Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Toyota Kluger
- 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
- Comfortable and easy to drive
- Hybrid is seriously fuel efficient
- $250 capped price servicing
- Not as modern looking as some rivals
- Interior feels a bit budget price
- Lacks cool in-car tech of some rivals
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|
The Toyota Kluger is an Aussie family favourite. It’s the Streets Viennetta ice cream of SUVs, the Hungry Hungry Hippos of transport, the Dunlop KT 26 equivalent of cars, and the new-generation model is here… and there’s a hybrid version now.
Not only did I attend the Australian launch of the new Kluger, I took one away with me and my family and I have been living with it – just like you will.
A test drive at a dealership might not tell you everything you need to know about the Kluger, but fear not, I’ve done the testing with my family for you. Here’s all you need to know, from what’s new and the practicality upsides and downsides, to what the hybrid is like to drive.
Explore the All-New Toyota Kluger in 3D.
|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.
This new generation Toyota Kluger hasn’t gone as far as we’d expect in terms of modern styling, refinement and in-car tech. But there’s been a big improvement in how comfortable and easy it is to drive. And the arrival of the hybrid version is fantastic to see. This seven-seater SUV is as practical as ever and will continue to be an Aussie family favourite.
For us the sweet spot in the range is the GXL hybrid. The price is good, the powertrain adds to the smoothness of driving, and the fuel savings are outstanding.
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 Kluger is about as beautiful as its name, which isn’t very. Still, while it doesn’t have the elegant lines of a Mazda CX-9 or the futuristic face of the Kia Sorento it does look tough and serious.
This Kluger is totally new, but it’s instantly recognisable as a Kluger. But if you were expecting it to look cutting edge, I’m sorry, it doesn’t. If anything, the new Kluger looks like a larger version of the RAV4 with its moustache-like grille and blade headlights.
The Kluger isn’t as angular as its mid-sized sibling, and you can see the curves in the rear haunches which wrap around to the tailgate.
The GX and GXL have 18-inch alloy wheels, but only the Grande has 20-inch rims and they come with a chrome-effect paint which might be a bit OTT for some.
The new cabin is more functional than fashionable with a dashboard dominated by what appears to be one of those big pizza paddles which holds the media screen and climate control dials.
The entry-grade GX has black cloth-trimmed seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift lever; the GXL has synthetic leather seats and the Grande has actual leather upholstery.
There are soft touch surfaces with stitching, but all grades still have hard plastics galore and styling which lacks the premium look of some rivals.
The new Kluger is slightly bigger than its predecessor at 4966mm end-to-end (+76mm), 1930mm across (+0.5mm), and 1755mm tall (+25mm).
Please don’t take the Kluger too far off-road, that’s best left to Toyota's 'proper' four-wheel drives like the Fortuner, Prado and LandCruiser. But, for the record, the approach angle is between 17.9 and 18.2 degrees, while the departure angle ranges from 22.7-23.1 degrees, depending on whether your Kluger is front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
There are five new paint colours: 'Graphite Metallic', 'Atomic Rush Red Mica', 'Liquorice Brown Mica', 'Saturn Blue Metallic', and 'Galena Blue Metallic'. Carrying over from the previous model are, 'Crystal Pearl', 'Silver Storm Metallic' and 'Eclipse Black.'
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 Kluger is spacious for people, has great cabin storage, and a decent-sized boot. What’s missing is wireless charging for phones on all grades and there are no sunblinds for the rear windows on the GX and GXL.
I’m 191cm (6'3") tall with a 2.0m wingspan, so I never feel like I have too much room in most cars. But that’s not the case with the Kluger, where there’s so much space up front that my elbows don’t even reach the door armrests. The touchscreen also feels almost out of reach, even for me.
All Klugers come standard with seven seats – that’s two up front, a bench of three in the second row, and two in the third.
Legroom is excellent and I can arrange the seats behind my driving position so I can sit in the second and third rows without my knees touching any of the seatbacks.
Headroom in the second row is excellent and outstanding in the third (as far as third rows tend to go). Better than the CX-9's back seats.
Door pockets are on the small side, but there’s a giant centre console bin, shelves built into the dash for wallets and phones, plus two cupholders up front, two in the second row, and four in the third row.
As for the boot space, with the third row seats in place there’s 241 litres (VDA) of cargo capacity and with them folded flat into the floor the luggage room opens up to 552 litres.
These figures may seem small compared to capacities of other SUVs, but Toyota says these measurements are calculated up to the beltline of the Kluger which is the top of the rear seats, while other carmakers sometimes measure to the roof.
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.
There are three grades in the Kluger range: the GX, the GXL and the Grande. You can have them all with either a V6 petrol engine or petrol hybrid combination. You have a choice of all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive with the V6 engine, whereas the hybrid is exclusively all-wheel drive.
How much then? Well, for the front-wheel drives the GX lists for $47,650, the GXL is $56,850, and the Grande is $68,900. For the all-wheel drive versions just add $4000 to each of those prices.
The hybrids cost more. So, the GX is $54,150, the GXL is $63,350, and the Grande hybrid is $75,400.
Coming standard on the GX is, LED headlights, 18-inch alloys, fabric seats, an 8.0-inch media display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a proximity key with push button start, leather steering wheel, a six-speaker stereo, and air con for the front and second row – or if you have the hybrid you’ll get three-zone climate control.
The GXL also scores roof rails, a power tailgate, sat nav, three-zone climate, plus heated driver and front passenger seats.
Leather seats don’t appear until you step up to the Grande, which also has ventilated front seats, an 11-speaker JBL stereo, head-up display, moonroof, gesture tailgate and 20-inch wheels, which are way too shiny.
Is the Kluger good value? Mainly yes, with a little bit of no here. The Kluger costs less than its Mazda CX-9 rival, but doesn’t get as many great features.
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 big news is there’s a hybrid Kluger now and it makes so much sense when you consider these seven seaters will spend most of their time in traffic and carparks where they can move silently along in electric vehicle mode.
The hybrid Kluger isn’t a plug-in type of hybrid, instead its batteries recharge when you apply the brakes when you’re driving. The battery then powers the electric motors. There are two motors on the front axle and one on the rear, which work together with a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine.
The power output of the petrol engine is 142kW and the electric motors make 184kW. The engine torque is 242Nm. The front electric motors are able to produce 134Nm and 270Nm, while the rear can make 121Nm.
The hybrid Kluger is all-wheel drive.
As with the previous Kluger there’s also a V6 version which is more affordable than the hybrid variant, and comes with all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive.
The 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine makes 218kW/350Nm and shifting gears is an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The braked towing capacity for all Klugers is 2000kg (750kg unbraked).
Toyota says that after a combination of open and urban roads the petrol V6 should use 8.7L/100km for the two-wheel drive and 8.8-8.9L/100km for the all-wheel drive. That’s not bad, although I didn’t have the opportunity to test this claim at the pump myself.
As for the hybrid, Toyota says you should get 5.6L/100km. I lived with the hybrid variant doing the school drop offs and shopping trips, with motorways thrown in, and after starting with a full tank and covering 179.2km, it took 14.18 litres to fill it back up.
That’s 7.9L/100km, which is excellent given I’d covered a lot of hilly urban terrain and at times the boot was fully loaded up.
The capacity of the V6 petrol’s fuel tank is 68 litres while the hybrid’s is 65 litres. The hybrid needs to run on 95 RON premium petrol while the V6 is happy with 91.
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.
The Kluger is one of the best driving large SUVs in this price range, up there with the CX-9, but less sporty feeling and more comfortable. So much better than the previous Kluger, this new-gen SUV has an outstanding, composed and comfortable, ride.
My pick is the hybrid variant. The electric motors make the driving experience even smoother and more enjoyable, allowing the Kluger to move around silently at lower speeds while providing little electric shoves when you dab the accelerator.
The V6 provides a more ‘old-school’ driving experience, which suited the twisty country roads I piloted it along. Two-wheel drive didn’t feel hugely different from all-wheel drive, but on a wet road those front wheels will struggle to maintain traction under harder acceleration. Steering is super light, accurate and direct.
All-wheel drive isn’t vital, but I’d get it for extra traction and stability if you can afford it. If you’re concerned about the fuel usage of the all-wheel drive compared to the two-wheel drive then you might surprised by the mileages in the section below.
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.
At the time I wrote this review the new Kluger hadn’t received it’s ANCAP score, but we’ll update this once the rating has been announced.
All Klugers come standard with AEB, including pedestrian and cyclist detection. There’s also blind spot warning, lane keeping assistance, rear cross traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control, as well as front and rear parking sensors.
For child seats there are three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX locations in the second row.
It’s disappointing to see, however, that the Kluger’s curtain airbags don’t cover the third-row occupants.
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.