The Mercedes-Benz GLB is based on the same platform as the compact Mercedes A-Class hatchback and sedan. SUVs in this class aren’t typically the first choice for a growing family, but the GLB, new last year, isn’t exactly typical.
We’re seeing this more and more: automakers are building new crossovers in half-sizes and have little problem selling them. People love crossovers so much that the one-size-fits-all theme doesn’t cut it anymore.
Take this new GLB 250. It’s a full 8-inches longer than the GLA but just 2 inches shorter than the next size up GLC. It’s got an upright greenhouse and chunky, squared-off styling, which helps visually shorten it. That length helps conceal an optional third-row bench seat that turns this 5-seater into a 7-seater. The third row isn’t really meant for adults but it will work just fine for a couple of kids. When you don’t need it, you can drop it into the floor and it disappears, leaving behind a sizeable cargo area. It still feels narrower than a GLC, but you never feel cramped, and the panoramic sunroof opens it up even more.
The GLB is an easy vehicle to live with, you get more space than you thought, and with a starting price of $46,500, it isn’t outrageously expensive either. But is it worthy of the three-pointed star on the nose?
From an interior design perspective, it absolutely is. If you haven’t been in a newer Mercedes recently, this cabin will blow you away. If you’ve outfitted the $3600 premium package, which you definitely should, you’ll get a continuous panel of high-definition screens that run across the dashboard and displays your instruments and infotainment system. And just like you’ll find on the more expensive models, these screens can be controlled in a number of ways, from touch to touchpads and the functionality has not been limited in any way.
With lashings of leather and suede, plastics that don’t feel like they came from the dollar store, and the best (or gaudiest) ambient lighting in the biz, you’ll feel like your money was wisely spent.
The MBUX infotainment system remains one of the best and most fully fleshed-out pieces of software in the industry today. From the functionality to the colourful graphics and the speed at which everything responds, it’s a joy to use. Features like “Hey Mercedes” voice recognition, and augmented reality navigation still set the industry standard.
Power wise, there’s only one engine choice (unless you go AMG) and thankfully it’s a good one: a 2.0-L turbocharged inline-4 that makes 221 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque from just 1800 rpm. Hooked up to an 8-speed dual clutch automatic that can crack off speedy gear changes, the GLB 250 feels responsive and energetic.
Unfortunately, at lower speeds, the transmission feels clunky and parking lot ramps tend to confuse it. As speeds pick up, this fades but the shifts never felt luxury car smooth.
A fuel consumption average of 12 L per 100km is slightly disappointing but it is about average for vehicles in this class.
If the cabin is impressive and convincing of the badge, the drive is where you feel the more humble underpinnings of this front-wheel drive platform. Where the A-Class feels buttoned down and composed, the GLB can feel jittery, especially over rough pavement as some impacts tend to reverberate through the cabin. This is still a comfortable car to drive, with great seats and excellent outward visibility. On the highway, the GLB is smooth and quiet.
Drive spiritedly and you’ll get generous amounts of understeer before power is shuffled to the rear axle to balance things out. Like the A-Class the GLB feels light on its feet, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for something sporty.
Most will have no issue with this but the next level up GLC feels much more like a proper Mercedes with its supple ride quality and better road manners. At just $3500 more to start, it’s a compelling alternative, but if you wanted the flexibility of a third row of seats, the GLC doesn’t offer one.
You won’t find a third row in competitors either, making the GLB a unique proposition and one of the most versatile picks in the compact luxury class. Play it smart with the options list and you’ll get good value out of this part-time 7-seater.
The GLB might not be the best driving Benz out there, but it fully makes up for it with the quality and tech that you expect from this luxury brand. It feels like a Mercedes and at its price point it will likely draw in customers that have never considered the brand before.