Rented one of each for a quick Car2Go jaunt here in the Portland metro area. Here are my relatively uninformed thoughts.

GLA

Looks great from the outside, but the visibility suffers unbelievably as a result. The B-pillars are right where your eyes go looking to the left, so you have to lean out of the seat if you’re tall in the least. You also sit quite far back, and the cowl is high, making it difficult to accurately judge where the front of the car is.

The throttle pedal communicates with the engine via telegraph, and the power delivery is thus as linear as a basketball. Speedo font is too small, and the MMI controller is too far back.

Extra weight and high-ish ride height make for a composed freeway ride, and the seats are moderately comfortable. I could probably do a long journey with minimal fatigue, but I only drove for about half an hour.

CLA

Much less cocooning driving position, lower cowl, and much heavier steering, which I personally prefer. Ride is slightly harsher than the GLA, but entirely bearable.

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Throttle response is markedly improved and the reduced complexity of front-wheel drive makes the power feel more immediate. The 260-ish lb-ft of torque is ample, and it’s easy to chirp the tires pulling away from a corner. It’s a hoot around town, especially in a straight line.

As I find with virtually ever newer car I drive, the brakes are far too grabby with minimal pressure, and the seats are much too hard. Even with lumbar support in its most relaxed position, they like to poke and prod you. It’s not truly uncomfortable, but I much prefer my own car’s wide, soft seats.

The steering wheel is chunky and easy to grip, but the fake leather is rock-hard and doesn’t feel very premium. Overall I preferred it to the GLA despite the reduced comfort, and it’s probably the one I would pick.