Does the world need another SUV? Probably not, but at least the Mercedes GLB offers something a little different. It’s similar in size to the GLC, but unlike its more expensive sibling, the GLB can be equipped with seven seats. This means it’s likely to appeal to family buyers in search of a little extra versatility.
There’s a hint of the G-Class about the styling, which is no bad thing, while the boxy looks serve to create a practical and spacious interior, albeit with seats in the third row that are suitable only for occasional use.
The GLB is a little dull to drive, but the ride comfort is excellent, even on the standard-fit AMG Line alloy wheels. Economy is good, with the diesel engine capable of returning up to 50mpg.
About the Mercedes GLB
What is the Mercedes GLB? As its name suggests, the GLB slots in between the GLA and GLC in the German company’s burgeoning range of SUVs. There’s a good reason for its introduction: SUVs account for a third of Mercedes sales and compact models for another 25 per cent.
The GLB is marginally shorter and narrower than the more expensive GLC, but it’s actually taller, which, when combined with the boxy styling, creates a family-friendly interior that’s spacious enough for five adults. You also have the option of seven seats, which is another reason why families might shun the GLC in favour of the GLB.
Squint a little, and there’s a whiff of the Mercedes-Benz G-Class about the GLB. It’s certainly a welcome tonic to the raft of me-too SUVs on sale in 2021. It can’t offer the space and off-road ability of the Land Rover Discovery Sport or the value and practicality of a Skoda Kodiaq, but for its all-round competence, the GLB is likely to be a hit with family buyers.
The interior is arguably its strongest selling point. Although the quality can’t quite reach the heights of the GLC, it feels reassuringly upmarket inside, thanks to a good selection of premium materials and plush finishes. There’s no base model, with the AMG Line trim slotting in as the most affordable model in the range. There are also AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus models, plus a Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic version that’s likely to be a niche prospect in the UK.
Even the entry-level AMG Line features 19-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels, AMG styling, an electric tailgate, LED headlights, privacy glass, reversing camera, heated seats, keyless start, automatic climate control and a pair of seven-inch displays.
You don’t necessarily need to upgrade from the £37,000 AMG Line, but it’s the only model that goes without the impressive 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system and 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster. They are worth the additional expense, even if you’ll need to spend at least £40,000 for the privilege.
Most of the engines deliver low running costs, especially if you opt for the frugal 2.0-litre diesel in the G 200 d. There’s also a more powerful G 220 d, an efficient 1.3-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit in the G 200, plus a 306bhp 2.0-litre petrol in the AMG 35. All versions come with an automatic transmission, with four-wheel drive available on the GLB 35, 200 d and 220d.
It might be one of the most affordable Mercedes-Benz SUVs you can buy, but the GLB is also one of the most convincing. It prioritises practicality above all else, which means it can hold its own against rivals such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Skoda Kodiaq and Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB is competent to drive without offering any real involvement. The large alloy wheels are shod in relatively high-profile rubber, which means the GLB rides pretty well for a German SUV.
The suspension is conventional, with the GLB featuring MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Handling is reassuringly predictable and there’s a hint of body-roll to remind you that you’re driving a relatively high-sided vehicle, but generally it’s very good. Only the overly light steering lets the side down, but even this comes into its own in the city and when parking.
Only the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 gets adaptive dampers, but frankly, you won’t miss them. Every model has standard steel springs, with no option of air suspension. This gives the GLC a point of difference from the GLB.
Although 4Matic four-wheel drive is available on some models, the GLB is never going to rival a Land Rover Discovery Sport off road. However, it’s ideal for grass car parks, gravel tracks and slippery roads.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
Although diesel-powered vehicle sales might be in decline, Mercedes-Benz expects the majority of GLBs it sells to have a diesel engine. Despite this, the entry-level engine is the 161bhp 1.3-litre turbo petrol in the GLB 200, which will accelerate to 62mph in 9.1 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 129mph. It’s fine for school runs and urban commuting, but with only 250Nm of torque, it’s not ideal for travelling with seven people and for long journeys.
The GLB 200 d is the entry-level diesel option. It uses a 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine to give a 0-62mph time of 9.0 seconds and a top speed of 127mph. There’s also a useful 320Nm of torque. It’s an engine that’s used to good effect in larger Mercedes-Benz SUVs, so it feels plenty quick enough in the GLB. It’s also available with 4Matic four-wheel drive.
The GLB 220 d uses the same diesel engine, but with the power increased to 187bhp. It gets 4Matic as standard which, when combined with 400Nm of torque, makes this the best GLB for towing. The 0-62mph time is 7.6 seconds, while the top speed is 135mph.
Finally, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 306bhp. It’ll hit 62mph in 5.2 seconds, with a top speed limited to 155mph. Thanks to adaptive damping, it’s surprisingly good fun to drive, but it’s likely to be a niche seller in the UK.
A fully electric Mercedes-Benz EQB crossover is expected to go on sale in 2021.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB is impressively economical, thanks to a range of efficient four-cylinder engines. The GLB 200 d is especially frugal, achieving 49.6mpg on a combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 148-149g/km. The 4Matic versions are slightly less efficient, with figures of 47.9mpg and 154-155g/km.
The GLB 200 d 4Matic should return 47.1mpg to 47.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 155-157g/km. Thanks to fuel economy of 39.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 163g/km, the GLB 200 petrol is ideal for town drivers and city commuters.
Predictably, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is the least economical, although 32.1mpg is respectable for a performance version.
Most versions of the GLB are expensive enough to attract the premium rate of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). It means that cars with a list price of more than £40,000 are charged £475 a year from year two. Only the AMG Line models and GLB 200 AMG Line Premium slip below the £40,000 mark, so pay the lower rate of £150 from year two.
Insurance premium costs are reasonable for a car of this size, especially if you opt for the GLB 200, which ranges from group 27 to group 29. The GLB 200 d will be slightly more expensive to insure, ranging from group 29 to group 30.
The more powerful GLB 220 d slots into groups 35 and 36, while the AMG version gets a group rating of 41. Crucially, the GLB should be less expensive to insure than the GLC, which ranges from group 32 to 44.
Premium SUVs remain very popular, so the GLB should have reasonable residual values. There are a number of factors working in its favour, including the efficient engines, seven-seat practicality and family-friendly practicality. The AMG-Line model is likely to retain more of its value than the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35.
There’s something refreshingly boxy about the Mercedes-Benz GLB. While the GLS, GLE and GLC are perhaps guilty of a Russian doll-approach to the styling, the GLB has a whiff of baby G-Class about it. It’s a welcome tonic to the current crop of repetitive SUV silhouettes.
AMG Line is the base trim in the UK, so all versions of the GLB have an upmarket look. AMG styling, 19-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels, LED headlights, polished aluminium roof rails, privacy glass and a striking radiator grille are the exterior highlights of the ‘base’ model.
It’s certainly boxier than anything else we’ve seen spun off the architecture that underpins it – the platform also supports the A-Class hatchback and GLB. Inside, there are dashboard flourishes to mimic the grab-handles of the G-Class.
The GLB doesn’t feel too dissimilar to the A-Class inside, which is no bad thing. Quality is a notch or two down on the GLC, but that’s totally forgivable when you consider the price difference and practicality of the GLB. Besides, the scratchy plastics are mostly out of sight.
Like all new Mercedes-Benz models, the dashboard is dominated by a pair of digital screens, which are complemented by five turbine-style air vents and the G-Class-style grab-handle. Clever use of leather, metallic trim and polished surfaces deliver an excellent first impression.
There are four trim levels: AMG Line, AMG Line Premium, AMG Line Premium Plus and Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic Premium Plus. Standard equipment is excellent, so there’s no real need to upgrade to one of the more expensive trim levels. That said, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is almost a standalone model, with beefier styling and most of the options boxes ticked.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
If there’s one reason to upgrade from the AMG Line to one of the other three models, it’s the infotainment system. On the base model, the GLB comes with a pair of seven-inch screens, which look a little inadequate when viewed alongside the twin 10.25-inch screens.
These look superb, with the MBUX infotainment system becoming the main focal point of the dashboard. There’s also a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel, which blends with the touchscreen to create a single high-gloss panel.
‘Hey Mercedes’ voice activation is standard across the range. It allows you to control many of the infotainment functions, including the navigation, telephone and music.
The GLB is almost identical in size to the GLC, so you might be wondering why you’d consider the more expensive SUV. The short answer is that they cater to different audiences. The GLB puts practicality ahead of premium qualities, which is why it comes with seven seats. It’s a more family-friendly take on the GLC formula – and it’s all the better for it.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB is 4,634mm long and 2,020mm wide, including the door mirrors. Thanks to its larger bumpers, the GLB 35 4Matic is actually 16mm longer than the standard GLB.
There’s little difference between the size of the GLB and the supposedly larger GLC. In fact, the GLC is 4,663mm long and 2,096mm wide.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Although the seats in the third row are useful for children or occasional use, the GLB isn’t a true seven-seater. If your children are beyond their early teens, they won’t thank you for subjecting them to a long journey in the cheap seats.
Even adults will find plenty of room in the middle row. There’s lots of headroom and legroom for passengers in the outer seats, while the raised position of the front seats means there’s plenty of room for even the largest feet. Even the middle seat is fine for adults, with only a shallow transmission tunnel preventing the GLB from getting full marks.
The GLB’s boxy dimensions provide lots of headroom up front. This means you can raise the seats to the limit and still have plenty of space. In doing so, you can create the commanding driving position favoured by many SUV drivers.
Luggage capacity in the five-seat GLB is 570 litres, which is actually 20 litres more than you get in the larger Mercedes-Benz GLC. Opt for the seven-seat option and the figure drops to a still-generous 500 litres when the rear two seats are folded away.
An electric tailgate is fitted as standard, which lifts to reveal a wide and square opening that makes it easy to load heavy items. Not that you’ll get much in the back with all seven seats in use – there’s enough room for a couple of rucksacks or a few bags of shopping.
Things are much better in five-seat mode, with the third row folding away to create a flat floor with a flush loading lip. The middle seat in the second row also folds down, which is handy for carrying longer loads or a pair of skis.
The GLB 200 d and 220 d 4Matic models have a braked towing capacity of 2,000kg. The two-wheel-drive GLB 200 d, GLB 200 and GLB 35 4Matic can tow up to 1,800kg. Pre-installation for trailer coupling is standard on all except the entry-level AMG Line model. A tow bar can be ordered from a Mercedes-Benz dealer.
The GLB didn’t appear in our 2020 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, although Mercedes-Benz finished a disappointing 28th out of 30 manufacturers. Owners complained of high running costs, including expensive servicing and insurance premiums.
There’s better news when it comes to safety, with the GLB awarded a maximum five-star rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2019. The scores were impressive, including 92% for adult occupant protection, 88% for child occupant protection, 78% for vulnerable road users protection and 74% for safety assist technologies.
All GLBs get multiple airbags, active lane-keeping assist, active brake assist, fatigue monitor, cruise control with speed limiter, speed limit assist and rain-sensing wipers. Five-seat models get ISOFIX points on the two outer rear seats, while seven-seat models get an extra pair of ISOFIX points in the third row.
AMG Line Premium Plus and GLB 35 4Matic Premium Plus models also feature a Driving Assistance package. This features an array of safety systems designed to keep you out of trouble. The list includes Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Braking Assist, Active Distance Assist, Active Steering Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, exit warning function, Pre-Safe Plus and route-based speed adjustment.
Every Mercedes-Benz GLB comes with a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty. This is average for the class, but extended warranties are also available. Longer standard warranties are rare in the premium sector, but cheaper rivals from the likes of Hyundai and Kia come with five- and seven-year warranties respectively.
Mercedes-Benz offers fixed-price servicing options via a ServiceCare plan. The prices vary, but based on a new GLB and up to 15,500 miles a year, two services could cost £750 if paying up front. Alternatively, the cost can be spread with monthly payments. Three services cost around £1,000, while four services cost £1,500.