Compact crossovers are big business these days. Buyers appreciate the breadth of abilities these cars offer. They offer the practicality of a hatchback, cabin space of a sedan and the road presence of a SUV. No wonder this is one of the bestselling segments in the world now. Audi and Mercedes know this and have launched their own compact crossovers. The Audi Q3 looks like a miniature version of the all-conquering Q7, while the Mercedes looks like a hulked up version of the A-class hatchback. So which one is best for you? We are here to find out.
There is no doubt that the GLA looks more striking of the two here. The GLA with its flared wheel arches, big grille with two horizontal slats and overtly sculpted bumper has the edgy design that will appeal to youngsters. The rear end is similar to the A-class hatchback. What also adds to the sense of purpose on the GLA are the chunky 18-inch tyres, which are an inch bigger than the Q3’s.
The Q3 in comparison looks less exciting, but classy nonetheless. The chrome highlights around the big hexagonal grille and the rectangular lamps give it a class look. The side profile looks similar to a shrunken Q5. The rectangular rear lamps with their smart detailing also lend a luxury touch. Though not an outright sporty design like the GLA, the Audi manages to look posh and sophisticated. It also looks like a SUV, compared to the GLA, which looks like a hatchback on stilts.
The GLA’s interior design just like the exterior will simply amaze you. The cockpit theme is bound to be a big hit with everyone who gets inside. The highlight include three AC vents as well the central screen which houses many operations of the Mercedes Command centre. However, on closer inspection you will realise that quality isn’t very consistent. The lower end of the dashboard isn’t made from the same high quality materials the top one uses. Another area where the GLA falls behind the Q3 is in rear seat space and comfort. Space is decent but you don’t get any AC vents nor do you get any big bottle holders, both of which present on the Q3.
The Q3’s dashboard and overall cabin is the last word on quality. All the switches have a tactile feel and are well dampened. The front seats of the Q3 offer a higher seating position that GLA, which adds to the overall sense of well-being. The rear seats offer more room that the GLA as well and seat comfort is better too. Since it is the taller car as well, getting in and out is a breeze too.
In terms of boot capacity the Audi’s 460-litre boot trumps the GLA’s 421-litre luggage area.
Engine, performance and gearbox
The Audi comes with a 2-litre diesel engine that makes around 174bhp of power, which is a lot more than the 2.2-litre engine of the GLA that produces 134bhp.
Start off from cold and you can immediately hear the GLA’s diesel clatter. This engine is nowhere near as the Q3 in terms of refinement. Even when it gets warmed up, it can’t match the smoothness of the Audi.
Another area of advantage that the Q3 has over the GLA is in power delivery. The smooth motor simply loves to rev and even when revved hard remains largely unobtrusive in the cabin, making it a better car for long journeys. The GLA in comparison feels slow to throttle inputs and even when revved hard doesn’t have the same briskness that the Audi has.
Both cars come with seven-speed automatic gearboxes. The GLA’s unit feels pretty responsive but the Audi’s is that much more efficient to give it the edge. You can also slot the gearbox in ‘S’ mode to gain greater momentum.
Ride and handling
The GLA excels in the handling department. The steering is crisp, body roll is negligible around corners and the car’s chassis is willing to change direction faster than a housefly. But that’s all thanks in part to an overtly stiff suspension which means that this car will filter in the smallest of bumps into the cabin. High speed manners are good but you will have to slow down at the sight of a rumble strip.
The top trim of the Q3 comes with Audi’s Drive Select. It also gets Quattro all-wheel drive. Driving in dynamic mode stiffens the suspension a bit so that the car has less body roll around corners. The steering offers decent feedback in the usual ‘Auto’ mode but it’s not in the same league as the GLA. The Audi though had the better balance between ride and handling with the suspension soaking in most bumps with ease. It’s only the sharpest of crevices that enter the cabin.
The GLA will wow you with its good looks and is also the keener car to drive, things that most buyers are willing to pay extra for. But it is the Q3 that comes across as the better all-rounder. It offers a refined and efficient diesel engine. A posh and comfortable cabin as well as better features. What’s more, it looks and feels like a proper SUV, rather than a hatchback on stilts. The Q3 is the clear winner of this comparison.
Images by Mohd. Nasir