New car review: Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC
It’s seven-up in Mercedes’ all-new compact SUV, the GLB
Think Mercedes-Benz and the image that most likely springs to mind is of a sleek coupe or large luxury sedan.
The reality is that every third vehicle built by the German luxury car maker is an SUV, while every fourth is a compact car.
Given this, it makes eminent sense to combine the two, which is precisely what Benz has done in creating its new GLB.
Mercedes’ latest SUV is positioned between its GLA and GLC models and based on the same platform that underpins other compact models like the A- and B-Class.
But where the GLA and GLC are five-seaters exclusively, the GLB brings something new to the table with its third row of seats, enabled by stretching the wheelbase some 100mm over the B-Class.
The result is a premium compact SUV that boasts seven-seat convenience but without the bulky exterior dimensions that usually comes with the format.
The GLB’s smaller footprint will be appreciated in shopping centre car parks and at school pickup, where SUVs like this spend a lot of time.
The high driving position and ease of getting in and out are other positives when negotiating the daily grind, while knowing there is an extra row of seats at hand provides parental peace of mind.
The third row stows flush with the load compartment floor, creating a 560-litre boot that can be expanded to 1755 litres with both the second and third rows stowed.
With all three rows in use there is still a modest 130 litres available, accessed via an electric tailgate with foot gesture control if your hands are full.
The long wheelbase and high roofline help compensate for the GLB’s relatively narrow body, with the result that adult passengers in the first and second row are comfortably accommodated in a surprisingly roomy and airy interior. Access to the second and third rows is aided by the GLB’s large rear door apertures, which feature door skins that completely cover the sills to avoid passengers contacting the road grime that usually lurks there.
The second row features a 40-20-40 split-fold, with a fold-and-slide action to enable access to the third row. The seat gets an adjustable backrest and base that can be moved fore-aft by 140mm to provide extra legroom for second or third row passengers.
Benz claims the GLB’s s third-row seating is comfortable for passengers up to 168cm tall and the author managed to squeeze his 182cm frame with just a bit of contorting.
The accommodation is perfectly adequate for kids and teens and is not noticeably more cramped than what you will find in many larger seven-seaters.
Nods to third-row civility include drink holders mounted between the seats and outboard stowage compartments with USB ports, but there are no air vents.
Safety equipment for the third row includes retractable head restraints, seat belts with belt tensioners, a side window airbag, plus ISOFIX and TOP-Tether anchorages for suitable child seats.
In total, the GLB offers four ISOFIX points across the two rear rows, endowing it with an impressive level of kiddie-carrying flexibility.
Other standard safety features include active parking assist with PARKTRONIC, adaptive high beam assist, blind spot assist, traffic sign assist, active lane keep assist, active brake assist with semi-autonomous braking, and a total of nine airbags.
The GLB 250 4 MATIC tested here is mid-spec in a three-model range that also includes the GLB 200 ($59,900) and sporty Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4 MATIC ($88,900), which reaches Australian shores in August.
Priced at $73,900 (MRLP) the GLB 250 boasts all-wheel drive, an eight-speed dual clutch transmission in lieu of the base model’s seven, plus a larger and more powerful 165kW/350Nm 2.0-litre, direct-injected and turbocharged petrol engine.
It’s an impressively smooth and responsive engine that shifts the GLB’s 1721kg kerb weight with relative ease in its default comfort mode, but can be livened up further by selecting “sport”.
The engine driveline combo is very polished, the transmission slipping up and down the ratios seamlessly and the engine happy to hum along easily in traffic, or rise to the bait if pressed for a bit more.
The smooth combination mates well with nicely weighted and accurate electric power steering and plush ride quality, courtesy of electronic dampers that automatically adjust to driving conditions.
The standard fitment wheels are 19-inch multi-spoke alloys but our test car rode on no-cost option 18s with 55-profile tyres that no doubt flattered the ride somewhat.
Even so, it’s apparent that Benz has tuned the suspension more towards comfort than handling, which makes perfect sense given the target audience.
Despite a little more bobbing through bends and roundabouts than you get in more tied-down configurations, the GLB acquits itself well in the handling stakes, aided and abetted by its standard all-wheel drive system.
For anyone wanting to get a little bolder, the GLB 250 4 MATIC also features an off-road engineering package that includes downhill speed regulation, and an additional driving mode that adapts engine power, the ABS and the all-wheel drive system to enable mild off-road driving.
Other than this, standard features include Benz’s impressive twin 10.25-inch digital multimedia system, keyless entry and start, climate control, reversing camera, smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, satellite navigation, and a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel with shift buttons. On top of this the GLB 250 adds a panoramic sunroof, electric and heated front seats with memory, and a sports direct-steer system.
Over the course of our standard week-long test drive we came to the conclusion that the GLB is right-sized for city driving and will suit the needs of most families, especially given Australian Bureau of Statistics data that suggests the average Australian family is 2.6 persons.
By packaging a third row of seats into a relatively compact package Mercedes has not only built a safe and sophisticated family-friendly SUV, but created some clear air for itself against prestige competitors like Audi and BMW who don’t yet have an obvious rival.
Key statsMLP: $73,900 (plus on-road costs)
ENGINE: 2.0-litre, direct-injected and turbocharged petrol four-cylinder
ANCAP SAFETY RATING: 5-Star (2019)
FUEL CONSUMPTION (COMBINED): 7.7L/100km combined cycle (12.3L/100km on test)