To keep the entry to their SUV line-ups fresh and relevant, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have respectively updated their GLA 220d and Q3 compact SUVs. The changes have given both cars a much needed shot in the arm and increased their appeal. The new Q3 gets a restyled fascia and a minor bump up in power, while the GLA gets a slightly different face and minor changes on the inside. So, is the Audi still the best buy in the class, or has the updated GLA got more in the tank this time around?
Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d
List price Rs 36.75 lakh
The GLA 4MATIC looks attractive in flesh, but can it balance form with function?
Audi Q3 35TDI
List price Rs 40.60 lakh
Can the Q3 trump the stylish GLA with a strong powertrain and more space?
(All prices ex-showroom, Delhi)
What are they like inside?
Both these compact SUVs have received cosmetic tweaks, and even though there are no major changes, the look and feel of both cabins are now different. The new Q3’s well-built dashboard, high-quality plastics and aluminium bits in the top ‘Technology’ trim set the tone. The upholstery isn’t leather but leatherette, but it is done so well, it feels far from cheap. All the buttons and switches on the centre console too are similar to bigger Audis, which means that they are well-built and long-lasting. The seats at the front are soft but supportive and the high seating position gives you a commanding view, while you get more of an SUV feel in the driver seat in comparison to the Merc. In the rear, it is spacious enough to seat two adults in comfort. There is good headroom and legroom, the seats are supportive here too. You also get a large panoramic sunroof to give you more sense of space. The Q3 gets Audi’s MMI infotainment system through the dash-mounted screen. The system is user friendly and the audio quality is quite nice as well.
In the new GLA 220d, you first appreciate that the dashboard has a solid build quality. This is let-down by the ageing and cluttered centre console. Incredibly, there is no electronic climate control and while the buttons and knobs feel tough, they look out of place on a luxury car. The beige upholstery and the large panoramic roof give the cabin a feeling of airiness. You can also adjust the ambient lighting for the cabin between 12 colours to add to the feel-good factor. The front seats are well-contoured and firm and are great for long-distance trips. In the rear, however, space is tight and the headroom is at a premium and so is the underthigh support. Also, the tapering roofline and high windowline results in a rather confined cabin. Mercedes’ COMAND system for the infotainment system is also updated and is a bit more intuitive when compared to the Audi's. The audio quality is good and the interface too is crisp and clear. The speedometer and tachometer binnacles are also newly designed.
What are they like to drive?
The Audi Q3 in its 35 TDI avatar gets a 184hp, 2.0-litre diesel engine mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox and a part-time four-wheel-drive system. The new Q3 also has a bit more power than the older version. You do hear a bit of that diesel drone at low speeds, but it quickly disperses once you speed up. As you drive along, one of the first things you would notice is the smooth and progressive power delivery. Power delivery is linear and it builds in a progressive manner. There is no sudden spike in acceleration, which makes for a smooth and powerful drive. A dash from 0-100kph takes just 8.13sec. What also complements this linear nature is the responsive seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox. While shuffling through the gears, the auto gearbox works well in tandem with the engine and allows you to stay in the meat of the powerband at all times. You can also choose to shift manually through the quick and responsive paddle shifters located behind the steering. Speaking of which, the steering is light and offers adequate feedback. And the superb grip levels mean you can enjoy driving it in the bends and corners. What about bad roads then? At city speeds, the Q3 dismisses most small bumps and broken roads easily, though there is some stiffness in the suspension. As you go faster, the bump absorption improves. Ride for the most part is flat and the car is very stable at triple-digit speeds as well.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA is 14hp down on the Audi. However, with 170hp and 350Nm of pulling power, it’s no slowpoke either. It does 0-100kph in just 8.64sec and also gets Merc’s 4MATIC part-time all-wheel-drive system – similar to the one on the Audi – mated to the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. On startup, you’ll notice that the engine is slightly noisy and, unlike the Q3, the clatter only increases as you drive along. The engine, however, is punchy and the gearbox does full justice to the power. Shifting up the gears is quick but the auto ’box does hesitate to downshift at times. You also get paddle shifters here too and can select between different modes for the steering which adjusts the weight accordingly, with Sport mode being the most driver-focused and Comfort mode to tackle everyday city traffic. The ride, however, stays consistent and is quite an improvement compared to the earlier version of this car. In the front, the suspension gobbles up potholes and bumps, and the rear, which was rather bumpy in the old car, is a lot more supple and absorbent now. Handling is also one of the GLA’s strengths as the car-like driving stance and the overall stiff body structure means it feels like less of an SUV and more of a cross-hatch in the bends and corners. Grip levels are good and while there is a hint of body-roll, it's much lesser than the Q3 overall. Also, with the 4MATIC system, you get a degree of sure-footedness on wet roads. It, however, doesn’t have the ground clearance of the Q3 and so is not much of an off-roader.
Equipment and safety
Both these cars are well-equipped and loaded with safety kits. Starting with the Audi, you get electric seats, reverse parking camera with sensors, hill descent control, a navigation system, paddle shifters, rear AC vents and a panoramic sunroof. On the safety front, you have six airbags, ABS with EBD and ESP as well. The GLA too is rich on the features. You get LED headlights with LED projectors, ambient lighting and rear AC vents amongst others. Safety-wise, you get seven airbags, ABS with EBD and ESP, ISOFIX points for child seats and seat belts with pretensioners. But, as on the Q3, there is no support for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay here too.
|Audi Q3 35 TDI Quattro||Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d 4MATIC|
|Apple CarPlay & Android Auto||No||No|
|Auto boot closing||No||Yes|
|Infotainment screen size||7-inch||8-inch|
Buying and owning
The top-spec Technology variant of the Q3 costs Rs 40.60 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). You get two years and unlimited kilometres warranty which can be increased through Audi’s three-year extended warranty pack. You can also choose the Premium Plus variant which is priced at Rs 36.67 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) but will miss out on some of the equipment. Below that is a base 30 TDI Premium variant that is sparsely equipped and it costs Rs 33.70 lakh. The Mercedes GLA 220d 4MATIC comes only in one variant called ‘Sport’. Priced at Rs 36.75 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the GLA is almost Rs 4 lakh cheaper than the Q3. Also, if you go for the less powerful 136hp GLA 200d, which misses out on some equipment and the four-wheel-drive system, the Sport variant could be yours for Rs 33.85 lakh and the even lower Style variant for Rs 30.65 lakh. Mercedes offers a warranty of three years and unlimited kilometres on all its cars and also an extended warranty of up to six years.
|What it will cost you|
|Audi Q3 35TDI Quattro||Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d 4MATIC|
|Ex-showroom, Delhi price||Rs 40,60,750||Rs 36,75,000|
|Insurance||Rs 1,18,013||Rs 1,13,246|
|Registration||Rs 5,80,519||Rs 5,14,144|
|On-road price||Rs 43,19,938||Rs 48,71,437|
|Depreciation 1st year||27%||23%|
|Depreciation 2nd year||21%||19%|
|Depreciation 3rd year||18%||18%|
|Aftersales & service||Average||Above average|
Of the two compact luxury SUVs here, the GLA is the one targeted more at the owner-driver. Its rakish coupé-like profile and aggressive looks make it stand out. The steering is nicely weighted, there’s now sufficient power to enjoy the SUV, and even the handling has improved considerably. And though the changes are small, even the interiors are slightly more appealing now. So, if you are self-driven, appreciate the crossover styling and aren’t too concerned with the less than ideal rear seat, the Merc is the car for you.
The Audi, however, is clearly the more practical and traditional SUV here. The cabin is larger, the roofline more accommodating of rear passengers and as against the Merc, this is a car you can happily be chauffeur-driven in. The Q3 also has more of a luxury car vibe. Then, performance from the engine is stronger, and gearbox is sweeter as well. Yes, the light steering is a bit numb, and that robs it of some much needed driver involvement, but otherwise it even drives well. Yes, the Q3 is a bit more expensive, but then you do get a lot more SUV, and that’s why it wins.
|Powertrain and performance|
|Audi Q3 35TDI Quattro||Mercedes-Benz GLA 220d 4MATIC|
|Max power||180hp at 3500-4000rpm ||170hp at 3400-4000rpm|
|Max torque||380Nm at 1750-3000rpm||350Nm at 1400-3400rpm|
|Acceleration 50-80kph through the gears||2.80s||5.59s|
|20-80kph in kickdown||5.11s||4.95s|
|40-100kph in kickdown||6.11s||6.47s|
|Claimed fuel economy||15.17kpl||18.66kpl|