Saying that people simply like small crossovers would be an understatement. Consumers flock to pint-sized SUVs like they’re going out of style, and Mercedes-Benz knows this all too well. The brand already has two successful options in the subcompact GLA and the slightly larger (but still compact) GLC, and yet, customer demand indicates that there’s still room between the two for another small option. That’s where the Mercedes-Benz GLB comes in (get it? A, B, and C).
Filling the tiny gap between the two already small crossovers, the GLB brings with it some standout elements. The bold, boxy is probably the biggest selling point, but lots of cabin space, signature tech, and solid dynamics aid that quirky design, which allows the GLB to stand out from the crowd. Bottom line: The Mercedes-Benz GLB is a really likable little thing and should have no issue distinguishing itself from its two siblings.
In the GLB’s case, boxy is beautiful – well, maybe not beautiful, but certainly interesting. The tapered shape is a subtle nod to the prior GLK and resembles something of a shrunken GLS. But in our opinion, the GLB looks better than both of those vehicles. The baby Benz has sharper headlights, a cleaner grille design, and a more distinct profile. Our only complaint, be it a minor one, is that the 250 model we tested looks basic compared to other trims. The standard 18-inch wheels and cheap plastic treatments on the grille aren’t as nice as the higher quality, better-looking pieces offered on better-specced models.
There’s nothing really unique about the GLB’s interior – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The inside of the GLB looks almost identical to what you get on all other Benzes, with a big MBUX infotainment screen front and center and a corresponding digital instrument cluster, both measuring in at 10.3 inches in this case. The touchpad controller in the center console is the same as what you get in other Mercedes models, as are the three circular air conditioning vents below the center screen.
The GLB may look small on the outside, but fantastic packaging makes it feel big on the inside. The front compartment is roomy, with the driver and passenger seat boasting a hearty 40.4 inches of headroom and 41.1 inches of legroom. Those figures put the GLB on par with the Volvo XC40 (40.6 headroom / 40.9 legroom). The second row is plenty spacious, too, with 39.3 inches of headroom and 38.1 inches of headroom, which is more than enough head and legroom for anyone to stretch out comfortably. We should note that, while our tester didn’t have the third row option (an extra $850), we have sat in the third row of the GLB previously – and it is very tight.
Real leather seats are a $1,450 option that, frankly, don’t feel worth it. The faux MB-Tex material is nearly as good; it’s soft and supportive, and it certainly doesn’t feel as cheap as the fake hide in some other cars. Those cushy seats plus a nice ride make the GLB a joy to drive around town. But on the highway, it’s obvious that the baby Benz doesn’t have great sound deadening; it takes way more than a whisper to talk to your passengers.
TECHNOLOGY & CONNECTIVITY
We’ve already waxed poetic about the Mercedes MBUX infotainment system in the past – so if you love it as much as we do, you won’t be disappointed here. The GLB has many of the same fantastic features found on its big siblings, like optional augmented reality navigation and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – and it all works pretty flawlessly. The 10.3-inch touchscreen responds quickly to inputs, the touchpad controller makes it easy to scroll through settings, and the 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster is highly configurable.
If anything, the augmented reality navigation can be a bit difficult to use on the highway – a forward-facing camera overlaid with graphics at 70 miles per hour is jarring. We also wish things like heated and ventilated seats ($1,030), and wireless charging ($200) were standard, but they’re only available as options; our tester lacked both.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The base GLB’s turbocharged 2.0-liter engine – good for 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet – is surprisingly punchy. This engine almost feels like something you’d get in a hot hatch. Power arrives the second you put your foot down and stays smooth and linear all the way up through redline. There’s no turbo lag and no hesitation, even at highway speeds. The GLB has no trouble passing, with plenty of acceleration left to give. The eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, meanwhile, is quick to upshift and eagerly drops gears with little to no hesitation.
The GLB also handles surprisingly well for a crossover. In Sport mode, the steering is nicely weighted with a good amount of feedback, which means there’s a lot of responsiveness when you fling it into a corner. There is some body roll, but it’s easy to manage; the suspension is taut and tells you exactly what the body is doing at all times.
The only issue with switching to Sport mode is that the GLB can be a bit too harsh in the city. Throttle pressure is extremely sensitive in this mode, so when combined with the quick-to-react dual-clutch transmission, the car feels very jerky. Plus, the turbocharged engine almost feels like too much for the front wheels to handle; our tester lacks the optional 4Matic all-wheel drive, which means the front rubber squeals and claws at the pavement when you give it too much gas.
The only active safety feature that comes standard on the GLB is automatic emergency braking. The GLB also gets standard LED headlights and taillights. Otherwise, the Driver Assistance package is an optional $2,250, although it does have a ton of features – rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with steering assist, lane-keep assist technology, lane-change assist, and traffic sign recognition, to name a few.
During our test, the adaptive cruise control worked decently well. The distance indicator maintained a steady pace to the vehicle in front of it at highway speeds and didn’t slow the vehicle down too aggressively. But the lane-centering was imperfect, either ping-ponging the GLB or not recognizing the lane at all.
The front-wheel-drive Mercedes GLB gets 23 miles per gallon city, 30 highway, and 26 combined, which is decent fuel economy for the class. By comparison, the all-wheel-drive Audi Q3 gets 22 combined, the rear-wheel-drive Jaguar E-Pace gets 23 combined, and the BMW X1 matches the GLB with 26 combined. But the front-wheel-drive XC40 T4 – with 27 mpg combined – is slightly more efficient. Though, that model only produces 180 horsepower compared to the GLB’s 221 horses.
The Mercedes GLB starts at a very reasonable $36,600, which makes it the third-most affordable Benz behind the smaller GLA crossover ($36,230) and the A-Class sedan ($32,800). But it’s not the most affordable option in the class. The Volvo XC40 starts at $33,700, the Q3 costs $34,700, and the BMW X1 starts at $35,500. Only the Jaguar E-Pace is pricier to start, costing $39,950.
Our tester, though, costs $45,010 after options. Both the 10.3-inch central screen and 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster are part of the $1,650 Premium package. Navigation – which includes the nifty augmented reality navigation – is an extra $1,150 as part of the Multimedia package, and the Driver Assistance package adds another $2,250 on top of that.
There are a lot of a la carte options available on the GLB – as with most Mercedes products – but our tester only has a few: walnut wood trim ($325), satellite radio ($460), multi-contour front seats ($590), and an adjustable suspension ($990). If you want something like the optional third row, it’s an extra $850.