Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Kia Seltos
- 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
- Outstanding value-for-money
- Life-enhancing packaging
- Stupendously easy to live with
- Full safety suite only available on GT-Line
- Parcel shelf only standard on Sport+ and up
- Feels a little loose traction-wise on gravel roads
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|
Sometimes a new model arrives with one particular grade that seems to exceed the sum of its pricing as well as parts. Just such a model is the entry-level Kia Seltos, the S.
Launched in late 2019 as the company’s small SUV answer to the successful Mitsubishi ASX, the SP2-series Seltos is a lot like a Kia Cerato, but with a big and boxy body plonked on top for more space, extra utility, higher seating and greater ground clearance (at 177mm) – courtesy of the related Hyundai Kona DNA infused within.
Result? The cheapest version makes for an ideal value urban runabout. And here’s why.
Read More:Kia Seltos 2020 Review
|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.
On paper, the cheapest Seltos might seem the least appealing of the range. Base model, tiny wheels, unremarkable 2.0-litre engine and a CVT auto are hardly the stuff of champions.
Yet, with its boxy good looks, utilitarian proportions, hardy presentation, agreeable performance, absorbent ride, ample road clearance, thoughtful equipment levels, accessible pricing, low running costs and superlative after-sales care, the S starts to shape up as a handsome and likeable overachiever of the small SUV set.
Budget for the Safety Pack and do insist on that AWOL parcel shelf, and you’re left with what might be one of the today’s most suitable and formidable real-world urban propositions. The Seltos S rises above its station with an infectious can-do swagger.
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.
An imposing nose. Chunky styling. A ‘floating roof’ design. Vibrant colour choices. With a hint of old-school Subaru Forester in its boxy utilitarianism, the Seltos literally stands out in a very crowded sector. Little wonder it’s already a big hit.
It’s interesting how Kia and Hyundai went down very different visual avenues with what are essentially the same basic mechanical ingredients. The former is all about space and sensibility while the latter is very much contemporary style orientated.
Maybe that’s why, despite brandishing a handsome set of hubcaps, the S’ 205/60R16-shod steelies look a wee-bit tiny in those huge wheel arches.
That pleasing practicality ethos outside has been transferred inside the Seltos too, with a simple approach to the dashboard design that aims to enhance your interaction with it rather than distract, confuse or even intimidate. That just isn’t Kia’s way.
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.
First thing’s first. It’s difficult to think of a cheaper new car that’s easier to get in and out of than the Seltos. Big doors, wide apertures, a tall ceiling, overhead grab handles, lofty cushions and a sense of airiness make it utterly undemanding. Swinging your hips up and on high flat seats (and down and off again), are further bonuses.
If you’re somewhat creaky in the bones and not so mobile, ensure this is on your list.
Most materials are of the hardy, durable variety, with the plastic (rather than leather-sheathed) wheel probably the next biggest giveaway after the wheels that you’ve chosen bargain-basement.
But at least you can sink yourself into soft and inviting cloth-ish seat fabrics. And there’s still some flair in there anyway, from door grilles which either look like an ode to Melbourne’s Fed Square or punched-in speaker grilles, to dimpled textures and contrasting shades of silvers and greys. Very Teutonic.
The majority of drivers should count on excellent front and side vision (though wide C-pillars do blot out over-the-shoulder parking sight lines), as well as a tilt/telescopic steering column and a height-adjustable cushion for locating the ideal seating position.
And everybody should admire the outstandingly concise instrumentation markings, plentiful ventilation and copious storage – including the deep front door pockets, shallow fascia shelves (one next to the two 12V and single USB outlets for maximum practicality) and a sizeable centre-console bin-cum-elbow rest.
It’d be near-impossible finding a less painless rental experience after 30 hours flying to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, than the user-friendly Seltos. That also applies to the uncomplicated multimedia connectivity and transparency of all vehicle controls.
Moving on to the back (possible without having to leave the car thanks to clambering-aiding space between the front seats), that flat and somewhat featureless cushion too is raised, which – like the wide-arc door opening – assists entry and egress as well as the view out for shorter folk.
It’s a light-filled expanse of rear-seat space, in contrast to the oppressive darkness of most small SUVs. We’re looking at you, Toyota C-HR and Mazda CX-30.
There are a few surprising extras and omissions. On the credit side you’ll find two-angle reclinable backrests, a reading light and windows that wind almost all of the way down. Fido will be pleased. None are base-grade guarantees. But could the carpet feel grittier? Optional mats ($163.89 ex-Kia) are a must.
There are no face-level air outlets, map pockets, USB ports or cupholders back there, while the S and Sport grades miss out on that parcel shelf. That’s almost dog-act penny-pinching. If you want one, that’s $346.12 thanks.
Speaking of the luggage area, the boot opening is huge, the floor flat and the load space level. There’s a wagon-like low lip to haul things over, and there’s more cargo capacity at 433L than every one of its popular small SUV foes, including the Qashqai (430L), ASX (393L), Toyota C-HR (377L), Suzuki Vitara (375L) and Kona (361L). The Tardis-like HR-V, meanwhile, pips the Kia by just four litres at 437L. A space-saver spare lives underneath.
All in all, then, the Seltos’ cabin is big and spacious and inviting to interact with, but what it isn’t is innovative. We can’t help thinking that, given all that interior space, Kia missed a trick not engineering a sliding rear seat as per the Skoda Karoq, or under-seat storage drawers.
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.
From $25,990 before on-road costs, the Seltos S represents compelling buying, and not just among similar small SUV autos like the versatile Honda HR-V VTi (–$500) and bestselling but ancient Mitsubishi ASX ES (also a tenner under $26,000), as well as the exxier Toyota C-HR 2WD, Mazda CX-30 G20 Pure (both +$4300 apiece) and Nissan Qashqai ST (+$4600).
Thanks to some deft design and packaging, subjectively the Kia feels just about large enough to play in the medium SUV league, alongside favourites such as the Mazda CX-5 Maxx 2WD (+$7290). And while, stood side-by-side, the latter’s larger proportions are plainly obvious, its cargo capacity is just nine litres more than the Seltos’ 433L.
As with all of the above, the base Seltos is front-wheel drive, in this case employing a 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine and box-fresh continuously variable transmission (CVT) automatic combination. No manual is available, sadly.
The S is very well equipped for an opener, boasting an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia display, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, cruise control, automatic on/off headlights, reverse camera, rear parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with vehicle and pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert and 16-inch steel wheels with a space-saver spare tyre.
We advise ticking the $1000 'Safety Pack' option, since it ushers in worthwhile goodies like adaptive cruise control, electric folding exterior mirrors, a driver’s side auto up/down window, cyclist collision avoidance braking as part of a more-sophisticated AEB system, larger rear disc brakes and an electronic park brake with hill-hold. Bargain.
However, there are some spec anomalies. You’ll need the $28,990 Sport for digital radio and alloy wheels (though it does also introduce a nicer full-colour 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat-nav); only the $32,490 Sport+ onwards brings a parcel shelf/cargo area cover (!), blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic avoidance and remote unlocking, while rain-sensing wipers, wireless phone charging and any sort of front LED lighting are the preserve of the GT-Line AWD flagship, from $41,400.
The latter includes a more powerful 1.6-litre turbo with all-wheel drive, though it’s also a $2500 option on the aforementioned Sport+; note that also bags a multi-link independent rear suspension system in place of the more-rudimentary torsion beam arrangement in FWD models. Metallic paint lightens your bank account by another $520.
Do you need all that extra gear? The upper Seltos’ play in serious medium SUV territory… highlighting just how much car the base S actually offers.
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.
Kia offers two distinct four-cylinder petrol powertrains in the Seltos.
In the three lower-end models including the S tested here, there’s a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine producing 110kW of power and 180Nm of torque driving the front wheels via a CVT, while a 1591cc 1.6-litre turbo delivers 130kW/265Nm to all four wheels via a seven-speed DCT in the Sport+ AWD and GT-Line AWD.
Make no mistake, even with fewer muscles to flex, the S’ 2.0-litre four provides more than enough performance for its intended function. Just a light press of the throttle will have the Kia leaping into action, and the front wheels scrambling for traction burying the pedal to the metal, and pulling strongly up, right up to the 6500rpm red line.
In doing so it’s neither the quietest nor the smoothest engine in its class – the downsized 1.2-litre turbo in the C-HR shines in this regard – but there is nevertheless more than enough punch in reserve for safe and confident overtaking. Expect a 0-100km/h figure of well-under nine seconds, which is strong for this class of SUV.
Such willing performance would not be possible without the natural and eager responses from the new transmission, which is probably the best CVT we’ve ever experienced in terms of emulating a (decent) torque-converter auto. It shifts smoothly, evenly and without the gearing-related roaring and droning that have blighted these sorts of powertrains for decades.
Better still, given the size and space offered in the Seltos, the 2.0-litre/CVT combo is a comparatively economical one, returning an indicated 8.6L/100km after eight days of restful and spirited driving alike, 0.2 litres per 100km better than the official urban rating. The S’ combined urban/extra-urban average is 6.8L/100km, for a carbon dioxide emissions figure of 157g/km.
The Kia will gladly run on standard 91 RON unleaded petrol or 94 RON E10 ethanol/unleaded.
Fitted with a 50L fuel tank, expect up to 735km between top-ups based on that 6.8L/100km official combined average number.
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.
Here’s where the Seltos’ core strengths of pace, space, access and ease come to the fore, dovetailing with a few more virtues to highlight how well the small SUV works in an urban environment.
As outlined earlier, the S is hot to trot from the word go, making it a prompt point-to-point performer, with the CVT presenting none of the hesitation or lag on inclines that blight some dual-clutch (DCT) autos. This is a smooth and relaxing machine to scoot around town in.
The steering, too, feels light and prompt, for effortless cornering and U-turn manoeuvres; and while there’s some lean due the Seltos’ raised centre of gravity, the upshot is sufficient spring travel for soaking up the ragged ruts and bumps peppering many urban streets, backed up by hump-traversing ground clearance.
Kia, like Hyundai, makes much noise about how it tunes most new models specifically for Australian conditions, and that seems to show out on the open road, thanks to solid and surefooted handling.
If you really push through fast corners the Seltos will lean quite a bit and seem a tad ponderous as the vehicle’s weight shifts about through tighter turns, but it never feels top-heavy or unwieldy.
As far as tall SUVs go, the S is pretty planted. Plus, while not especially quiet, the amount of wind, road and tyre noise heard inside is acceptable.
Note, however, that over gravel at even fairly moderate speed, the stability and traction systems seem a little too relaxed in that they allow the Seltos to slide wide before they intervene to straighten things out again, and do too abruptly at times, cutting power and making for some jerky progress.
If this is a concern then you might want to consider either spending the extra $10K on the AWD version or avoiding such roads, because the S behaves best on 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.
The S comes with a long list of standard safety kit, including anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake-assist, stability and traction controls, AEB with vehicle and pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist, driver attention alert, downhill brake control, hill-start assist, reverse parking sensors, rear-view camera with parking guidelines, six airbags (driver, passenger, and side and curtain airbags), and auto on/off headlights with delay function.
There are also two rear-seat ISOFIX points as well as three top tethers for straps.
Like we said earlier, a more sophisticated AEB system with added cyclist collision avoidance braking, adaptive cruise control with stop/start functionality, electric folding mirrors and larger rear-disc brakes are among the extra features of the $1000-optional Safety Pack on S and Sport grades.
Thus-equipped, the S is at the forefront of safety for the small SUV class. ANCAP says the AEB works between 10km/h and 40km/h.
The Seltos scored a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating during 2019.
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.
For some time now, Kia has led the industry with a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty as well as roadside assistance.
Service intervals are every year or 15,000km, while published basic capped-price servicing ranges from $261 to $593 depending on the interval. The total is $2818 over seven year, averaging $402.58 annually over that period.