AutoEV – Full road test review – Mercedes-Benz EQA

Mercedes-Benz EQA

Perhaps many feel that re-engineering a car that would normally house an internal combustion engine into one that is now powered by an electric motor is a cop out…

INTRODUCTION

 

Perhaps many feel that re-engineering a car that would normally house an internal combustion engine into one that is now powered by an electric motor is a cop out. A car that will intrinsically have too many compromises before it even gets a start at life. Yet there is a lot to say it is the right way forward. Because it shares many components, costs can be kept down. The good bits can be carried over. And it doesn’t stand out too much as being an EV. Many take this route to get their foot on the EV ladder quickly. And many, including Mercedes-Benz just find it the best way.

And so here we have their entrant into the burgeoning compact SUV market, the EQA. The smallest of the brand’s SUVs it is based on the same architecture as the GLA, and features the badges from their all-electric sub-brand – EQ.

But given the talent that exists here, especially with the advent of the superb Audi Q4 e-tron and Ford Mustang Mach-E, have Mercedes taken too much of a shortcut? Can it really be competitive with these ground-up electric cars from its fiercest rivals. Time to find out.

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EQA Mercedes review AutoEV

STYLING

Restrained is the kindest way to describe the styling of the EQA, although some may say its a little bland. It certainly doesn’t have the kerb appeal of the Mustang Mach-E or the Audi Q4 e-tron. The car is obviously based on the GLA model which is now in its second generation, and more obviously an SUV rather than the elevated hatchback the first iteration was. This is the new face of Mercedes-Benz however, especially their EQ electrified range with a sort of black, blanked-off grille with a light bar above linking the two LED headlamps that flank it. Not very exciting, but very Mercedes.

It’s the same along the side, there is little to tell you aren’t looking at the internal combustion engine GLA, save for a small flash of chrome down the sills, some ‘EQA’ badging and more aerodynamically efficient alloy wheels. Standard on the entry-level ‘Sport’ are 18-inch alloys, but you can option up to 20-inches.

At the rear, it’s more of the same. Another light bar (what is it with light bars on EV’s?), and a repositioned three pointed star that doubles as a boot release and reversing camera. All in all, it’s a very understated car, which will suit some, but in a world where the Audi Q4 e-tron and Ford Mustang Mach-E exist, it’s a little tame to turn many heads.

 

PRACTICALITY

Due to packaging of the batteries, the boot space is just 340 litres, way down on the Q4 and Mustang, and less even than the Lexus UX300e. It is a decent shape though. The rear seats will split and fold in a 40/20/40 way, but again, it is less than its main rivals at only 1,320 litres. Also, there is no cable storage under the floor, nor is there any under the bonnet like the Mustang has. This is a front wheel drive car, and so this space is taken by the motor.

In the rear seats, it’s not ideal either. Certainly not for adults of taller stature at least. Whilst leg and headroom are fine, it’s the comfort. Because the car has its batteries packaged underneath, the floor is raised, which means your feet are too, forcing you into a slightly uncomfortable seating position with your knees pushed up. The actual seats are comfortable however, and you do get a folding armrest with cupholders. There is reasonable storage in the doors for water bottles, and a USB-C charging port at the rear of the centre console. In reality though, this is a space that is really only fine for children or more medium height adults, lacking the overall comfort of its two main rivals.

 

Badge EQA Mercedes review AutoEV
Seats EQA Mercedes review AutoEV
dashEQA Mercedes review AutoEV

INTERIOR

Up front however is where the car starts to claw back a lot of points. The cabin design, just like the exterior, mirrors other cars in the Mercedes range, and that is a good thing. The dashboard design is a joy to behold, with two 10-inch landscape orientated screens atop a good-looking fascia. Much more cohesively designed than the Mustang and better looking than the Audi’s by a country mile. And let’s just say that the Lexus isn’t even worth mentioning in the same breath.

The infotainment can be controlled by using the touchscreen, by voice control using the new MBUX system or via a centrally mounted, and easy to use trackpad. It’s an intelligent system too, learning things like frequently driven routes, so you just have to ask it to take you somewhere you normally go and it will know the best route to take. It will also seek out the faster chargers for you to use, and take into account charging time when calculating your journey times.

You can also configure the dashboard, like many of these displays, to show you what is important. In other words, you can have a map between the dials and your media displayed on the centre screen, or vice versa. The dials themselves can be altered to a different design with more, or less, information. It’s all very easy on the eye, and the graphics are better than the Audi’s, or any of the other main rivals. I also prefer it over the large screen system of the Mustang and forthcoming Tesla Model Y.

Underneath the central turbine-esque airvents you get physical heating and ventilation controls, good storage. Apple CarPlay and Android Audio make an appearance across the range as standard, although it isn’t wireless. Nor is there a wireless charger for your phone in the basic Sport trim, but otherwise, the equipment level is very extensive. Heated seats, Bluetooth, the aforementioned twin screens, multi-function steering wheel in leather, seats trimmed in Artico man-made leather (which is actually really nice) LED headlamps, all of which is standard. Build quality is excellent too, and all the interfaces that you come into contact with have a feel of solidity to them.

The seats themselves fall somewhere between the Audi and the Mustang. They’re better at supporting you than the Ford’s, not as good as the Audis’ but they are trimmed better than the Q4’s. They also have a good range of adjustment, albeit manually as standard in the ‘Sport’ and the driving position is good with decent visibility.

 

USABILITY

Irrelevant of what EQA you plump for, there is only one choice of battery. It has a usable capacity of 66kWh, which is down on the Audi and Mustang we tested previously, albeit both of those cars get eth choice of two different sizes. You can choose to buy them with a more comparable size to the Mercedes if you were to sacrifice range for price. The EQA has a WLTP range of 263 miles as a maximum, so in reality, it’ll be less than 250 miles, and maybe closer to 200 in winter months. Charging speeds of up to 100kW is on offer, with a 10-80% charge available in 30 minutes. The car is also fitted with an onboard 11kW charger, so if you have three phase electric charging at your home, you can go from 10 -100% in just 5 hours 45 minutes. The more likely 7kW on will take 11 hours.

The other advantage that the EQA has is a standard heat pump, which is an option on the Audi, and not available at all on the Ford.

Charge EQA Mercedes review AutoEV
EQATail Mercedes review AutoEV
RearEQA Mercedes review AutoEV

PERFORMANCE AND HANDLING

Whilst only one battery size is available on the EQA, you do have different power options. We tested the entry-level EQA250 which has 190bhp, so the closest in terms with the Q4 we tested before at 201bhp. You can plump for the EQA300 with 228bhp or the EQA350 with 292bhp, and they both have twin motors, so all-wheel drive. The EQA250 is front wheel drive only, but you’d never really tell unless you were really brutal with the throttle. Only then does it spin the front wheels. Otherwise, the car is actually very composed. Acceleration from rest to the benchmark 60mph sneaks under the 9 seconds and the irrelevant of top speed is 99mph. Yet it feels a little bit more sprightly than the Audi does, especially when you select ‘Sport’ mode from one of its three driving modes, ‘Eco’, ‘Comfort’ and aforementioned ‘Sport’. The steering has a lovely feel to it too, not as light as the Mustang’s and front end grip is far superior to the Audi’s that just seems to wash out in the corners if you go in carrying too much speed. The Mercedes just tucks in and grips. This is probably due to the car having more weight over the front wheels as the motor is mounted there, whereas in the Audi it’s at the rear. The Mustang is somewhere between the two, only its light steering letting it trail the Mercedes. However the EQA has a fluidity to it, almost a slickness that is difficult to describe. Years ago, Mercedes always felt like a car that was truly over-engineered. Everything had a weighty quality to it that seemed lacking in every other car. For a while there, it seemed they lost that. I’m pleased to say that it’s back, and very evident in this car.

The brakes are also better in the EQA than the other two, and they feature a nice range of adjustable regeneration via two paddles mounted behind the wheel. It also features radar regeneration, in other words, when the radar camera at the front of the car detects you getting close to the car in front, even without cruise control on and the regen set to minimum, it will use the brake regeneration system to slow the car down and add a bit more energy into the battery. Very clever, and very safe.

Comfort biased suspension is fitted as standard giving a smoother ride than the Audi with less audible suspension noise intruding into the cabin. It isn’t as quiet as the Lexus UX300E, but it isn’t far away from it. The brand seems to be returning to the roots of a Mercedes being a more comfortable option, rather than a sporty one.

Otherwise, the EQA falls between the two rivals we tested before. Better to drive than the Audi in terms of grip and enthusiasm, if not as entertaining as the Mustang. But crucially, more refined than both of them.

PRICING

The Audi Q4 we tested listed at £52,685 and the Mustang was £50,780. Our Mercedes test car was £47,535. That includes the options fitted too, so it is quite a bit cheaper than the other two. In fairness they were the bigger battery variants, but the Mercedes is a bit better specified than the Audi we had, so the gap would still be a factor to consider.

The range starts with the ‘Sport’ which lists at £44,495 and progresses through AMG Line and AMG Line premium, which add £1,500 and £3,000 premiums respectively. If you plump for the more powerful EQA300 and EQA350, then the price range goes from £48,500 up to £53,000, so still within the same price range we are looking at, including the Lexus UX300e, and very competitive given the all-wheel drive of the Mercedes models against the Audi and Ford with just two driven wheels.

side EQA Mercedes review AutoEV
Front EQA Mercedes review AutoEV

COMPETITION

See the AutoEV reviews:

Audi’s Q4 E-tron
Volkswagen ID.4
Skoda Enyaq

COMPETITION

Audi’s Q4 e-tron and Ford Mustang Mach-E are the closest in terms of specification and price, and obviously we have tested both recently. The other MEB platform cars from Volkswagen need to be mentioned, such as the ID.4 and SKoda Enyaq, as does the incoming assault of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6. Nissan’s Ariya will also be a worthy contender, but perhaps the main protagonist from a European premium brand, and possibly the one to upset the apple cart, will be the Volvo XC40 when it comes out with a single motor, and lower price. As will the Tesla Model Y when we see it here in the UK.

 

PRO’s

We like:

  • Refinement

  • Standard Equipment

  • Price

  • Build quality

  • Interior

CON’s

We don’t like:

  • Boot capacity

  • Lack of rear seat space

  • Styling is a little reserved

  • Range lags main rivals

  • Lack of battery options

Mercedes EQA Review

CONCLUSION

 
Is the Mercedes-Benz EQA a better car than either the Audi Q4 e-tron or Ford Mustang Mach-E? It is more refined than both with a better interior in terms of both design, and quality. It’s way ahead of the Ford on that front, and I’d suggest better, albeit by a smaller margin, than the Audi. But it isn’t as dynamic as the Mach-E or as practical as the Audi, and trails both for range. But then it counters by being better value for money.

How do we pick a winner? The Audi is more practical, the Ford more distinctive and sporty, and both are better engineered as a ground up EV, however, they don’t offer the balance that the more refined, more comfortable and better built Mercedes does. Whilst we may question the company’s decision to re-engineer combustion engined cars to be electric ones, when they are this good, and offer this type of value, with this level of prestige, there is little to complain about. Our head still says Audi, our heart still says Mustang. But our wallets, and perhaps more importantly, our mindfulness, says Mercedes-Benz.
 

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