A year ago, I was handed the keys to a GLA 45; in just three short days I had the car, I covered some 600 km all while leaving a reasonably sized carbon footprint in the process. So when Mercedes-Benz Malaysia offered me the keys to the GLA 45 for the long Christmas weekend, I was part excited to reunite with my favourite hot-hatch, but also part scared at the sort of fuel bill I could potentially end up with.
Let’s do away with the statistics first: 12 days with the GLA 45 covering almost 1,500 km including 7 touge runs, racking up a petrol bill of around RM700, all without spending one night out of KL city. If you didn’t believe me before, this must surely be proof that I do love driving this hoonigan.
As I slid into the seats, the stark realization that I’d put on some weight hit me. Sure, I’ve put on several pounds, but slotting into the sport seats required real effort. Luckily, the electronic seats allow for widening the side supports ever so slightly. Still very snug, so if I want to drive this car again in the future, I know I’ve hit my maximum allowable flab.
Personal girth aside, all the little irks I had with the GLA still gnaw at my consciousness today. I would most certainly choose a conventional gear knob over a steering column mounted gear stem, but why does it have to sit so short? And telephony styled buttons in a modern car just does not make sense. And I’m at least happy to note that the new generation Mercs finally have a touch-screen enabled head units.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder M133 DE20 LA mill is an impressive one, used across the AMG 45 variants (A 45, CLA 45, GLA 45). Our test unit is the updated GLA 45, which meant that it packed a hefty 375 hp and 475 Nm (+20 hp and +25 Nm versus the pre-facelift). Park the GLA next to its siblings and it is obvious which one is the most focused (A), sleekest (CLA) and meatiest (GLA) are. But despite the taller ride height and heftier kerb weight, I found the GLA to be the most practical and well balanced of the trio.
Driving through my favourite touge roads reveals the breadth of the GLA 45’s talents — pliant through the rough pot-holed surfaces, yet with the right amount of stiffness when the tarmac was smooth. There’s just the right amount of body roll present; a communicative indication to the driver to how much more the GLA 45 can be pushed. And it is this mix of abilities, coupled with raw power and a very competent all-wheel drive system which allows you to slingshot through the late stages of Ulu Yam, gear pinned in second, foot on throttle with light jabs of the brake to load up the front as you clip and power through yet another apex. Fantastic.
Sure, there are arguably sharper tools in the shed; Volkswagen’s Mk7.5 Golf R and even Renault’s aging Megane are good examples here. They carry more finesse and most certainly make sharper cuts, but they ultimately lack the blunt thrust that the GLA 45 possesses and, quite frankly, if you’re competing in a hot-dog eating competition, why should it matter how neat your chomp downs are?
We’ve established then, that the GLA 45 remains the overall best and spiciest hot-hatch available in the Malaysian market today. But we also feel the need to underscore the reality that this car is very thirsty to run, and this is before even factoring in service and maintenance (brakes, oils, 19-inch rubbers; a reader shared maintenance costs with us — RM2k for a regular service and RM4k for major service) costs. Despite my best efforts to go gentle on the throttle, I barely managed more than 10 km/litre of petrol. Perhaps it would make more sense to have one car for your daily commute, with the GLA 45 occupying the other carpark for your weekend hoonigan-isms.
Okay, maybe that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.
But I still want one.
And oh, have I mentioned how awesome the GLA 45 sounds?