Fast crossovers on a budget.
Mercedes-Benz just announced an AMG variant of its latest crossover known as the GLB 35. It takes the handsome, boxy looks of the compact GLB-Class and stuffs in a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine good for 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The performance will be pretty lively, with 60 mph taking just 5.2 seconds. Pricing has yet to be announced but we'd estimate the GLB will start at around $42,000 with the GLB 35 costing around $55,000.
Compared to larger AMG-powered SUVs, this is not a large sum of money but compared to other performance crossovers, especially used ones, it is a stretch for a lot of buyers. So if you are looking for a fast, sub-compact SUV on a budget, here are five cheaper used options.
Why settle for the mid-level AMG model when for a lot less, you can have the top-level GLA 45? The GLA 45 is the high-performance version of the sub-compact GLA, which has yet to receive a replacement. It is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine originally good for 355 hp, which was later increased to 375 hp. In either case, the GLA 45 is quicker than the new GLB 35 with a 0-60 mph time of just 4.3 seconds. Used prices now start at around $27,000, though the interior is nowhere near the same level of quality as the new GLB and there is no third row of seats.
Over 300 hp from a four-cylinder is very impressive considering BMW managed to squeeze less power out of six cylinders just seven short years ago. The first-generation BMW X1 is powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six in the xDrive35i version producing 300 hp going out to all-wheel-drive through a six-speed automatic. Unlike the GLB, which is primarily front-wheel-drive, the X1 sends most of its power rearward. Prices for the more potent X1 now start at well under $10,000.
If you are in the market for the Mercedes GLB, chances are you put a heavy value on style in your crossover purchase. If this is the case, the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works should be on your shopping list. It is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 208 hp, going out to a six-speed automatic or an optional six-speed manual transmission. 0-60 mph takes a respectable 6.8 seconds and used prices start at around $13,000 for the most potent version of the Countryman.
Just like the GLB, the Kia Soul is a boxy crossover with excellent usability for its sub-compact stature. The Soul is nowhere near the performance powerhouse that the GLB 35 is, but in 2017, Kia added a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder good for 201 hp, making it one of the most powerful non-premium crossovers in the sub-compact class. With a seven-speed DCT sending power to the front wheels, 0-60 mph takes around 7.5 seconds, which is extremely quick for its price point. You can now find a turbocharged Soul for around $13,000 with a warranty.
The Nissan Juke is a hidden gem of a crossover. Nissan offered it from 2011 to 2017 but starting in 2013, it sold a sporty Nismo version with a 1.6-liter turbo-four good for 197 hp. There was also a Nismo RS trim which bumped the output up to 215 hp, added a limited-slip differential, and Recaro racing seats from the 370Z Nismo. By all accounts, the Juke Nismo was a tuner's dream and it was even offered with a six-speed manual transmission sending power to the front wheels. Used prices start at around $8,000.