the six-speed just isn’t as suited to this even bigger Santa Fe. If Hyundai was to bring out a V6 petrol, as it did with the previous generation, it would be a tempting, albeit, thirstier Santa Fe.
The top-spec Highlander has the largest wheels with the lowest profile tyres – Continental ContiSportContact 5 which are an excellent (and about twice the price of the Hankooks). The Highlander is diesel-only like the Elite. Again – great grunt and a comfortable ride, but there’s still some road, engine and wind noise filtering into the cabin.
All Santa Fes are equipped with Hyundai’s new 'HTRAC' (Hyundai Traction) all-wheel drive (AWD) system and the many kilometres of winding dirt and gravel roads gave it a workout. HTRAC is an on-demand system which distributes torque to the four wheels where it’s needed. I was impressed – even at 80km/h on loose gravel the Santa Fe cornered like it was on tarmac – pushed a bit harder there was some slippage, but the system quickly brought things under control.
The Santa Fe is not an off-road vehicle in the same way a Toyota LandCruiser is. It doesn’t have a four-wheel drive system with a low range, but its 185mm ground clearance and AWD will take you further than you might have thought.
In the video at the top of this page we had to drive through soft sand to get to the water’s edge on the beach and we actually passed a ‘hardcore’ four-wheel drive which had become bogged.
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.
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
The new-generation Santa Fe has not been awarded an ANCAP star rating yet, but given the amount of advanced safety equipment, we are expecting a high score.
We'd like to point out, however, that while all Santa Fe's have curtain airbags covering the first two rows, they only cover the windows of the third row.
All Santa Fes come with AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, along with blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance, plus active cruise control.
The blind spot warning also includes collision avoidance, which will steer you back into your lane if the system senses that you veer into the path of another vehicle coming up the side.
The Elite and Highlander grades are also equipped with a system called 'Rear Occupant Alert' which uses motion sensors to detect babies or dogs accidentally left in the vehicle before sounding the horn. Both grades also have a child-lock system called 'Safe Exit Assist' which prevents the rear doors unlocking if an approaching car is detected. Amazing and life-saving stuff. There’s also a self-parking feature and surround view camera.
Under the rear of the car is a full-size 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.
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
The Santa Fe is covered by Hyundai’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km. A lifetime service plan is offered and works out to be about $400 a year, with a complimentary (1500km) first service.
Free Roadside assistance is also offered for the first year and a roadside assistance plan is offered for up to 10 years.