Mercedes-Benz GLA vs BMW X1 comparison: Diesel duel


If you’re in the market for your first luxury car, need the added ground clearance only a crossover or SUV can get you, and must have a diesel, your choice is down to the two models you see here. In the Portimao Blue corner, we have the third-gen BMW X1 that went on sale last year. And in the Spectral Blue corner, we have the second-gen Mercedes-Benz GLA that has just been updated. But which is the one that gets you more for your money?

Mercedes-Benz GLA vs BMW X1 comparison: design

First things first, the way they look. Both models are fairly substantial in their latest avatars (the BMW is larger all around), but neither is hulking (think Fortuner) if that’s what you want. 

Swoopy stance gives GLA a crossover look. Upright X1 more SUV-like.

What’s clear is their different approaches to design. The X1, with its relatively upright pillars and larger glasshouse, is the one closer to everyone’s image of an SUV. It’s unmistakably BMW too with its large kidney grille, while the protruding effect to the tail-lights is a particularly slick touch. The M Sport package offered on the diesel brings in sportier bumpers, though I can’t help but think how much nicer the Bimmer would look with wheels larger than the standard 18 inchers. 

Merc screen easier to navigate; AC vents look great.

The swoopier GLA is more crossover in its overall form, though it’s sure not down on road presence, especially in top-spec AMG Line form that rides on eye-catching 19-inch AMG wheels. In case you’re wondering, a body colour matching apron on the bumper and new headlight and tail-light internals are your only giveaways to this being the 2024 model year GLA. 

Mercedes-Benz GLA vs BMW X1 comparison: interior and features

You’d want your Rs 50 lakh-plus luxury car to feel special inside and both the X1 and GLA deliver on that front. The X1’s asymmetric dash is a cool break from the BMW template and things like the floating centre console between the front seats and even the upright wireless charging pad at the base of the dash lend the interior a fresh look. Everything you touch feels premium with the X1 smartly concealing its lesser plastics lower down on the dash better than the GLA. 

GLA cabin looks youthful and AMG Line treatment lends it sporty appeal. New steering is part of refresh.

The GLA has a youthful vibe on the inside, and among the highlights are the turbine-like air-con vents that operate with a very satisfying click. The software running the twin screens has been updated for 2024 and you’d appreciate the Merc’s greater variety of themes for the digital dials and the relative ease of operating its touchscreen. The BMW system with its menus and sub-menus entails a steeper learning curve. Can’t say we’re fans of the GLA’s new steering touchpad controls though; they aren’t as easy to use as buttons would have been.

Asymetric look for X1 dash is interesting. The BMW does a better job of concealing lesser materials.

Front seat occupants are well-catered to in both models. While the GLA AMG Line’s Alcantara-look upholstery for the seats is sporty, the X1’s larger front seats offer more support and pack in the added bonus of a lumbar massage function. The X1 also offers a bit more to rear seat occupants courtesy a backrest recline function (via a flimsy tag though) and the option to move the seat fore/aft to balance kneeroom and luggage space, if needed. It must be noted, however, that the X1’s large front seats do restrict frontal visibility from the back seats. 

GLA feels roomy but absence of armrest an irritant.

Commendably, both models offer enough room for six footers to sit at the back in comfort, but neither is ideal to seat three abreast. Their rear seats are best enjoyed by two, something that also highlights the GLA’s shocking lack of a rear centre armrest. 

You’ll be content with the luggage space both models have to offer. The BMW does offer added adjustability, as mentioned, but both give the option to fold the seats flat should the need arise. And before you ask, you get space saver spare tyres stowed under the floor on both cars. 

X1 spacious too; offers greater seat adjustability.

In terms of features, the duo pack in items like LED headlights with auto high beam, dual zone climate control, panoramic sunroofs, adjustable ambient lighting, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, connected tech and gesture-controlled and powered tail gates. The GLA does go one up with its 360-degree camera.

Safety kit includes airbags (seven on the Merc, six on the BMW), ESC, tyre pressure monitoring and ISOFIX child seat mounts. Both models pack in a few ADAS functions too, such as auto emergency braking and blind spot warning. Lane departure warning is something offered only on the BMW. 

Mercedes-Benz GLA vs BMW X1 comparison: powertrain and performance

The X1 and GLA are based on front-wheel drive platforms. However, while BMW sells the X1 in India solely in front-wheel-drive format, the GLA diesel now comes with all-wheel drive as standard. The other big talking point on the GLA is power. Its 2-litre diesel engine’s 190hp and 400Nm is well clear of the BMW 2-litre diesel’s 150hp and 360Nm. 

The BMW’s performance is pleasant, the Merc’s is smile inducing.

The bigger numbers do add up because the GLA delivers that punchy mid-range and ready power that you’d associate with a strong turbo-diesel engine. Its 0-100kph time of 7.4 seconds is impressive and the engine’s strong pull is something you’ll enjoy on daily drives. The strong performance is backed by enjoyable handling manners. Grip is good, there’s enough connect at the steering wheel and it’s only when you’re pushing very hard that the front-wheel drive bias of the setup comes through. The 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox plays its supporting role well but tends to fumble once in a while at very low speeds. Perhaps more noticeable will be the GLA’s behaviour on patchy surfaces. The ride comes across as firm and the suspension will also thud through on craters. The GLA’s engine noise (it’s always audible and groans when extended) also marks it down. 

BMW's edgy tail-lights are distinctive and eye-catching.

It would seem the GLA’s lesser points are the X1’s stronger ones and vice versa. The BMW feels more absorbent on potholes and rounds off the bumps better. Engine refinement is also a highlight. It’s quiet at idle and doesn’t get boomy like the Merc unit even on the move. Worth highlighting is that you don’t feel a lack of pep in average city driving. The Bimmer is quick to get up to speed and the linear delivery makes it feel eager enough. It’s on the highway that the performance deficit is most felt. The BMW engine doesn’t have the mid-range poke of the Merc unit, and feels vanilla in that sense. It turns neatly but drive with vigour and you’ll find a steering that doesn’t feel precise and tyres that squirm when pushed. There’s even torque steer to contend with. The X1 is not the BMW to light up a twisty road. 

Mercedes-Benz GLA vs BMW X1 comparison: verdict

The BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA are closely matched on a number of parameters and your pick of the two should boil down to what you prioritise. The BMW might have the more vaunted SUV-like shape, but the X1 sDrive 18d doesn’t look very convincing on paper. Your Rs 52.5 lakh gets you all of 150hp and no added safety net of all-wheel drive. The lowly power figure alone is reason enough for many to overlook the X1 altogether. Which is a shame because the BMW is the type of model that grows on you. Over time, you’ll appreciate its engine’s quietness and you’ll even find performance adequate for the urban grind.

But the GLA 220d (Rs 54.75 lakh-56.9 lakh, ex-showroom) is an easier sell for those who associate luxury with power and performance. It’s also the Merc that delivers the driving pleasure that the BMW ironically doesn’t. Sure, the engine is louder than it ought to be and the suspension can come across as firm, but as a package, it’s the Merc that does more head as well as heart.

Also see: 

2024 Mercedes Benz GLA video review

2023 BMW X1 review: The All-rounder

Post a Comment

Post a Comment (0)
To Top