Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - EQA
Sharply priced; nicely equipped; decent refinement; impressive vision; absorbent ride on rough roads
Room for improvement
Compromised packaging; poor rear-seat comfort; unengaging driving experience; weight
Second Mercedes-Benz EV attempts to replicate larger EQC’s polish, partly succeeds
8 Jul 2021
IT SEEMS like an eternity since Mercedes-Benz’s first contemporary electric car – the EQC medium SUV – appeared on the scene, debuting the Stuttgart firm’s ‘EQ’ sub brand.
Much has happened since GoAutofirst drove that car in Norway more than two years ago, yet there’s finally a glimmer on the horizon as Mercedes-EQ prepares to rapidly expand its electric portfolio
The entrée for this burgeoning EQ family is the EQA – a small electric SUV based closely on the second-generation Mercedes-Benz GLA that launched internationally in December 2019.
What that means is, much like the GLC-based EQC before it, the EQA is an EV development of an existing platform (MFA2 in this instance), rather than built on dedicated EV architecture as per the forthcoming EQS electric limousine.
While that makes sense from a financial perspective, it does mean the EQA is something of a compromise. Plenty has been changed over the GLA, including the front and rear styling for visual difference and improved aerodynamics (0.28Cd), but has Mercedes-Benz done enough to make the EQA feel like a step forward, rather than an EV stop-gap?
FOR anyone unfamiliar with the generational dimensional change of the latest GLA – the EQA’s donor vehicle – it was all about making it more of an SUV instead of a plus-sized hatchback.
Standing more than 100mm taller than before, yet measuring slightly shorter, the new GLA’s front-passenger hip height is now 140mm higher than an A-Class’s and 50mm higher than a B-Class’s. That’s what customers wanted – a commanding driving position with more of an SUV feel – and to hell with the GLA’s marginal 143mm of ground clearance.
This is the basis the EQA is working with. The electric version has a smidge more ground clearance (at 154mm), a bit more overall length (53mm) and is slightly taller than a GLA, yet the crucial packaging differences occur underneath its familiar-looking skin.
To house some of the EV hardware beneath its rear section, the EQA’s boot space shrinks to a modest 340 litres (from a generous 435 litres in the GLA).
More concerning, however, is the reduction in space between the rear-seat cushion and the cabin ceiling – from 969mm in a GLA to 955mm in an EQA. That mightn’t seem like much but that measurement is with the EQA’s rear cushion positioned almost horizontally – uncomfortably so, as it turns out.
Passengers riding in the back seat of an EQA may enjoy ample legroom, foot room and all-round vision, but unless they’re in a baby- or booster-seat, they will never experience seat support. The only thing the EQA’s rear bench does is keep your cheeks from touching the floor.
This may be irrelevant to someone buying an EQA to schlep around the suburbs in, carrying only a driver and maybe a front passenger in satisfying comfort, yet it’s significant because it underlines the fact that as an EV design, the EQA is a compromise.
You can feel that to some extent from behind the wheel as well.
Despite its modest overall size, the front-drive EQA 250 weighs almost two tonnes (at 1965kg) and to give it that SUV feel, it stands tall.
While that delivers an excellent forward view, the EQA’s body tends to rock around on its suspension over lumpy urban road surfaces, almost as if it’s a bit top-heavy.
The EQA’s battery weight might be predominantly in the floor, but it doesn’t convey the feeling of a super-low centre of-gravity.
Take the EQA out of its urban ‘comfort’ zone and things start to improve. With multi-link independent rear suspension (instead of the GLA 200’s torsion-beam) and standard adaptive dampers, the EQA has the hardware to tackle challenging country roads at 100km/h-plus speeds with respectable proficiency.
Besides occasional loudness from the suspension crashing through (both front and rear), there’s an underlying absorbency to the EQA that produces decent ride quality, even wearing huge 20-inch wheels (with 235/45 Pirelli P Zero tyres) like our test car.
And once you’re into a corner, the EQA impresses with its balance and grip, even though it exhibits more of a reluctant keenness than a lust for changing direction. A performance EV this is not.
In a straight line, despite fairly generous outputs (140kW/375Nm, with a 66.5kWh battery), the front-drive EQA 250 is slower than a GLA 200 when accelerating to 100km/h (8.9 seconds versus 8.7).
But there’s plenty to be said for the EQA’s polished, whisper-smooth drivetrain refinement, which isn’t something you’d ever say about a GLA 200.
About the only real negative is the changeable progression in the EQA’s brake pedal feel, particularly when switching between regenerative braking modes. It’s rarely what you’d call ‘natural’ in its operation.
The EQA 250 is respectably efficient if you can believe its trip computer. Over a 184km drive loop, our test car averaged 20.0kWh/100km, with another 147km showing until empty, meaning a theoretical city, country and highway range of 331km in far-from-leisurely driving.
The EQA’s WLTP-measured vehicle range is 408km, or 480km on the more lenient NEDC and ADR81/02 cycles.
Rear-seat packaging aside, the interiors of both the GLA and EQA are near-identical, and that’s no liability. The widescreen slickness of Mercedes-Benz’s ‘MBUX’ instrument and infotainment screens dominates the almost MPV-like dashboard, and our test car’s optional packages – an AMG Line sports package ($2950) and a Vision package ($2900) – definitely add to the EQA’s glamour, however superficial.
The AMG front fascia, multi-spoke 20s, exposed stitching, back-lit trim elements and ‘Dinamica’ suede seat inserts greatly enhance the EQA’s feeling of expense, as do the Vision pack’s large sunroof and powerful 12-speaker, 590-watt Burmester surround-sound stereo.
With an as-tested price of $82,650, you can see how a customer might view the well-equipped EQA 250 as solid value for money compared to, say, a Hyundai Kona Electric Highlander ($66,000) or Volvo’s forthcoming XC40 Recharge Electric ($76,990) – certainly from an appearance and equipment perspective.
Yet there are a few fundamental truths that need to be considered – namely that the Hyundai is better-packaged and offers nearly 20 per cent more range, and that the lavishly appointed Volvo is all-wheel-drive and can reach 100km/h a whole four seconds faster than an EQA 250.
You could argue that our criticisms of the EQA 250 are too harsh – this is meant to be an urban EV intended to act as an emissions-free run-about, not a long-distance carry-all. But that would be naïve.
This is an SUV-esque vehicle riding on a substantial 2729mm wheelbase that offers ample range.
Even speed-limited to a spurious 160km/h, the EQA is as much of an interstate express as any small hatchback – providing you plan your charging points – and it feels even more at home plying Australian motorways than it would fast-paced German autobahns.
As a two-person EV with room for a dog, it has its appeal. As a classier, slightly more expensive alternative to a Hyundai Kona Electric, the EQA again seems promising.
But the EQA 250 isn’t a great Mercedes-Benz. It comes across as a half-baked, compromised alternative to the already mediocre GLA.
Even more so than the two-year-old EQC, the EQA is a sidenote on our journey towards an electric-vehicle future, not the step ahead many might have hoped it to be.
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