It might be easy to dismiss the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB as yet another box-checking effort by Mercedes, but as the SUV and crossover segments get carved into thinner and thinner slices, it’s offerings like the GLB that remind us why customers want high-riding hatchbacks in the first place. Not only does it provide the fancier interior, superior performance and advanced technology expected of a luxury badge, it’s also surprisingly spacious and well-equipped for the money. There’s even an available third row, which is an outlier for this niche of the luxury market even if its usefulness is questionable.
The GLB shares most of its mechanical underpinnings with the next-generation GLA (itself related to the A- and CLA classes), but differentiates itself with a boxy, practical shape that still manages to look sleek and upmarket. Its front-wheel-drive architecture may not gird any enthusiasts’ loins, but Mercedes-Benz throws the driving-matters crowd a few bones with available AMG-inspired brakes and dress-up bits, plus an adaptive suspension that can tighten up when you want some driving fun without sacrificing ride quality the rest of the time. For everyone else, the GLB is responsive, refined and comfortable enough to warrant its Mercedes badge and represent a clear advantage over non-luxury offerings.
Altogether, its combination of practicality and versatility makes the GLB a top choice in the growing subcompact luxury segment, eclipsing the likes of the BMW X1 and X2, Audi Q3, Cadillac XT4 and Lexus NX.
What’s the interior and in-car technology like?
Mercedes-Benz put quite a bit of thought into the GLB’s interior packaging. It offers lots of clever storage in both the passenger cabin and cargo area, making it more practical than most luxury offerings in this segment (and indeed many others). The GLB’s driving position is excellent, and its front- and second-row seats are comfortable and supportive with plenty of adjustment.
The GLB is on the inexpensive side for a Mercedes-Benz, but the quality of materials and available options are on par or better for expectations at this price point. The fancier options will drive up the price, of course, but even the fundamental components are high-quality and precise.
The GLB is offered with the latest iteration of Mercedes-Benz’ MBUX infotainment suite, which is controlled by a central touchscreen (7 inch standard, 10.25 inch available) that’s also controlled by touchpad on the center console, steering wheel controls and natural-language commands. We like this choice of inputs and the displays themselves are very pretty, but there’s a lot going on and the system can be overwhelming or confusing to use, especially early on.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration are both standard, as are five USB Type-C ports. Other noteworthy standard features that are typically optional are driver memory settings and a power liftgate.
How big is the GLB?
The GLB’s wheelbase is closer to that of many midsize offerings, and its overall length exceeds that of most competitors. That, in addition to a surprisingly wide turning circle, makes it a bit trickier to maneuver and park than the likes of the BMW X1 or Audi Q3. That’s the downside.
The upside is the GLB’s extra length and boxiness make it a cargo-hauling rock star. On paper, Mercedes says the GLB offers 24 cubic feet with the second-row seats up, but in reality, there’s actually far more than that (at least when in comparison to its crossover rivals). Its rear load floor can be lowered to accommodate larger items, but even with the floor in its standard position, the GLB can swallow more cargo than crossovers in the bigger, pricier compact segment.
This extra length translates into tons of second-row space, where passengers will find sliding and reclining seats for extra comfort. The combination of fold-down seatbacks and sliding bases can also be exploited for additional cargo space if the roomy hatch alone will not suffice, making the GLB a versatility Rockstar.
The GLB also has available third-row seating, which its smaller competitors and even those in the larger compact class lack. For buyers who find themselves needing to haul additional small passengers on occasion, the GLB is basically the only game in town. It’s no substitute for a true family-hauler, however, as the rearmost seats are not even remotely habitable on a daily basis. We’d skip them or get a non-luxury three-row vehicle.
What’s the performance and fuel economy?
The GLB 250 is offered exclusively with a punchy 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, which is on par for the class. In its standard front-wheel-drive configuration, it is rated at 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. With the optional 4Matic all-wheel drive, it loses just 1 mpg on the highway, coming in at 23/30/26.
Both models are offered with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and Mercedes-Benz says the GLB will do 0-60 in 6.9 seconds. That’s respectable for a CUV of this size.
For those who crave more performance, an AMG variant of the GLB is on the way. It will pack a 302-horsepower variant of the turbo-four and crack off a 0-60 run in just 5.1 seconds. It is expected to debut in the fall of 2020.
What’s the GLB like to drive?
The GLB is more about luxury and comfort than performance. Thanks to its long wheelbase and supple suspension, it delivers in spades for this segment. The optional adaptive suspension will tighten up the handling on demand, but no GLB ever rises to the level of “fun to drive.” That’s perfectly OK, though – it doesn’t need to be. The base GLB checks in at more than 3,600 pounds and loaded-up models top out close to 3,900.
This is a lot of heft for a little four-cylinder, and although the engine provides plenty of punch, it can come off a bit thrashy as a result, especially when in comparison to the GLC and other Benz models. Indeed, overall refinement is where the GLB shows its lower price tag. The ride, steering, throttle and transmission response, and driving experience in general are quite simply less sophisticated, but it’s a reduction that’s at least commensurate with that price tag and actually not as great as what you’d find in the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and others in the segment.
What features are available and what’s the price?
The GLB 250 starts at $37,595 (including a $995 destination charge) and comes with quite a bit of standard equipment, including MB-Tex synthetic leather seating, a touchscreen-powered infotainment system with natural language control, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, dual-zone climate control, heated side mirrors, driver memory settings, and a power liftgate. 4Matic all-wheel drive adds $2,000 to the base price.
While some features (such as integrated navigation) are firewalled behind expensive packages, many of the quality-of-life options are offered à la carte. These include the adaptive suspension ($990), Burmester premium audio system ($850) and wireless device charging with one-touch NFC pairing ($200), among others.
For those who want a sportier look, we recommend the AMG Line and Night packages ($3,000 bundled together), which add sporty bumpers, blacked-out exterior trim, a flat-bottom steering wheel and five-spoke, 19-inch wheels.
What’s the GLB’s safety equipment and crash ratings?
Standard safety equipment on the GLB includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, a driver inattention warning system and a stability control system that reacts to crosswinds.
Second-row side airbags and a blind-spot warning system are available as stand-alone options. The Driver Assistance package includes the same substantial array of advanced, well-executed safety tech that’s available on much pricier Mercedes models. These include a highly advanced adaptive cruise control system (offers stop-and-go traffic capability, automatic lane changes, highway steering assistance and automatic speed changes based on speed limits), cross-traffic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, evasive steering assistance, and crash preparation technology that activates the seat-belt pretensioners early, and adjusts sound to protect occupants’ ears. There is also a Parking Assistance Package that adds surround view cameras and automatic parking.