Can the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class Pull Family Duty?

2015 Mercedes Benz GLA-classI’ve been trying to get a Mercedes-Benz into my family’s fleet for some time, but the luxury brand’s offerings usually come in a little higher than our budget allows. I tested the 2014 CLA-Class with the hopes that this sub-$30,000 sedan could work for my family of three, but quickly determined the four-door “coupe” was not intended for families, even small ones. My scheming started again with the 2015 GLA-Class. I wondered if the three of us would fare better in the subcompact crossover, which starts at $32,225 including a destination charge, than in the CLA-Class.

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How I became “a cat person”.

I rescued Ricki the rockin’ kitty in 2001. At that time she was already 5 years old, and the rescue group told me they’d picked her up in an alley behind a seafood restaurant in Long Beach where she’d been living off scraps the workers would leave out for her. It had taken them over a year to find her a home, and she found that home with me. I had just recently moved into an apartment of my own, and for the 1st time it was just me. I really wanted a “mellow, lazy cat” that would just hang out. I had no idea what I was in store for.

The first three months I had Ricki, I barely ever saw her. She’d hide all day, and the only proof I had that she hadn’t vacated the premises was that her food bowl was empty each morning. She was very skiddish and she got spooked by any noise — and she did not want to be held, ever. I had even gone back to the man I’d adopted her from and shared my concerns that maybe I wasn’t the right fit for her. He advised me to be patient (not a virtue of mine), be gentle (also not my biggest strength) and to just try talking to her while I was in the house so she’d get used to hearing my voice and not be startled by it.

His advice worked. I would come home from work and just start talking a little bit, and sometimes I’d put on a little music. I’d open up a bag of cat treats or wet food and place it just within poking reach of the furniture or shelf she’d be hiding under. I started to increase the distance, and she’d slither out, look at me, gulp it down and retreat. But after a month or so, one night she decided to venture out — and she stayed.

It sounds crazy, but I remember the evening vividly. I was in my room, typing away (probably writing some live journal entry, ’cause this was back in the day). I had my back to the bed. I heard this gentle sound behind, so I turned and found Ricki just sitting there. I tried to not move abruptly and not get too excited … I was thrilled to find my invisible companion had come out to hang! Her eyes were humongous and she looked like she could bolt at any second. I wanted to pet her and pick her up, but I just said hello and turned back around, trying to contain myself and ensure she’d stay. She did, and from that point on, she became the most loyal and devoted cat I could’ve ever imagined.

Ricki lived with me for 13 years. She lived with me in 7 different places. She used to curl up above my head every night after I’d fallen asleep and she loved snoozing during the day on my red office chair. She had a purr louder than a lawn mower and she used to talk loud after I’d get home every night. After a long night of drinking, she’d sit and and not judge while I ate out of a bag from Del Taco at 2am. She had the plushest fur of any cat I knew. The pads of her feet were grey, not pink. She was affectionate and loyal, but not a lap cat.

After I had my baby, we were amazed at how tolerant she was. She never showed any resentment towards our daughter and she often hung out right by her side when she was an infant, keeping watch. She stayed calm when her tail was pulled, her fur was grabbed or chubby cheeks were curiously crammed next to her face.

Today, at age 17, we said goodbye to Ricki. Our trusty veterinarian, Dr. Toledo (who has seen us through three cats and performed not one — but two! — knee surgeries for Ricki) warned us that we could make her comfortable, but her failing kidneys and thyroid were just something we could not cure. Her kidney infection was too brutal to beat, and we wanted to let her go in peace.

I am grateful that we could all go and say one last goodbye to Ricki as a family before we let her go. It’s a strange feeling to return to a house with no purring in it. But no matter how sad I may be, I love that I watched her change from a scared, skiddish feline to a sweet, loving kitty. After 13 years, she made a change in me; Ricki was the one who made me a “cat person.”

Soul vs. Soul-less.

Things seem to be awfully serious for me lately. My “return” to the working world after a three-year hiatus has me tethered to my office chair these days. In-between digging out of my inbox, managing deadlines and keeping up with some serious big-leaguers, my biggest boss (AKA My Three Year Old) also has me logging significant OT. As I trudge through the internet searching for the answers to surviving back-to-back tantrums each morning and discipline tactics not involving life-long damage, I yearn for times more carefree.

IMG_6141Enter the 2014 Kia Soul. The “Solar Yellow” toaster-on-wheels (whom I’d affectionately named “Bumblebee”) was delivered for my one-week test drive, and we were headed for Vegas just two days later. Things were anything but serious as soon as I depressed the push button start (because really, once you go push button you can never go back and be bothered to actually turn a key). With the panoramic sunroof rolled back and Random Access Memories soaring from the speakers, the mini-road trip commenced. My grin grew wider and my heart got lighter with each sad, lifeless rental car I passed on the 15 North.

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Cut to the chase — what did you actually think of the car?
I was pleased to discover new-found pep in the Soul’s step and I enjoyed the firmer steering once I activated Sport mode. Frankly, the drive experience all-around was leaps and bounds better than the previous generation (click here for that review on The luxuries available inside the car were more mature than its exterior looks would imply. I loved that in spite of the car’s compact dimensions, the glove box was large enough to swallow my huge purse and packing luggage for two in the back was a non-issue. Cooled seats kept us fresh throughout our trek across the desert and a heated steering wheel came to the rescue after my hands were chilled by big gulps filled with crushed ice and Diet Coke. Both my husband and I took turns streaming music seamlessly since both our smartphones were connected via Bluetooth. But most importantly, it stayed fun and competent when handling family duty, post-Vegas — to say it was kid-approved would be an understatement.

So what?
While I can concede that you shouldn’t base your car purchase on the feeling your car gives you (no matter what those slick advertisers may say), I will say that driving the Soul gave something back to me. After feeling completely Soul-less, a week with the Kia Soul seemed to have my chakras aligned again. Dramatic? Yes. But true nonetheless.

Personality matters … to me.
These days, when it’s tough to differentiate between fuel-efficient commuters and monotonous family SUVs (unless you’ve got a dead-on view of the badge on the front grille), I think the fact that the Soul says something out there on the road matters. It’s the same reason I applaud when others groan over the Nissan Juke or the BMW X6; some find them ugly, but I’m just glad that they tried to be different than all the other soul-less appliances out on the road.

Back in the day, when people drove those big boats with flashy colors — and even flashier tail fins — a car reflected a personality. Cars were fun, whimsical, aspirational and they said something about the driver. After a week, I was convinced: I could let the Soul start doing a little talking for me (once I shushed those concerns about its age-appropriateness). One thing I do know, it sure was a bummer at the end of the week when I found myself Soul-less again.