Eager to capture younger buyers on a smaller budget, Mercedes-Benz currently offers four subcompact entry-level models. There’s the A-Class sedan, CLA-Class four-door coupe, and two SUVs, the GLA and GLB. CarBuzz recently tested the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 and the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, the mid-performance variants of both models. Though they share underpinnings and a powertrain, we had a clear favorite between these two. So if you are in the market for a quick, AMG-powered Mercedes crossover, here’s what we’d recommend.
Styling: Boxy Or Curvaceous
The GLA 35 and GLB 45 may ride on the same platform, but their proportions vary wildly. The GLA’s wheelbase measures only 107.4 inches compared to 111.4 inches on the GLB. Overall length is a similar story, with the GLA sitting 173.6 inches long compared to the GLB at 183.1 inches. The GLB is slightly wider than the GLA, but the most telling measurement is height, where the GLB stands 65.4 inches tall while the GLA is shorter in stature at 63.6 inches.
Looking at these two from their side profiles, it’s difficult to tell that they share underpinnings. Mercedes styled the GLB to look boxy, almost like a baby G-Wagen or GLS. The GLA is more curvaceous, like a raised coupe or hatchback. Basing the choice purely on styling, we personally feel the GLB is more attractive.
Interior: Affordable Luxury
Choosing between these two based on the interior is a waste of time since there’s barely a difference between them. Thanks to its taller roofline, the GLB has more headroom than the GLA, but their cabins are nearly identical. Both cars feature twin 10.25-inch displays powered by the Mercedes-Benz User eXperice (MBUX) at the center. This system offers tons of cool features and customizability. These cars each suffer from some cheap plastics around the cabin, but most of the high-touch points are covered in nicer materials.
Practicality: A Clear Winner
The differences inside become more pronounced as you step into the back seat. The GLB offers slightly more head and legroom back there due to its boxier shape, and the back seats are more comfortable since they slide and recline. The GLB makes its dominance clear behind those rear seats with 22 cubic feet of space compared to just 15.4 cubic feet in the GLA. Folding those seats down, the GLB opens to a whopping 62 cubic feet, one of the largest cargo holds in its segment. By comparison, the GLA only offers 50.5 cubes.
There’s another interesting reason why the GLB is more practical. Whereas the GLA only offers two rows with seating for five passengers, the GLB is the only luxury subcompact crossover to offer an optional third row with seating for seven. It’s not a huge third row, but it’s helpful in a pinch.
Performance: Mature Hot Hatches
We love the 35 versions of the GLA and GLB, which offer thrilling performance without the cost and brutality of the 45 models. Under the hood, the GLA 35 and GLB 35 share a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. This engine sends its power to 4Matic all-wheel-drive through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. Though it’s larger and heavier, the GLB 35 matches the GLA 35’s 5.1-second 0-60 mph time.
From behind the wheel, both vehicles are on the firm side, though not completely unreasonable. For the diehard performance junkies, the GLA offers a faster 45 variant with 382 hp, and a GLB 45 is reportedly in the works. These crossovers feel surprisingly fun to drive, like more mature hot hatchbacks.
Pricing: Worth The Premium
Of the two vehicles, the GLB 35 is the clear winner. It’s roomier inside, more practical, and we personally prefer its boxy shape. However, the GLA 35 is slightly cheaper, with a $47,550 starting price. The GLB 35 starts at $49,500, but we think its added spaciousness alone is worth the premium. Both vehicles require a slew of options before they start feeling super luxurious, but if we had to choose one, it would be the GLB.