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The facelifted Mercedes-Benz GLA (in 4Matic form) stakes its claim against the smallest member of BMW’s X family...

Convoluted would best describe the parentage of these vehicles. The first-generation BMW X1 was based on the E91 3 Series Touring platform and took the form of a bumped-up 1 Series hatchback. This second generation, meanwhile, has morphed into a fully fledged member of the BMW’s X family of SUVs (despite sharing its platform with a few Mini models). Conversely, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class that began life as a distinctly tall, wedge-shaped family van has, three generations later, transformed into a more conventional 1 Series-rivalling hatchback with an obligatory bumped-up version known as the GLA.

Sharing its platform with the 2 Series Active Tourer, the current X1 range consists of front- and all-wheel-drive versions, with 70% of local monthly sales favouring the former (sDrive) layout. In most conditions, even xDrive models have power delivered predominantly to the front wheels. As forecast, the transition from the old model’s more driver-focused RWD to a packaging-friendly FWD configuration has garnered nominal backlash from BMW’s traditional customer base. The X1 continues to be the manufacturer’s third-best-selling model globally.

Equally profitable for its maker, the Mercedes-Benz GLA shares its MFA platform and much of its production line with the current A-Class. While these underpinnings have been criticised for a firm ride quality, the GLA’s slightly raised ride height does improve things. The model’s recent midlife update also saw the addition of the Comfort suspension setup as standard (adaptive damping is a R20 499 option), which offers an additional 30 mm of ground clearance.

Further enhancements to the range include revised bumpers and headlamps, a lightly updated interior and the introduction of optional LED headlamps. Flattering what are mildly puffed-up A-Class wheelarches, the GLA220d is fitted only with 4Matic all-wheel drive. While it’s questionable whether or not this technology truly benefits anything other than the mighty 280 kW GLA45 AMG, it does pitch the GLA220d as an interesting alternative to this cheaper sDrive20d and the dearer X1 xDrive20d, which wasn’t available for this test.

Packaging

Boasting greater overall dimensions than the Mercedes-Benz, the X1 has afforded BMW’s engineers more freedom in which to work in terms of interior packaging. And, while the X1 offers both a higher driving position and superior all-round headroom compared with the GLA, it’s the inclusion of an optional sliding (60:40-split) rear bench that unlocks the BMW’s packaging potential. A further boon is the ability to lower the 40:20:40-split backrests individually via levers positioned in the boot.

A negative shared with the similarly packaged (now locally discontinued) 2 Series Active Tourer is the particularly small, firmly bolstered front seats that, over long distances, can prove uncomfortable. The GLA counters by offering impressively comfortable front seats set as low in the cabin as in the hatch on which it’s based. This translates to a more purposeful, dynamic driving position compared with the more SUV-like X1. The trade-off for these heavily bolstered front pews, however, is their infringement into rear-passenger legroom. Also, by being the narrower of the two, squeezing in three adults onto the rear bench is nigh on impossible (once sardined in, they won’t find much headroom, either).

It doesn’t get better for the Mercedes-Benz when it comes to luggage-space measurements where, even with the X1’s sliding bench centred to offer a matching 256 litres of space, the GLA’s packing potential is hampered by a raised (but well-protected) load sill. Where both test units were fitted with an optional electrically assisted tailgate, only the lower-slung GLA’s hatch opens high enough for taller testers to load the bay without risking a head bump.

While the highlights of their respective cabins include a crystal-clear, tablet-sized infotainment screen with a plethora of storage options and generally nice-to-touch surfaces in the Mercedes-Benz and a modern, clear and concise facia layout and above-average plastics in the BMW, you’d need to exercise careful consideration when speccing both models (and, in some cases, be willing to fork out a large sum; climate control and a reverse-view camera, for example, aren’t standard on either). Parents of toddlers should be pleased to know the X1 features additional Isofix anchorage points on the front passenger seat that complement the two sets of rear mounts. With the passenger airbag deactivated, this affords you a tad more flexibility when it comes to transporting little ones.

Drivetrains

With efficiency front of mind, both these direct-injection turbodiesel engines deliver at the pumps. Mated with an impressively intuitive eight-speed automatic transmission, the X1’s 2,0-litre isn’t the quietest at idle, yet performs admirably once on the move. It returned an average consumption of 5,4 L/100 km over our standard fuel run. Marginally quieter at idle, Benz’s soon-to-be-replaced 2,1-litre turbodiesel loudly betrays its age higher in the rev range. Despite its vintage, however, it remains eager to please, with grunt on hand (350 N.m from 1 400 r/min) to complement the GLA’s sportier stance compared with that of the X1.

Off the line, the Mercedes is beaten to 100 km/h by 0,4 seconds because of its 50 kg weight penalty over the BMW and its somewhat lethargic seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. Similarly, the Benz couldn’t quite match the average fuel consumption offered by the X1, returning (a still-respectable) 6,1 L/100 km over our 100 km fuel route.

On the road

Curiously, considering both these platforms aren’t exactly known for their high levels of bump absorption, these test units arrived fitted with a wheel-and-tyre combination two inches larger than standard issue. Those wheels may look good, but they certainly don’t do the ride quality any favours. Interestingly, the GLA makes the best of this disadvantage, offering a slightly less fussy experience that’s allied with a welcome level of surefootedness when pushing on.

By contrast, the taller (by 118 mm) X1 suffers most due to its optional M Sport package that includes firmer suspension and larger wheels. This is the second X1 test unit we’ve assessed that’s shod with 225/45 R19 rubber and it’s the second time we’ve been disappointed by a family vehicle that should offer a more refined and compliant driving experience. That’s a pity, as the vehicle we sampled on the X1’s international launch was not only less fidgety on road, but also transmitted less unwelcome road noise into the cabin via the wheelarches. As mentioned, specify your vehicle carefully.

On the positive side, the BMW’s Servotronic speed-sensitive steering assistance is a boon, making the X1 easy to manoeuvre around town, yet confidence-inspiring as speeds increase. By this token, the GLA’s system, while by no means poor, lacks the same level of precision. Where the GLA220d 4Matic’s Drive Select system includes an off-road setting, by far the most useful tool when it comes to taking this raised hatchback off the beaten track is its standard hill-descent control. Consider prudently your sense of adventure in the GLA, however, as it offers only a puncture repair kit as a backup plan.

2019 BMW X1 sDrive20d auto

R509,900
Ref No: 1663724

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather upholstery: artificial (opt leather)
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Optional
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Lumbar support adjustment: opt front electric
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Heated ventilated seats: opt front heated
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Run flat tyres: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Lane departure warning: Optional
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear + front passenger
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Directional turning headlights: Optional
  • Adaptive headlights varying light distribution: Optional
  • Emergency brake hazardlights: dynamic flashing brake lights + hazards
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Sports suspension: Optional
  • Electronically adjustable suspension: opt adaptive
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • Head up display: Optional
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Standard
  • Cruise control: std incl brake function (opt adaptive)
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Optional
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Optional
  • CD player: Optional
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear + boot
  • Central locking: remote (opt keyless)
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: Optional
  • Electric windows: Standard
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Optional
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Auto dimexterior mirrors: Optional
  • Sun roof: opt panoramic
  • Panoramic roof: Optional
  • Electric seat adjustment: opt front
  • Memory for electric seat adjustment: opt driver
  • Daytime driving running lights: std (opt LED)
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: Optional
  • Highbeam assist: Optional
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Park distance control PDC: opt rear / opt front + rear + park assist (opt rear camera)
  • Camera for park distance control: opt rear
  • Rear spoiler: Standard
  • Towbar trailer hitch: Optional
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: diesel
  • Fuel range average: 1326 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 8
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Transmission name: Steptronic
  • Gear shift paddles: Optional
  • Front tyres: 225/55 R17 (opt 225/50 R18 / opt 225/45 R19)
  • Reartyres: 225/55 R17 (opt 225/50 R18 / opt 255/40 R18 / opt 255/45 R19)
  • Length: 4439 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1821-2060 mm
  • Height: 1598 mm
  • Wheel base: 2670 mm
  • Ground clearance minimum maximum: 183 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 11.4 m
  • Wading/fording (water crossing) depth: 250
  • Load volume / capacity: 505-1550 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 1550 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1625 kg
  • Load carrying capacity / payload: 595
  • Gross weight (GVM): 2145 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 750
  • Towing capacity - braked: 2000
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 61l
  • Fuel consumption urban: 5.3 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption extra urban: 4.1 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption average: 4.6 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 120g/km
  • Power maximum: 140 kW
  • Power maximum total: 140 kW
  • Power peak revs: 4000 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 86 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 400 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1750-2500 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 400 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 246.2 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 7.8s
  • Maximum top speed: 222 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1995 cc
  • Engine size: 2.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 2.0TD
  • Engine + detail: 2.0 turbo diesel
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 16
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 2
  • Warranty distance (km): unlimited km
  • Maintenance plan: Standard
  • Maintenance plan time (years): 5
  • Maintenance plan distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service interval indicator: Standard
  • Service interval (distance): service interval indicator km
  • Brand: BMW
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 050202422
  • MMVariant: X1 sDRIVE20d A/T (F48)
  • Introdate: 2016-07-01
  • DuoportarecordID: BMWX1_2e69

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