Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Nissan Patrol
- 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
- Enormous cabin and cargo area
- Effortless to drive
- Plush interior
- Disconnected feeling at higher speeds
- Thirsty and no diesel variant
- Tech is starting to date
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.
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The Nissan Patrol is the iconic go-anywhere rival to the equally legendary and off-road-tough Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series. Like the ‘Cruiser the current Patrol is aging, having been around for a decade now. So, did the late-2019 update to the Patrol wind back the clock with new styling, tech and safety?
What’s it like to live with on-the-road when it’s not adventuring through the desert? And is that petrol V8 thirsty?
I found the answers to all these questions and more when the top-of-the-range Patrol, the Ti-L, came to stay for a week.
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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 Patrol Ti-L is a go-anywhere beast but as my test showed anywhere can also mean the upmarket end of town on city streets where its on-road manners are refined, composed and comfortable, with looks that border on prestige. The Patrol might be getting on, and the interior design is starting to age, but this is still a superb vehicle for the money.
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.
Large. Enormous. Big. Some of the words I’ve used so far to describe the Patrol, but they aren’t going to help you when it comes to knowing if it will fit in your garage or the shopping centre car park.
So, here are the Patrol’s dimensions. The Ti-L measures 5175mm long, 1955mm tall and 1995mm wide. It’s the height which was the primary concern for me because I live in the city and many multi-level carparks have maximum clearances of 1.9m.
The Patrol’s styling doesn’t exactly try to hide its size. The thing looks like it’s been chiseled out of sandstone, with a face that looks like a wall, a high and broad bonnet, and a flat roofline leading to a sheer drop at the tailgate like the Nullarbor meeting the ocean.
In late 2019 the Patrol received styling tweaks with the bonnet, front wheel arches, and grille given a redesign along with both bumpers. Nissan says the Ti is the sporty looking one while the Ti-L we’re reviewing here has a more premium look.
I’d agree with that; premium but with a bit of Robo Cop thrown in. It’s definitely confronting and modern looking, but with a high-end air.
The prestige feel continues inside but it’s less futuristic with all that wood, and the tech is beginning to date. Still, this is a plush cabin, with a good fit and finish to it.
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 Patrol is a seven-seat, large SUV and in the words of our five-year-old son, “This is a good car because it’s big, but also it’s too big.”
He said that as he made a second attempt to scale the entrance into the second row, and that time didn’t fall out. It’s a long way up and while the doorways are tall and wide, it’s not just my kid who’s going to need the side steps to climb in, everyone will. I did, and I’m 191cm (6'3") tall.
The Patrol’s cabin is enormous. I mean Land of the Giants enormous. So, for somebody with my 2.0-metre wingspan it felt great to have so much shoulder, elbow, and headroom up front.
Leg and headroom in the second row is also excellent. There was about a 100mm gap between my knees and the seat back.
The third row is tight, and the second row doesn’t slide forward to offer more room. Still, I could sit back there for a short trip, but those two seats are really for kids. Do the airbags cover the third row? I’ll get to that in the safety section below.
Lets’ talk about cabin storage and then the boot.
Under the centre armrest between the driver and front passenger is a fridge large enough to cool six 600ml water bottles or my wife’s large handbag, and the clever lid means it can be opened from the front or the back.
Door pockets are seriously big, there are two cupholders up front, another two in the second row and the third has four.
When all three rows of seats are in use the boot space left is still impressive at 468 litres, and with the third row folded flat there’s 1413 litres of space, and that opens up to 2623 litres if you fold the second row down, too. Huge.
The boot load lip is pretty high compared to less hardcore SUVs such as a Mazda CX-9. So, if you’re just using the Patrol daily and never head off-road you may quickly get over hoisting your shopping bags into the boot like you’re competing in a hammer throw event.
For devices you’ll find five USB ports (three are in the second row, the rest up front), four 12V outlets (two up front, one in the second row, and a third in the boot), and there’s a HDMI port in the second row, too.
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 Patrol line-up consists of two grades: the $76,990 Ti and the top-of-the-range $92,790 Ti-L we’re reviewing here.
The Ti and Ti-L were upgraded at the end of 2019 with new safety tech and some styling tweaks, which I’ll take you through in the sections below.
But for now, let me tell you about the Ti-L’s features.
Coming standard on the Ti-L is leather upholstery, three-zone climate control, heated and cooled front seats which are also power adjustable, a 6.0-litre cooler box, sat nav, proximity unlocking, power tailgate, sun roof, LED headlights with washers, LED fog lights, puddle lights, and a digital rear-view mirror.
The Ti-L also has a DVD entertainment system with an 8.0-inch screen up front and two more seat-back 8.0-inch screens in the second row, and a 13-speaker Bose stereo.
The only optional equipment fitted to my test car was a dealer-installed tow bar kit ($1374) and electric brake controllers ($618). The 'Moonstone White' premium paint it wore is also optional and costs $595.
Is the Patrol Ti-L good value? Yes, but it’s beginning to feel a little dated – a lot like its rival the Toyota LandCruiser LC200 GXL which lists for $89,222.
Something you may not have considered is the Ford Everest, which is extremely capable off-road, comfortable to drive and a whole lot more affordable at $72,590 for the seven-seat Titanium grade.
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.
The good news is the Patrol isn’t powered by a hamster on a wheel. Nope, the engine perfectly matches the macho look and feel because it’s a 5.6-litre petrol V8 making 298kW/560Nm.
So, if you’re worried that in these days of fuel consciousness the Patrol would have something less beefy, fear not.
The not so good news is that you can only have a petrol V8 and there’s no diesel alternative. That’s not great news for fuel economy as you’ll read below.
If you’re not fussed by how much fuel you’ll use, then in return you’ll have a petrol V8 which is lot quieter than a diesel while the seven-speed automatic transmission is smooth making for a refined and effortlessly powerful driving experience (read more about that below too).
The Patrol is four-wheel drive with 4H and 4L gears, plus an Auto (AWD) setting.
Nissan says that after a combination of open and urban roads the Patrol Ti-L will have used 14.4L/100km. In my fuel testing I started with a full tank (140 litres) and then after 103.3km of city streets, suburban roads and motorways I needed 19.57L to fill it back to capacity which comes to 18.9L/100km.
That may sound like a lot, but until I hit the motorways the trip computer was saying the average fuel consumption was 30.1L/100km after about 50km of only inner-city suburb driving.
The Patrol needs a minimum of 95 RON premium petrol, too.
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.
For this review the Patrol Ti-L stayed firmly on suburban roads and city streets and wasn’t taken off-road. If you’re keen to find out how the Patrol fares over tough terrain then read Adventurer Editor Marcus ‘Crafty’ Craft’s off-road review here.
Suffice to say, it’s extremely capable off the road. Essential figures for the Ti-L include a ground clearance of 273mm, an approach angle of 28.0 degrees (34.4 degrees in the Ti) and a departure angle of 26.3 degrees.
And if you’re planning to tow, then read Crafty’s tow test here where he compared the Ti-L with the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series GXL from what it’s like to drive with a van on the back to the fuel economy.
What you need to know here is the Patrol has a maximum-braked towing capacity 3.5-tonnes, a Gross Combined Mass (GCM) of 7000kg and a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 3500kg.
So, as much as the Patrol is as happy as a pig in mud when it’s in mud, this large SUV will no doubt spend a lot of time on the bitumen as well, where the it's also an accomplished beast.
Ride and handling are shockingly good for something nudging three tonnes. There’s independent rear suspension and 'Hydraulic Body Motion Control' which keeps the Patrol flatter in the corners.
Dampers have been retuned for better on-road comfort and while the ride may be firmer than many large, floaty-feeling SUVs, it’s still enjoyably comfortable.
A turning circle of 12.5m and fairly slow geared steering saw me feeling a bit like a hand-shuffling bus driver doing three point turns in my street. No biggie, though the steering is pinky finger light and makes for easy work.
Around town at lower speeds the steering is accurate and great for piloting through traffic, but on motorways and fast country roads I felt a little disconnected from the front wheels at times, so more feeling in the steering would be an improvement.
Parking obviously was harder in the city where finding a seven-metre space is near impossible, but thanks to the great visibility, both in terms of the ride height and the enormous windows and wing mirrors, maneuvering into tight spaces and navigating city streets was easy.
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 Y62 Nissan Patrol first came out in 2010 and despite many safety upgrades over the years since it hasn’t yet been given an ANCAP rating.
The 2019 upgrade saw more advanced tech added and the Ti-L safety features include AEB, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning with lane keeping assistance, and blind spot warning which will intervene to steer you back into your lane if needed.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and two top tether anchor mounts in the second row. Only the right-hand seat in the third row can have a child seat installed and it’s a top tether anchor point.
Nissan says curtain airbags cover all three rows in the Patrol.
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 Patrol is covered by Nissan’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended every six months or 10,000km and the first six services are set at $376 for the first service, $577 for the second, $392 for the third, $860 for the fourth and $407 for the fifth and $624 for the sixth.