Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Hyundai Tucson
- 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
- Exterior styling is aging well
- A conveniently small mid-size SUV
- New safety equipment in 2020 update
- Cabin is a bit plain
- Dual-clutch can be jerky in traffic
- Diesel is a bit noisy
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 Hyundai Tucson is one of the go-to mid-size SUVs in Australia, along with the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan X-Trail. So, what makes it so popular, what do you get for your money, and what extra features have been added in this 2020 update?
Let me be your Tucson tour guide. Having been in and out of a stack of Tucsons, and having clocked up thousands of kilometres in them, I’m familiar with their great points and have discovered a few of their shortcomings, too.
|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 changes to the 2020 Tucson are few, but important – the extra safety equipment added to the lower grades is great news.
Despite being a few years old and a new-generation Tucson coming by 2021-ish, the current SUV is a great workhorse that has served my family well in the form of a long-term test car, and more recently in these week-long stints in the updated model.
Parents will like the hard-wearing materials and wipe-clean surfaces, and I reckon everybody will appreciate the city-friendly size while staying fairly spacious on the inside.
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.
There’s a new-generation Tucson on the horizon, but we won’t be able to buy it for a couple of years yet. But rest assured Hyundai is cooking it up in its laboratories as you read this.
Can’t wait until around 2021 (probably)? Well, in the meantime this current generation still looks stylish even if it’s been here since 2015.
There have been some cosmetic upgrades over the years to freshen up the Tucson’s look, with Hyundai giving it a new grille and redesigned headlights in 2018. Same for the cabin which was also given a design revamp.
I’m a fan of the exterior and think it’s aged well, with its tough-looking face and elegant side profile. This sounds super nerdy, but I also like the shape of the tailgate with its little ‘lip edge’ and those taillights.
Even in the ‘government issue’ standard white paint worn by the Active X I tested (see the images), the Tucson still looks mighty fine. And it has to, the competition is a good-looking bunch – as a model comparison there’s the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sportage all on the rival list.
Talking of paint, the colour palette is limited to Phantom Black, Gemstone Red, Pepper Grey, Platinum Silver, Aqua Blue, Pure White, Sage Brown, Dusk Blue and White Pearl. Yep, no gold, orange, green or purple here I’m afraid.
The Tucson’s insides get fewer design accolades, with its fairly plain styling and there’s not a great deal of difference in look and feel between the cabin of an Active X and that of the Highlander - apart from the electric handbrake and dual-zone climate. Have a look at the interior images to see what I mean.
Spotting the difference between the grades from the outside isn’t easy: if the Tucson has dual exhausts it’s a Highlander, but if it doesn’t and it has chrome around the windows then you’re looking at an Elite, while an Active X has bigger wheels than the Active.
Now the dimensions. The Tucson is 4480mm end to end, 1850mm wide and 1660mm tall. That makes it 120mm shorter than a RAV4 and 70mm shorter than a CX-5. So, the Tucson is a smaller mid-sized SUV but that will suit many families in the city well.
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.
The Tucson is a five-seat SUV and there’s no option to get a third row to make that seven. If you do need more seats and want to stay with Hyundai then the larger Santa Fe is what you’re looking for.
The Tucson’s size is an advantage in that, at less than 4.5m long, it’s easy to park, but the trade off is that the interior isn’t overly spacious. Still, even at 191cm tall I can fit behind my driving position in the second row with about 20mm to spare between my knees and the seatback. Headroom is also good, even with the sunroof in the Highlander which lowers the ceiling slightly.
Up front there are the big seats and good head, leg and elbow room.
What about boot space? The cargo capacity of the Tucson’s boot with the seats up is 488 litres. That was enough room to fit the CarsGuide pram and Kim Kardashian’s big suitcase (see the video), both at the same time. With the seats folded you’ll have 1478 litres to help you move house or pick up that thing you bought online. Not the biggest boot size in the class, but not the smallest.
Cabin storage is pretty average – there’s a deep, but narrow, centre console storage bin, door pockets, a standard glovebox and four cup holders (two up front and two in the back).
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 Tucson range has four grades: Active, Active X, Elite and Highlander. There used to be a grade called Go, but it’s now gone, replaced by the Active.
The most affordable Tucson is the front-wheel-drive petrol Active with a manual gear box that lists for $29,290 (add $2500 for the auto), but if you want all-wheel drive you’ll need the diesel engine with the auto for $37,090. That escalated quickly, eh?
Next step up is the Active X, which lists for $32,290 in front-wheel drive, manual guise (and $34,790 for the auto), and the diesel auto all-wheel drive in this grade is $40,090.
Now we’re getting into the auto-transmission-only upper echelons of the range, with the Elite coming in three variants. The first variant uses the same petrol engine as the lower grades with front-wheel drive for $37,850, then there’s a turbo-petrol with all-wheel drive for $43,150, and the diesel all-wheel drive for $43,150.
Lording it over the range is the Highlander (which I always read with a Scottish accent in my head). There’s two to pick from and both are all-wheel drive with automatic transmissions. The turbo-petrol Highlander lists for $46,500 and the diesel is $48,800.
So, with almost $20K separating the top and bottom of the range let’s look at what you get for your money.
The Active comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, a seven-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo, single-zone air conditioning, rear parking sensors, a leather steering wheel and roof rails.
The Active X has larger 18-inch alloy wheels, sat nav, an eight-inch screen, an Infinity eight-speaker stereo system, digital radio, leather seats and heated and power-folding mirrors.
The Elite is the sweet spot the range and scores proximity unlocking with push-button start, rear privacy glass, a power-adjustable driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control.
The Highlander has all the Elite’s features but adds 19-inch rims, LED headlights and taillights, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated and heated front seats, auto tailgate, wireless charging, a heated steering wheel and a powered front passenger seat.
The Highlander’s tailgate is an automatic one which will open if you stand next to it with the key fob for three seconds. It works a bit too well, and I found myself often opening the boot unintentionally.
The big news for this 2020 model year Tucson, however, is that the lower grades have been given more safety equipment. You can read all about this a bit further on.
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.
There are three engines in the Tucson range: a 2.0-litre petrol making 122kW and 205Nm; a 1.6-litre turbo petrol making 130kW and 265Nm; and a 2.0-litre diesel with an output of 136kW and 400Nm. All are four-cylinder engines.
A six-speed manual can only be had with the 2.0-litre petrol engine, but for a bit more money you can swap that for a six-speed auto instead. The 1.6-litre petrol engine only comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto and the diesel is teamed up with an eight-speed auto.
There are pros and cons with each engine: the 2.0-litre petrol feels a bit under powered, but the transmission is smooth; the 1.6-litre petrol is punchy off the line but at low speeds the dual-clutch can make acceleration a bit jerky; while the diesel’s eight-speed is excellent, and so is the torque from the engine, but it sounds a little bit like farm equipment.
If you’re choosing the engine based on fuel efficiency, then don’t. Unless you’re picking the diesel, because it is considerably more fuel efficient than the petrols. Hyundai says that after a combination or open and urban roads the diesel engine will have used 6.4L/100km. My own testing in the Elite with the diesel supported the frugality of the engine with our test car recording 6.9L/100km.
According to Hyundai, the 2.0-litre and 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engines - regardless of transmission or gearbox - will get within 0.2L/100km of each other. So, after a combination of open and urban driving the 2.0-litre with the manual will use 7.8L/100km while the auto needs 7.9L/100km. The 1.6-litre with the dual-clutch is more economical, but only just, at 7.7L/100km.
My own testing saw me use an average of 9.2L/100km in the 1.6-litre Highlander and 10.3L/100km in the 2.0-litre Active with the auto.
More good news is you’ll only have to feed the petrol engines cheaper, 91 RON fuel.
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.
There’s a lot to like about the way the Tucson drives, but there are some areas where rivals do better.
I tested the Highlander grade with the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine and seven-speed dual-clutch, followed by the Active X with the 2.0-litre engine and six-speed automatic, and then I drove the Elite with the diesel engine and an eight-speed auto.
In one week I put more than 500km on the clock of the Active X, using it as a family car for the preschool drop-offs and grocery shopping in Sydney, with a trip away to see the grandparents on the weekend up in Newcastle. That gave me a combination of inner-city grind and open motorways.
I put about 300 kilometres on the Highlander and most of those were suburban and city kays, with some motorways thrown in, too.
Both have their merits. For the city I preferred the six-speed automatic in the Active far more than the seven-speed dual-clutch in the Highlander, especially in hilly areas. Traffic and intersections are the enemy of that dual-clutch which cause a lurching motion as you come off the brake and onto the throttle. Yes, there is a hill-hold button but activating it adds a ‘sticking’ sensation that does stop roll-back but does nothing for smoothness.
The six-speed auto meant smooth motion in low speed traffic and assured no roll back on hills.
As for the engines, the 2.0-litre is fine. You’re not going to break any land speed records, or maybe not even any speed limits because acceleration is definitely not rapid, but it's more than adequate.
The 1.6-litre turbo engine is peppy at lower speed, but as you start to push it harder it does feel like it runs out of puff. Being a turbocharged engine, the delivery of the grunt feels different to the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre. If you’ve driven turbo cars before you’ll know the ‘whooshy’ feel they have as the turbo winds up and you’re catapulted away.
On the open road, the dual-clutch is magnificent, changing fast and smoothly. Whereas the six-speed auto doesn’t seem to be enjoying itself anywhere near as much as it DCT sibling.
So, if you’re a passionate driver, then go the dual-clutch which, combined with the 1.6-litre engine, provides a more engaging drive. But if this SUV is just to get you around town then I reckon you’ll be happier with the 2.0-litre. Forget fuel economy - there’s nothing in it between them.
Read More:Hyundai Tucson 2019 review.
But wait, there’s something you should know. The diesel is my pick of all the variants as the best to drive both in the city and country. I tested the Tucson Elite with the diesel engine and eight-speed automatic and while it does sound like a delivery truck, that 400Nm of torque is fantastic for being able to move quickly when you need to, without much in the way of turbo lag.
As for ride and handling all Tucsons have the same suspension set-up: MacPherson struts at the front and a multilink in the rear, which provides comfort and good cornering for the class.
Hyundai has tuned the suspension in the Tucson for Australian roads – a lot of car companies don’t do this.
The Tucson isn’t a large SUV (it’s only 140mm longer than an i30 hatch back) and that makes piloting it into parking spaces and in narrow streets easy. Visibility is hindered by thick A-pillars either side of the windscreen and seeing out the back small windows is tricky, but the reversing camera helps here.
If you’re planning to tow, you’ll need to know the braked towing capacity of all Tucsons is 1600kg.
And while all-wheel drive isn’t four-wheel drive, the Tucson’s ground clearance of 172mm is higher than a normal car and will mean you can go a little bit further off the bitumen.
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.
While the Tucson’s styling hasn’t changed in this 2020 update, the safety equipment list has in that the lower grades now come with more life-saving tech as standard.
New safety tech on the Active and Active X grades includes AEB that operates at city and urban speeds and lane keeping assistance. That’s in addition to rear parking sensors, rear view camera, and six airbags.
The Elite and Highlander have even more safety equipment such as blind spot warning, AEB which works at higher speeds and can detect pedestrians, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
For child seats, all Tucsons have three tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row. A full-sized alloy wheel is located under the boot floor.
The Tucson scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2016.
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 Tucson is covered by Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months/15,000km. For the 2.0-litre petrol Tucson you can expect to pay $280 for each of the first three services, while the 1.6-litre is a smidge more at $295.
The diesel is more expensive to service – you can expect to pay $390 for each of the first three services, and also at 12 month/15,000km intervals.