Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Kia Sorento
- 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
- Excellent features and good value
- Comfortable and easy to drive
- Cool styling, but still practical
- No petrol four cylinder engine
- Airbags don’t fully cover third row
- Engines are thirsty
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 Sorento is the mothership of Kia’s line-up. A big, seven-seater SUV which during the past decade has won over Aussie families for its spaciousness and practicality, its safety tech and the way it drives, while being great value for money.
Now the new-generation model has arrived looking leaner and meaner than the old Sorento. So, has it lost any of the charms which made it a winner, or has it only got better?
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.
Kia has done it again. The new-gen Sorento will be an instant family hit with its super-cool styling, modern cabin tech, practicality and space, while being great value for money. For such a modern SUV, there should have been a high-output four-cylinder petrol offered, as Mazda does with its CX-9. A superb engine like that, is what an SUV this great deserves.
The sweet spot in the range is the Sport+. Sure it doesn't have the remote parking feature of the GT-Line but it comes with a proximity key, privacy glass and leather seats.
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.
The new-generation Sorento looks nothing like the last one… n-o-t-h-i-n-g like the last one. Well, apart from the rear, side window which has the same angle to it, which is an intentional nod to the previous model.
The outgoing version was premium and friendly looking, but its proportions seem bloated compared to the muscular, angular, new-generation Sorento.
It appears to have had an attitude change, too. Sure, this is a family SUV but there are muscle-car traits from the Camaro-style headlights flanking that cliff face of a grille, to the Mustang-esque tail-lights, with everything in between filled with sharp edges.
The cabin is even more striking with its cheese-grater textures in the dash and doors, the large centre console with chrome trim and rotary shifter.
The 10.25-inch media display, standard on the Sport grade and above, is the most interesting I’ve seen on any car I’ve tested.
The level of detail, thought and styling which has gone into it is obvious with its neon people, fonts and icons, incandescent light bulb effect for radio frequencies, and even the ‘streetlight’ mode for the navigation is intriguing. At the same time, it’s one of the easiest to use systems I’ve encountered.
The top-grade GT-Line steps up the premium look with its fully-digital instrument cluster and Nappa leather seats.
The materials feel high quality, while the fit and finish is superb.
The Sorento’s dimensions have changed slightly with the SUV now measuring 4810mm long (+10mm), 1900mm wide and 1700mm tall.
There are seven colours to pick from but only clear white doesn’t demand the $695 cost of the rest which include 'Silky Silver', 'Steel Grey', 'Mineral Blue', 'Aurora Black', 'Gravity Blue' or the 'Snow White Pearl' of the Sorento in my video above.
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 new Sorento has more space inside, a bigger boot and more charging outlets for devices.
Climbing into the third row is also easier now thanks to a wheelbase that’s been stretched by 35mm to 2815mm and a second row which slides further forward.
Even somebody my height (191cm/6'3") and with my impressive lack of co-ordination can get in. Watch the video to see how elegant I look doing it.
Legroom is excellent throughout and I can sit behind my driving position in the second row, and behind that in the third row without my knees touching any of the seatbacks.
You now have more boot space, too. With the third row in place there’s 187 litres (up by 45 litres), and with third row flat there’s 616 liters (up by 11 litres).
Cabin storage is also excellent. There are eight cupholders, plus, four bottle holders in the doors up front and back. You can have 12 drinks on the go and it only fits seven people.
Then there are the charging points. The GT Line and the Sport+ have USB ports in the third and second row, and all grades have three USBs up front and two 12V outlets.
The GT-Line also includes wireless charging. There are directional air vents in all three rows. Nobody is going thirsty, or airless, or chargeless.
A special shout out needs to go to the Remote Smart Parking Assist feature of the GT-Line, too. The system makes the Sorento even more practical.
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 new-generation Kia Sorento costs about $3K more than the previous model, but in return you’re given better features and the latest tech.
There are four grades in the Sorento range: the S, Sport, Sport + and top-of-the-range GT-Line. All grades can be had with a diesel or petrol engine. The catch is, only the diesel version is equipped with all-wheel drive, while the petrol variant is front-wheel drive only.
For the petrol line-up list prices start at $45,850 for the S, then steps up to $48,480 for the Sport, $52,850 for the Sport+, and $60,070 for the GT-Line. Want that in diesel? Just add $3000 to each price.
Kia does drive-away pricing almost permanently, which will save you money on rego and other on-road costs. At the time this was published you could buy a GT-Line diesel for $63,070 drive-away.
What do you get for the money?
The Sport grade adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a big 10.25-inch display, sat nav, dual-zone climate, and a power adjustable driver’s seat, but it still has cloth seats.
Things are getting pretty spesh with the Sport+ grade. There’s all of the Sport’s features plus 19-inch alloy wheels, leather seats (heated up front), proximity key with push-button start, power tailgate, privacy glass, LED tail-lights and remote engine start.
And at the top of the tree is the GT-Line which adds 20-inch alloy wheels, quilted Nappa leather seats, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, mood lighting, 12-speaker Bose sound system, head-up display, a wireless phone charger, heated seats in the front and second row, and a panoramic sunroof.
By far the most impressive feature of the GT-Line is it's ability to park itself without anyone being in the car. Yup, you read that right. It's called 'Remote Smart Parking Assist' and it's for tight parking spaces.
It's astounding, and to see it work watch the video above where I demonstrate how easy to use and practical the feature is.
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.
As with the previous Sorento there’s a choice of a 3.5-litre petrol V6 or a turbo-diesel four-cylinder.
Essentially, they are the same engines from the previous model and the outputs are almost unchanged with the diesel making 148kW/440Nm, while the petrol produces 206kW/336Nm.
The transmission in the diesel variant is properly new. It’s an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. The eight-speed that comes in the petrol is an old-school traditional automatic transmission.
The braked towing capacity for the petrol is 1898kg while the diesel can pull 1908kg.
Fuel consumption is down slightly in both diesel and petrol engines. Kia says the petrol engine should use 9.7L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads.
As for the diesel, Kia says it should use 6.1/100km. I drove the GT-Line diesel for a week, living with it like you will – school drop offs, shopping centres, city streets, motorways, you name it.
I put 195.1km on the clock and used 18.6 litres – that’s come out to be a very real-world 9.5L/100km.
With such a high driving position, the worry is that you’re going to feel like you’re sitting on the new GLA rather than in it.
But the fact is that, once I became accustomed to the fact that I couldn’t get the seat as low as I wanted to, it all became comfortable enough, and I could get on with fully appreciating the ride quality.
While the GLA has a good, Germanic solidity to the way the interior is bolted together - the doors are almost too heavy, I fact, and can be tough for little people to close - it’s the way it sits on the road that really impresses.
The little Benz soaks up the bumps, particularly in Comfort mode, and provides the kind of ride and handling quality that you’d expect in a six-figure German car. Or a Benz of old, you might say.
Critics of A Classes past were heard to complain that they just didn’t ride as softly or richly as a Mercedes should, but the company has put things to rights with its smaller cars in recent years and you really feel like you’re getting the badge you paid for here.
Step out of the cruisy, snoozy Comfort setting into Sport, however, and the CLA feels out of its, well, comfort zone. It’s almost too toey for its own good, wanting to lurch around, holding each gear desperately and making noises that are merely loud rather than sexy.
Engine noise is a little intrusive whenever you try and accelerate fiercely in the GLA, in fact, but there is some handy pace there if you really need it.
Fast driving does feel out of character for the GLA 250 variant, however, and those who want that kind of thing should wait for the AMG-fettled version that will arrive in the next month or so, bringing 225kW and 400Nm.
As a cornering weapon, this car is more of a butter knife, smoothing its way around bends with minimal bodyroll. It’s an urban SUV, and it drives like one, albeit a very good one.
Typically, the steering is also light and easy to use rather than heavy and talkative.
Being the 4-MATIC variant, the GLA 250 also offers an Off-Road mode, which takes full advantage of its torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, but sadly our slightly brief introduction to the car didn’t provide us with the chance to hurl it down a scree-covered mountain side, nor to test out its version of hill-descent control.
We’ve test driven the diesel version of the Sorento in the GT-Line grade, as the diesel is likely to be the more popular choice. And once we get our hands on the petrol version, we’ll let you know what that’s like to pilot, too.
You definitely won’t forget what's powering the diesel. It’s fairly noisy on the outside, but the cabin is well insulated so not much clatter finds its way in.
That’s just the start of what feels like a plush and premium driving experience.
The ride is excellent, comfortable and composed even on the crumbling city roads around where I live. The same roads I’ve driven Benz and BMW SUVs on and some of those don’t feel as good as the Sorento.
I’m serious. The Sorento’s body control is outstanding. It doesn’t wobble, doesn’t feel too bouncy, and provides a superb connection between the driver and the road. I can’t say the same for some much more expensive SUVs.
It’s down to the hard work Kia puts into getting its suspension right for Australia. Months before the Sorento came out in January 2020 Kia’s local engineers were driving it all over Australia, and through a process of trial and error found the right suspension that felt as good as they could get it. And they have nailed it.
So, along with the Sorento being comfortable on Aussie roads, it handles better than you’d expect something this large to.
I pushed it hard into corners I take all my test cars though, without the major lean or roll you’d experience in some large SUVS.
Steering is also a highlight. It’s accurate, smooth, and gave me a good feeling of connection with the road.
The diesel engine, while a bit noisy, is instantly responsive with no turbo lag and provides good acceleration. Only the diesel Sorento is all-wheel drive, so this is the pick if you’re planning to head on to dirt roads regularly.
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.
Then the GT-Line also has blind spot view monitor, which shows the view behind you on whichever side you’re indicating towards.
All Sorento also have seven airbags including one which pops up between the driver and front passenger.
Curtain airbags extend to the third row, but don’t completely cover the windows of those very back seats. This may make you reconsider whether you want to have children back there.
If you do, there are ISOFIX points and top tether mounts for the third-row seats, plus two more ISOFIX points and three top tethers mounts across the second row.
It’s good to see the Sorento has kept its full-sized spare wheel, which is under the car.
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.