It’s trendy for automakers to build two or more models in a single segment. This holds especially true when it comes to the subcompact crossover SUV market. It was once a marketing tactic primarily employed by entry- to mid-level auto manufacturers, but now luxury brands such as Mercedes-Benz offer more than one model in a single niche.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 and the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 200 happen to be perfect examples. Of the two, one comes out on top in a MotorTrend comparison.
Mercedes GLA and GLB comparison: Size, style, and power
The second-generation GLA-Class swapped its high-riding hatchback versatility for a more traditional crossover design. While the GLB-Class is based on the same Modular Front Architecture (MFA2) platform, it mimics the sturdy G-Class. The GLB is 182.4 inches in length and has a 111.4-inch wheelbase. The new GLA measures 173.6 inches long and has a 107.4-inch wheelbase. In total, that makes the GLB-Class 8.8 inches taller and 4 inches wider.
The two luxury subcompact crossovers look strikingly similar inside and out, even sharing the same switches. However, they have unique dashboards. Like its exterior, the 2021 GLA’s interior is energetic-looking while sharing nearly identical standard components with the GLB.
The GLA 250 and GLB 200 are powered by a four-cylinder turbo 2.0-liter engine. They both produce 221 hp, with the sportier GLA doing so at 5,500 rpm. And they both have an eight-speed automatic transmission, with the new, significantly more compact 8G-DCT double-clutch gearbox featured on the GLA. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 has front-wheel drive, while the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 200 offers rear-wheel drive.
Standard and optional features
If the devil is in the details, those details would be in the standard and optional features that both models offer. It makes sense that the newer 2021 GLA 250 provides updated and improved optional technology. However, when it comes to standard features, there’s little to no difference.
Mercedes-Benz’s Keyless-Go with remote start and Passive Access card key, a wireless internet connection (Mbrace Connect), and a superior multimedia package are a few reasons why the GLA 250 outclasses its less mature sibling. That’s not to mention the numerous other nifty things included in the GLA’s other packages. In other words, to experience all the GLA 250 has to offer, purchase one or more of the optional packages.
Style vs. practicality
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 200 is more SUV than the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250. The GLA 250’s lower roofline, tidy dimensions, and sedan-like seating make it feel like a car. Its nicely weighted steering affords it better handling, allowing it to soak up road imperfections. The pleasant driving experience is heightened by the fact that it keeps the interior noise level in check.
Regarding practicality, the GLB outshines the GLA in several areas, namely overall cabin and cargo space. The GLA’s optional third row doesn’t offer enough room for full-grown adults, suggesting it’s designed for children under a certain height. The sportier GLA also provides noticeably less legroom and headroom, smaller cargo capacity, and narrower windows. MotorTrend points out that while both cabin designs seem modern and fashionable, they’re not as luxurious as one would expect.
MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina took both Mercedez-Benz SUVs for a test drive. He said of the interior: “The lack of attention to detail is glaringly obvious.”
He added, “I expected more, even from an entry-level Mercedes-Benz. Touching the door handle feels like the cheap plastic toy your mom bought you from Five Below when you were a kid.” Cortina also mentioned the seats are hard with a cheap-feeling leatherette upholstery that doesn’t look like it belongs on a luxury SUV.
The better Mercedes
So, which subcompact Mercedes-Benz SUV is better? Despite the space issue, MotorTrend chose the 2021 GLA 250. But the winner depends on your needs and wants. If you’re looking for fun and sporty, the 2021 GLA 250 may be the way to go. If you prefer a luxury crossover that feels like an SUV with more room, the 2020 GLB 200 is a better option. Just keep in mind that the 2021 GLA 250 offers a ton of awesome optional packages full of advanced tech, extra safety features, and driver assistance.