Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Peugeot 5008
- 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
- Striking looks
- Great to drive
- Awesome interior
- No reverse-cross traffic alert
- Curtain airbags don't reach third row
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|
Previously on carsguide.com.au: Peter Anderson drove the Peugeot 5008 and quite liked it.
I don't think it's going to be a huge shock to learn that the recent update to the 5008 seven-seater has improved the car and, therefore, my opinion of the car.
Except, it's more than an update. Prices are much higher than when I drove the Crossway edition 5008 in 2019 (remember those happy times?) and the difference between the petrol and diesel engines is especially wide now in 2021.
The updated 5008 shares a great deal with its 3008 sibling and the two share a very important attribute - they are distinctively French, in a good way.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium 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 answer is, I think, two-fold - price and badge. Peugeot Australia has a job on its hands to turn things around as 2020 was a tough year and 2021 is shaping up to be almost as hard. There aren't any significant changes to the 5008 to make it suddenly stand out from the crowd because it already did. So the badge's cachet isn't matching the premium pricing.
Peugeot's SUVs are very popular in Europe but barely make a dent here. Because there isn't a bait-and-switch cheaper model to lure buyers off the street, it's a harder sell. Peugeot's glory days of the late 1990s and the late 1970s before mean the people who have fond memories of the badge are older and probably don't have any attachment at all to the French lion. Perhaps the re-energised 2008 will start that conversation, except it's not cheap either.
Having said all that, it's hard to see why folks with over fifty grand to spend on a seven-seater - and there are plenty of those - aren't paying more attention to the 5008. It's a striking presence, is practical but isn't overbearingly large or even slightly clumsy. It may not have AWD but hardly anyone ever uses that. It'll handle the city and the motorway and, as I discovered, biblical rain all in its stride. Like its 3008 sibling, it's a mystery there aren't more out there.
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 5008 was always the slightly awkward big brother to the 3008. That's not to say it was (or is) ugly, but the bigger box fitted to the back is far less racy than the 3008's fast back.
There's not much change at that end, so the cool claw lights carry the can for style.
In profile, again, it's a little awkward (compared to the 3008) but some nice work with various materials and shapes help to reduce its bulk.
The front is where the facelift action has happened. I was never completely convinced by the front end of the 5008 but the reworking of the lights to look less like they were squeezed out of a tube of toothpaste is a marked improvement.
The updated lights work beautifully with the new frameless grille. The fang-style daytime running lights, that debuted on the gorgeous 508, look fantastic here on the 5008. It's a superb job.
Inside is largely unchanged, which is to say it's still brilliant. It's really one of the more inventive interiors in any car, anywhere and is a joy to sit in.
The seats look brilliant, even more so in the diesel with their fine stitching and racy shapes. The wacky 'i-Cockpit' driving position works much better in more upright cars like SUVs and is present and correct while the new 10.0-inch screen also looks good.
Even if you're not interested in buying one of these, if you're passing a Peugeot showroom, get in and have a look, feel the materials and wonder why more interiors aren't this cool.
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.
Legroom is good in the middle row, with plenty of knee space as well as a that long flat roof stopping you from giving yourself a haircut.
Each of the front seats has a fold down airline-style tray table, which kids go absolutely wild for.
The third row is really an occasional use only proposition, but it does the job and is reasonably easy to access. The middle row also slides forward (60/40 split) to allow a bit more space for the third row, which is nice.
The 5008 has a trick up its sleeve - removable third-row seats. If you fold the middle row down and remove the back row, you have a massive 2150 litres (VDA) of cargo volume.
If you just fold the third row away you still have a formidable 2042 litres. Whip the back row out again but leave the centre row in place and you have a 1060-litre boot, reattach them and it's a still impressive 952 litres. So, it's a massive boot.
The 5008 is rated to tow 1350kg (petrol) or 1800kg (diesel) with a braked trailer, or 600kg (petrol) and 750kg (diesel) without brakes.
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.
Peugeot's local arm is pitching the 5008 at an interesting point. While nowhere near the largest of seven-seaters, it is also not the cheapest, that honour going to Peugeot's former technical partner for SUVs, Mitsubishi.
There is now just one specification level (although it isn't really), the GT and you can have it in petrol form for (deep breath) $51,990, or diesel form (keep drawing that long breath) $59,990. That's a lot of cash.
But as I say, the spec is not the same between the two. And there is a lot of stuff.
The petrol GT opens with 18-inch wheels, a 12.3-inch digital dashboard (upgraded, apparently), a new 10.0-inch touchscreen (ditto), front and rear parking sensors, around-view cameras, leather and Alcantara seats, keyless entry and start, auto parking, adaptive cruise control, powered tailgate, rear window blinds, auto LED headlights, auto wipers and a space-saver spare.
The more expensive diesel picks up the diesel engine (obviously), a banging Focal-branded 10-speaker stereo, acoustic laminated front side windows and 19-inch alloys.
The diesel GT's front seats are also upgraded, with extra adjustability, a massage function, heating, memory function and electrical operation of just about everything on them.
Both versions have the new 10.0-inch multimedia touchscreen. The older screen was slow and really needed a good stab to work, which is a bit of a problem when so many functions are packed into the system.
The new one is better, but still a touch laggy. Weirdly, the climate control shortcuts permanently frame the screen, so the extra real estate goes on those controls.
The diesel GT's seats are available as an option on the petrol as part of a $3590 option pack. The pack also adds the Nappa leather, which itself is a separate option for $2590 on that upper-spec model. Neither pack is cheap (but the Nappa leather is lovely) and the massage seats are more than a novelty.
Other option costs are $1990 for a sunroof and $2590 for Nappa leather (diesel only).
Just one paint colour, 'Sunset Copper', is free. The rest are extra. For $690 you can choose 'Celebes Blue', 'Nera Black', 'Artense Grey', or 'Platinum Grey.' 'Ultimate Red' and 'Pearl White' cost $1050.
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 the names of the cars suggest, there is a petrol and diesel engine. Both drive the front wheels only through automatic transmissions.
For torque monsters, the diesel is the go, with 131kW at 3750rpm and 400Nm from 2000rpm. This engine scores two more gears for a total of eight and will run from 0-100km/h in 10.2 seconds.
So neither of them are drag racers, which is to be expected when you've got a fair chunk of weight to pull (1473kg for the petrol, 1575kg for the diesel).
Peugeot says the combined cycle figure for the petrol is 7.0L/100km and 5.0L/100km for the diesel. The petrol figure seems sort of likely, the diesel, not so sure.
I ran the lighter 3008 for six months with the same engine (but with two fewer gears, granted) and it averaged closer to 8.0L/100km. The last time I had the 5008 I got 9.3L/100km.
As I drove these cars on the launch event (mostly highway running), the dash-indicated 7.5L/100km figure I saw is not a reliable indicator of real-world consumption.
Both tanks hold 56 litres, so based on the official figures, you'll cover around 800km in the petrol and over 1000km in the diesel. Bank on a day-to-day range about 150km lower than that.
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.
Once you're comfortable with the i-Cockpit, which features a high dashboard and a tiny, squared-off steering wheel, you'll feel like you're driving a much smaller car.
I have theorised over the years that the light steering coupled with the small steering wheel makes it feel more dynamic than it is, but I think that's wrong - it's genuinely well set-up and is a car in which you can have some fun.
I was only able to drive the 1.6-litre petrol with six-speed auto on launch and that was on a horrifically wet day during Sydney's recent deluge.
The M5 motorway was covered in standing water and the spray from the big rigs made driving conditions rather more difficult than usual.
The 5008 sailed through it all (pun intended). That engine is hardly the last word in power and torque, but it does the job and the auto is well-calibrated to the numbers.
The big Michelin tyres bite the tarmac pretty well and while you always feel the weight of a seven-seater SUV, it drives much more like a raised wagon than a doughy SUV.
Fewer of its rivals are doughy these days, but there's a little bit of spark in the 5008, matching the promise of its looks.
It's not quick, and it's not a hot SUV, but every time I get in this or its smaller 3008 sibling I ask myself why more people don't buy them.
It's irritating that the diesel costs so much more if you want that extra in-gear performance and another two gears.
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 5008 lands with six airbags, ABS, various stability, traction and braking systems, speed limit sign recognition, driver attention detection, distance warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, road edge detection, auto high beam, reversing camera and around-view cameras.
The diesel picks up lane positioning assist while none of them have reverse cross-traffic alert. Equally annoying is the fact that the curtain airbags don't reach to the back row.
The forward AEB includes low light cyclist and pedestrian detection between 5.0km/h and 140km/h, which is impressive.
The 5008 scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2017.
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.
Interestingly, the service prices aren't much different between the petrol and diesel, with the former costing $2803 over five years ($560 per year on average) and $2841 for the latter ($568.20 per year on average).
You have to visit your Peugeot dealer once every 12 months/20,000km, which isn't too bad. Some turbo-engined cars in this segment demand more visits or won't cover as many kilometres between services.