Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Toyota Fortuner
- 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
- Sturdy, unusual looking 4x4 wagon
- Price cuts make it better value
- Quiet and comfy on-road
- No driver aids anywhere in lineup
- Engine works hard up the rev range
- Third row seating compromises practicality
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|
If you remember the Toyota 4Runner from the 1980s, then you’ll totally get the Fortuner.
For those of you born before the advent of the mobile phone, the Fortuner wagon is based on the same platform as the HiLux ute, save for its coil-spring rear suspension.
The cost of a Toyota Fortuner has taken a huge cut for the 2018 model year, and it’s gained a couple of tweaks along the way. Let’s do a model comparison of the range in more detail.
|Engine Type||2.8L turbo|
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7.4/10
Dropping the price of the Fortuner range will improve its fortunes – but it will no doubt upset customers who bought them at first blush.
The Fortuner is an interesting device; it’s civil enough around town but its skillset really lies in the bush or the snow. While the entry grade GX is the pick if you’re intending to use it in the dirt a lot, we’d probably favour the mid-grade GXL if we were staying on the tarmac for the most part. The Crusade is nice, but its spec level over and above the GXL isn’t that compelling – although the LED headlights are brilliant.
Is Toyota's Fortuner on your seven seat 4WD SUV short-list? Tell us in the comments below.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
The exterior design of modern 4x4 wagons runs the gamut from the straight-bat Isuzu MU-X all the way through to the radical and unorthodox Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
The Fortuner sits somewhere between those two extremes. It's certainly not something that you'd miss in a car park, but it's not quite as… erm, challenging as something like the Pajero Sport.
The LED headlight array and extra chrome on the Crusade may not appeal to some, but as a package, the Fortuner looks futuristic and quite resolved, without the need for a bodykit (except side steps).
Inside, it manages to hide its commercial origins quite well across all three grades. However, there are still some hard plastics within view, including on top of the door cards and centre console bin, which can be irritating should you rest your elbow there on longer trips.
Thankfully, we can report, that the centre console bin lid is padded in the Crusade. Cheaper versions of the Fortuner have seen us actually tape pieces of foam mat on top of the lid in the search for extra comfort.
It's a bit early to talk second hand price, but the Fortuner will take a hit in resale thanks to the cut.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
In terms of dimensions and size, the 4795mm-long Fortuner is a centimetre longer and 30mm wider than the Pajero Sport, but it’s almost 100mm shorter than the big Everest.
It’s sold as a seven-seater, with two fold-down seats in the rear (folding up and into the sides of the cargo area).
It’s not a very practical way to carry them when stowed, though, as the folded seats intrude into the rear interior dimensions significantly. A flimsy hook arrangement secures them in the locked position, and you even need to fold down the inside seat rail before locking them into place.
Boot space drops to 200 litres when the third-row seats are in use, as well, but boot dimensions grow to 1080 litres with the seats stowed. Still, they are a luggage capacity killer. No cargo barrier is fitted.
Once locked in place, the third row can be accessed by tumbling second-row seats forward, but given how low they’re mounted, are only suitable for smaller people.
The second row gets roof vents and a fan control, but there’s no such joy for third rowers. All three rows are covered with the curtain airbag, though.
Row two gets a 12-volt power socket (as well as a proper 220-volt socket in the Crusade) while a pair of fold-up hooks in the front seat backs can handle up to four kilos of shopping bags each.
Legroom is adequate, though the seat base is mounted quite high which intrudes on headroom for taller passengers.
There’s a pair of ISOFIX mounts for a baby car seat and three top-tether points, as well as two cupholders in the centre armrest and bottle holders in each rear door.
Up front, meanwhile, reside a pair of manually operated seats in GX and GXL, and a powered driver’s seat in the Crusade, while an oddly half-wrapped steering wheel on GXL and Fortuner wasn’t a favourite with testers; the shiny veneer finish at the top of the wheel rim was decidedly slippery if grabbed during a parking manoeuvre.
Bottles can be stashed in all doors, while a pair of cupholders graces our auto-equipped tester’s centre console. However, manual-equipped cars miss out on front cupholders all together.
A USB and 12-volt socket are covered by rubber flaps, which along with the heavy duty rubberised floor mats are a hint to the car’s rugged aspirations.
On the negative side, the middle belt on the second row is mounted in the roof, and is a pain to access. It’s a long way up into the cabin from the ground for shorter folks, too, while the folded-up third row seats completely obscure the rear three-quarter windows when stashed.
The centre console bin, too, isn’t padded in the GX and GXL, and as mentioned, gets VERY annoying under your elbow after a couple of hours.
The bonnet, too, is ridiculously heavy. In fact, many people may struggle to lift it high enough to lock the support stay into place.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
The Fortuner comes in three grades, all with the same engine and four-wheel drive (4WD) set-up. How many seats, you ask? Seven, all told.
At the bottom of the price range, the GX costs $42,590 in six-speed manual guise or $44,590 with a six-speed auto. That’s a hefty $5400 cut in price, and it’s been slightly improved for 2018, with 17-inch alloy rims instead of steel wheels, and a set of rear parking sensors to complement the reversing camera.
LED taillights, air con, a cloth interior, cruise control, a chilled bin, a 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system and seven seats are all standard. A polyurethane steering wheel, basic multimedia system with Bluetooth (but no nav or Apple Carplay/Android Auto) and rubber mats round out the spec. The old-school radio CD player is a thing of the past, and there's no DVD player.
The $47,490 Fortuner GXL is the beneficiary of a $5500 price cut; it’s now as cheap as the GX was at launch.
Toyota has added a new multimedia touchscreen system, incorporating satellite navigation, to the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel powered GXL, which comes stock with a six-speed manual gearbox. Also on the standard equipment list are, LED tail-lights, air conditioning, cloth interior, a chilled centre console bin, the aforementioned 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with a GPS-based navigation system and Bluetooth, as well as seven seats.
It also has push-button start with automatic door lock and keyless entry, roof racks, a colour TFT display for the dash, hill descent control, roof rails and fog lights over the GX. A half-leather wrapped steering wheel and old-fashioned rubber mats round out the spec.
A six-speed auto is $2000, while an all-leather interior with powered front seats is available for an additional $2500, if you're looking to know how much.
The list price of the Crusade is $5000 cheaper at $56,990, and only comes in auto. It offers a few extras on top of the GXL, including leather seats with heated fronts, padded centre console bin lid and a powered driver’s pew, a JBL-branded multimedia system with 11 speakers, daytime running lights, smart key and more satin-touch interior finishes including around the gearshift.
As with all the Fortuners, it comes with a locking rear diff and high-low range 4WD. Other niceties in the Crusade include a powered tailgate, but no sunroof is offered from the factory.
When it comes to picking one of the three, we’d lean towards the auto-equipped GXL. It has all the essentials with a few nice touches, and really only misses out on a padded centre console bin lid in terms of comfort.
When it comes to colours, the Fortuner comes in black, white, blue, brown, red, grey and silver.
Toyota offers a factory-approved accessories, including a bullbar, snorkel and nudge bar for the Fortuner. Floor mats are rubber, and rims are alloy. You'll need to source your own dual battery system if you want one.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
The (1GD-FTV) 2.8-litre turbo four-cylinder diesel, sourced from the HiLux, offers the same engine specifications, with maximum power of 130kW at 3400rpm and peak torque of 420Nm between 1400 and 2600rpm in manual guise. The automatic version loses 30Nm of that torque value.
If you're wondering if the engine uses a timing belt or chain, it uses the latter. Oil capacity is 7.5 litres. Toyota doesn't offer a 0-100km/h acceleration speed figure for the car.
Linked to an Aisin-built six-speed manual with a well-weighted clutch, it’s a relatively quiet and pleasingly smooth, tractable engine. The six-speed (conventional, torque converter) auto, too, is well matched to the engine's horsepower, and the steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles were rarely, if ever, employed.
If it came to a question of manual vs automatic, we'd plump for the self-shifter every time.
The Fortuner range comes with a high range 2WD/4WD and low-range 4WD system activated by a dial on the centre console, while a locking rear diff is also standard. As mentioned, suspension is steel springs and dampers, with MacPherson struts up front and a beam set-up at the rear. There is no rear air suspension.
The manual variant also offers a slightly higher braked towing capacity of 3000kg, versus the auto’s 2800kg.
Weights for the car vary between 2110kg and 2135kg, and the gross vehicle mass (car plus payload, including people) is 2750kg – with four average people on board, you’ve got about 400kg of payload to play with.
The gross combined mass (car, trailer, gear and people) for the two transmissions is 5745kg (manual) and 5545kg (auto), meaning the Fortuner can legally tow 2995kg or 2795kg of trailer respectively when it’s fully loaded.
Downball weight (the weight pushing down on the towbar ball hitch) is 250kg, and Toyota recommends the fitting of a weight distribution hitch if you’re hooking up something biggish. Watch this space for a tow test review.
There have been reported problems with the automatic transmission, with fixes in place to improve oil flow via changing a lock ball pin for fifth and sixth gears. As well, the tailshaft in some Fortuners has needed aligning to fix a gear selection problem.
There is no evidence of engine problems with the turbo powered Fortuner at this stage, though anecdotal evidence of fuel injectors lasting only 100,000km has been called out in various user groups.
There are no other common problems, complaints, defects or issues of note.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
Against a claim of 7.8 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle for all three grades and both transmissions, we used 66 litres of diesel to achieve a real-world figure of 8.9L/100km over 756km of testing in the GXL.
The dash-indicated fuel consumption figures of 8.6 and 8.9 in the GX and Crusade bear out this claim.
There is an 'Eco' mode button on the dash, but it only changes the throttle map and doesn't really do much for economy; we used it for about 200km on a highway stint and mileage didn't improve noticeably.
When it comes to petrol vs diesel or LPG... wait, it doesn't matter. You'll never get a petrol version.
Its 80-litre tank offers a theoretical range of around 1000km between fills. No long range tank is fitted.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
All three cars are essentially the same underneath, save for the 17-inch rims on the GX. The Crusade’s 18-inch wheels are fitted with more road-biased tyres, as well.
Instead of load-lugging leaf springs as in the HiLux, the Fortuner uses coil springs and a beam axle to improve ride quality.
We took the GXL for a an extended test, and it was a comfortable and competent alternative to a more car-based SUV.
It’s noisier inside thanks to its dual-purpose tyres, there’s no digital speedo (a strange omission, given there’s a multi-function digital centre screen between the dash gauges), the steering could be more precise at the speed limit, and modern safety aids like adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning would have been nice to have, but we emerged after each leg in good condition.
The long-travel suspension is firm at low speeds, but frees up the faster you go, providing a more comfortable ride over square-edged bumps and rougher roads.
Steering is reasonably direct, though not especially precise, and you need a steady hand to stop it wandering off centre – a trait of most 4WDs of this size, to be fair.
The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel feels strong at part-throttle, and the long travel accelerator pedal is easy to modulate. The engine sounds and feels laboured when it’s put under load, though, and runs out of steam as it nears 3000rpm. Blame the engine size - we're all used to bigger, leggier diesels.
Outside noise is well suppressed inside the cabin, and visibility is largely okay, save for the rear three-quarter view which is completely blocked by those stowed third-row seats.
To test its off-road ability, we ran the Fortuner up and down steep, rutted, gravel-strewn fire roads that would easily defeat a stock SUV. With its locking diff, on-demand low- and high-range 4WD, and a hill-descent switch, the Fortuner was far from troubled, walking down the slope with ease and climbing up again in H4 without drama.
Its ground clearance is 225mm (not 279mm as first stated by Toyota at launch), and has a wading depth of 700mm. Its turning radius is 11.2m.
Its 80-litre tank and approximately 1000km range may not be large enough for remote explorers, though.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
All grades of Fortuner miss out on AEB, park assist, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning, but seven airbags, a reverse camera and sensors as well as stability and traction control means it still scores a top five-star ANCAP safety features rating.
It offers trailer sway control as standard across the range, as well as hill descent control on the GXL and Crusade grades.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
Toyota offers a fixed service cost program for the Fortuner, which costs $240 per service for the first six services over three years or 60,000km.
Service intervals of 12 months or 10,000km are recommended, and a warranty of three years/100,000km is provided as standard. Toyota doesn't offer extended warranty, but the brand is well regarded for reliability. Just make sure your owner's manual is stamped.
A mid-grade GXL auto bought new in 2016 has lost around 20 per cent if you're looking at resale value.