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
- Wireless charging
- New advanced safety tech
- New grille design
- No high mounted centre console on entry grade
- Curtain airbags don’t cover the third row
- Warranty could be longer
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.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Hyundai Santa Fe
Good timing. Why? Well if you had bought a Santa Fe halfway through 2020, you’d now be driving around in the old one.
See, Hyundai has just updated the Santa Fe and it’s not a small revision, it’s a pretty significant overhaul which has added a new look, new features, new and refreshed engines and new safety tech. I’m here to tell you all about it.
And I should know, because not only did I go to the Australian launch of updated Santa Fe, where I drove it on beautiful country roads but I also lived with it in Sydney on awful traffic-choked roads.
I drove it in the rain, battled for spaces in multi-level car parks, did the preschool run, the swimming lessons dash, ferried home small trees and cow manure in it (don’t tell Hyundai) and then turned it from a Santa Fe into Santa's sleigh when we did the Christmas presents shopping in it.
Anyway, there’s a lot to tell you. Ready? Let’s go.
|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 Fe8.1/10
The previous Santa Fe was outstanding among its rivals and this new one in most ways is even better. Yes, I didn’t find the new Santa Fe quite as engaging to drive as the outgoing one, but it’s comfortable and easy to pilot, plus the new features, tech and safety equipment, along with increased practicality make the new version better overall than the old one.
The sweet spot in the range is the Active grade which comes with a proximity key, dual-zone climate control, leather seats, the high mounted centre console and privacy glass without the price tag of the Elite or Highlander.
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 Fe8/10
This updated model looks so different from the front that we were stopped in a car park by another family in a Santa Fe who asked if this was the new-generation car.
The answer is no, but it’s a really big update which has added a new rectangular grille, inset LED headlights, T-Shaped LED running lights and new tail-lights which are now joined by a horizontal reflective strip.
This generation Santa Fe has always been a good looking mid-sized SUV and the new face lands a punch filled with attitude.
It’s interesting that this grille is a departure from the Y-shaped frame used across the brand’s range during the past decade and if I didn’t know better it could be a glimpse of the changing face of Hyundai.
The Santa Fe isn’t huge, but you should check to see if it’s going to fit in your garage. A glance at the dimensions reveals it’s grown in length by 15mm and now measures 4785mm end-to-end. With roof rails the Santa Fe stands 1710mm tall and it’s 1900 mm across.
From the outside all Santa Fes look pretty much the same, but inside there are two quite different cockpits. Look at the images of the entry-grade Santa Fe’s dashboard, now look at the Highlander’s. Yep the entry grade Santa Fe doesn’t get the ‘floating’ high-mounted centre console which is on all the other grades above.
That’s a shame, as the new centre console not only looks great but puts the buttons for climate and media within easier reach. The shifting buttons on the raised centre console also look beautiful – the entry-grade misses out on this, too.
Still, the cabin, even on the entry-grade car, is a premium feeling place with the layered effect to the design of the dash we first saw in 2018 when this generation Santa Fe was introduced. The range-topping Highlander goes ‘next level’ with Nappa leather seats and the virtual instrument cluster.
The Highlander is the grade I spent the most time in and while the cabin looks posh, the interior feels tough. Our car had the 'Camel' Nappa leather, but the Highlander also can be had with black Nappa leather at no extra cost. The standard black suede headliner is also a nice touch on this grade.
The entry-grade Santa Fe has black and grey cloth upholstery (see the images), the Active gets black leather, while the Elite comes in a choice of black or 'Cognac' leather.
There are eight exterior paint colours. The two standard ones are: 'Glacier White' and 'White Cream.' The premium colours are: 'Typhoon Silver', 'Magnetic Force', 'Phantom Black', 'Taiga Brown', 'Rain Forest' and 'Lagoon Blue.'
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
I think the Santa Fe can pull off a better balancing act than its mid-sized SUV rivals of being practical while still being stylish.
There are seven seats as standard and yes that third row isn’t big enough for me, but I’m 191cm (6'3") tall and I can sit behind my driving position in the second row with even more room now in this updated version. Headroom in the second row is also excellent – even with the sunroof.
My six-year old son had no issues climbing in and out of the second row, and those wide opening rear doors offered plenty of space for me to get in and fasten him into his car seat.
The front passenger seat has a power adjustment on the side of the bolster for rear passengers to move it back and forth. Parents beware: kids will be drawn to this and small fingers might get squashed if they play with it.
Boot space with the third row in place remains the same at 130 litres, but with those back seats folded there's 24 litres more space now with a luggage capacity of 571 litres.
The handsfree tailgate opens just by standing next to it with the key in your pockets which sounds brilliantly convenient but there were times when it opened when I didn’t want it to and was just walking past.
Cabin storage is good with cupholders on either side of the third row, two in the second row and another two up front.
There’s a large centre console storage box and medium sized door pockets. And under the floating centre console (on the Active grades up) is an area large enough to stow a small backpack
The upright design of the wireless phone charger with its little trapdoor is ingenious. All Santa Fes come with the wireless charger, plus two USB ports for the second row and two more up front.
There’s dual-zone climate control, and that means no temperature setting for the second row, although there are directional air vents in all three rows.
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 Fe9/10
The entry-grade Santa Fe is now simply called the Santa Fe and the petrol version costs $44,700. Then, there’s the Active for $48,300, with the Elite next up at $54,300, and at the top of the range is the Highlander for $61,700. These are the prices for the petrol variants, and diesel versions are $3500 more for each.
New features on the entry-grade Santa Fe include: super bright LED headlights (the previous entry-grade non-LED headlights were really dim), there’s the 8.0-inch screen (an inch bigger than before); and there’s a wireless charger now.
The rest of the standard features list includes cloth seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air con, leather steering wheel, drive modes, rear parking sensors, roof rails, a rear-view camera and 17-inch alloys.
There’s also new safety tech which I’ll cover in the section below.
Stepping up to the Active adds 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, a proximity key, front parking sensors, rear privacy glass, dual-zone climate control, puddle lamps, electronic child locks, rain-sensing wipers and power folding mirrors.
The Active also gets new stuff in the form of paddle shifters, plus a raised centre console with gear shifting buttons (and a terrain mode control).
The Elite sits above the Active and scores new equipment such as 20-inch alloy wheels, a 10.25-inch media display, and a Harman Kardon stereo. This is on top of its previous standard features such as sat nav, digital radio, power driver’s seat, power tailgate, luggage net and rear door blinds.
The top-of-the-range Highlander gets the most new stuff. There are 20-inch alloy wheels (19-inch on the old car). Also new is the Nappa leather interior, the 10.25-inch media screen, a Harman Kardon stereo, and a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster and remote smart parking assist.
That’s on top of other standard equipment such as the panoramic sunroof, head-up display, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel and heated rear outboard seats, plus LED tail-lights.
All Santa Fes come with seven seats, too.
Is it good value? The prices have gone up a smidge, but the value is outstanding.
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 Fe8/10
You can choose between a diesel or a petrol engine to power your Santa Fe, and a hybrid powertrain is coming soon.
The petrol is a refreshed version of the previous 3.5-litre V6 making 200kW/331Nm, while the 2.2-litre diesel is new and produces 148kW/440Nm.
Also new is the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission found in the diesel variant. It’s a wet-clutch type of DCT and it’s smooth and quick.
The V6 has a regular eight-speed automatic.
The hybrid power train arriving in 2021 looks to be promising and it'll be all-wheel drive.
Hyundai Santa Fe8/10
Hyundai says that after a combination of open and urban roads the V6 petrol should use 10.5L/100km. That’s pretty thirsty.
The diesel engine goes through less, even though it’s powering all four wheels. Hyundai says the mileage after the same sort of combination of roads should be 6.1L/100km.
I covered 174 km in my fuel test of the diesel Highlander and the trip computer said I used an average of 8.1L/100km.
A hybrid variant makes so much sense on an SUV which is likely to spend a lot of time in urban and suburban settings and we're expecting it to be highly fuel efficient.
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
This generation Santa Fe came out in 2018 and since then I’ve covered thousands of kilometres in all grades in every engine variant. I’ve also driven and tested its competitors and it has stood out from them in terms of how good it is to drive.
Not many of its competitors were able to offer the combination of connection, comfort and easiness which the Santa Fe offered.
For this updated Santa Fe only the diesel variants were available to drive at the Australian launch and I tested the top-of-the-range Highlander and the entry-grade Santa Fe.
To me this new Santa Fe rides more comfortably than that previous model, but offers less of that connected feel that made the outgoing car feel planted and sporty. This may be down to a different suspension set-up.
Hyundai told us that for this new Santa Fe, rather than have an Australian-specific suspension set-up (as with the previous car), this new one has a global, one-size-fits-all tune. Hyundai still had an input, but the tune isn’t exclusively for Australia.
Yup, the last Santa Fe was so good that this new one has big shoes to fill, and to me it can’t quite match its predecessor’s all-rounder driving qualities.
Still, the new Hyundai Santa Fe is better to drive than almost all of its competitors, with good engines and transmissions, great visibility, and ease of control which makes it a breeze to pilot anywhere from dirt roads and motorways to car parks.
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
For a car that’s not a new-generation model there’s been a lot of changes and this goes for the safety tech as well.
Previously, all Santa Fes came with AEB, effective from 10-65km/h for pedestrian and cyclists, and up to 75km/h for cars. Now there’s a 'Junction Turning' function from the entry-grade up.
This means that when you’re turning right at an intersection with your indicator on the Santa Fe will brake to avoid a collision with an oncoming car, cyclist or crossing pedestrian. Also new from the entry-grade up is lane following assist.
The Highlander is also given new safety equipment in the form of a blind spot view monitor, and parking collision avoidance
All Santa Fes have adaptive cruise control, and rear cross traffic alert with braking and lane keeping assist.
For child seats there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether mounts across the second row.
A weakness in an otherwise outstanding array of safety equipment is the curtain airbags which don’t completely cover those third-row windows. The Kia Sorento also has this gap in its defences.
Here’s some good news. In a world of space saver spare tyres becoming the disappointing norm, it makes this reviewer’s day knowing Hyundai has made a full-sized spare wheel standard across the Santa Fe range. The spare is located under the car.
The Santa Fe has a maximum five-star ANCAP rating, but this was awarded back in 2018 and these days the standard to get full marks is higher.
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 Hyundai Santa Fe is covered a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended every 12 months/15,000km and the pricing for the V6 petrol is capped at $399 for each service for five years while the diesel is $459 for the same time.