The GLB offers a rare-for-North America third row seating option in the compact segment.
The everchanging consumer taste has buyers increasingly salivating towards compact vehicles, especially in crossover or SUV form. With one of every four Mercedes-Benz vehicles sold being a compact model, and more than half of their entire sales chart being SUVs, it made perfect sense when the brand announced an all-new compact SUV to fill out the gap between its smallest GLA-class and its GLC-class (reviewed here). The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC is a compact crossover designed with space and practicality in mind.
The GLB features best in-class front passenger headroom, thanks to its boxy exterior design, and a rare-for-North America third row seating option in the compact segment that allows the GLB 250 to seat up to seven passengers, a very worthy $1,300 option. With the help of a reclining and sliding second row bench as well as a non-sloping roof, the GLB 250 4MATIC is surprisingly accommodating and can fit up to seven adults without many complaints. There is acceptable head and legroom for all rear occupants, and getting in and out of the third row is fairly easy thanks to the wide opening by the second-row.
Our tester arrived in our garage this week painted in a simple Polar White paint scheme. Its edgy styling reminds us of the dearly departed GLK-Class SUV, and resembles the flagship GLS-Class (reviewed here) more than any other compact crossovers in the brand portfolio. The optional AMG body styling includes sportier looking bumpers, dedicated 19-inch wheels, and a special AMG style front grille that sharpens up the GLB’s looks. Overall, we appreciate the trendy and upscale look of the GLB 250 more than either of its GLA and GLC siblings.
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the GLB 250 4MATIC produces 221-horsepower at 5,500 RPM, and 258 lb-ft. of torque from 1,800 to 4,000 RPM. Its power rating might not seem impressive at first glance, but the delivery is smooth and turbo lag is minimal. The eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is quick and responsive, in turn helping the GLB 250 achieve a 6.9-second zero to 100 km/h sprint. Those looking for extra acceleration power should take a look at the upcoming Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC, which shaves that zero to 100 km/h figure by 1.7 seconds thanks to a fiery 302-horsepower output.
Driving the GLB 250 is quite easy, the steering weight is light, and is joyful to toss around. Chassis tuning is responsive, and the standard 4MATIC all-wheel drive system knows to automatically distribute power to the wheel that needs traction. Like many of its competitors, the GLB carries a front-drive bias, with 80% of power directed to the front wheels in its normal ‘Eco’ and ‘Comfort’ drive modes. This drops to 70% in the ‘Sport’ setting. There is also an ‘Individual’ mode that allows drivers to customize engine, transmission, and steering response for a tailored driving experience.
Fuel economy figures have yet to be published by Mercedes-Benz at the time of writing. Our observed fuel consumption was 9.3L/100km over a mixed commute setting, identical to what we saw in the 2020 BMW X1 28i (reviewed here). Premium 91-octane fuel is a requirement for the GLB 250, with a 60-litre capacity in the tank.
Aside from the spacious interior, ride comfort is another strength of the Mercedes-Benz GLB. The oversized windows create an airy feeling inside, with noise and vibrations well isolated to create a quiet ambience. Speaking of which, the optional 64-colour LED ambient lighting with illuminated air vents in the cabin is something that comes straight from the future, and the GLB has the best interior of anything found in its price range, bar none.
As part of the Premium Package that gives us those cool ambient lights, a dual digital display is included. It is made up of a highly customizable 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, and another 10.25-inch touchscreen display directly next to it housing the latest Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system. Users can input commands using touch, directly on-screen, or through a touchpad on the centre console. The MBUX system is complicated to learn, however, once you get used to it and set up proper shortcuts for frequently used features, it can become unobtrusive. Those who do not have the patience to learn the system can use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Audiophiles will enjoy the optional Burmester surround sound system with its twelve speakers and 590-watt digital amplifier.
Mercedes-Benz is one of the first companies to use augmented reality (AR) technology to help aid its navigation systems. Using live-video feed from its front camera, the navigation system projects guidance information such as street names, house numbers, and navigation arrows onto the main screen, which helps users identify their urroundings. Real world test shows that the live imagery is instant, and it is not as distracting as we thought it to be, rather it simply becomes a useful sidekick for when we need to pinpoint the street or house we are looking to get to.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 comes standard with Active Brake Assist for collision mitigation and Attention Assist to alert drivers when system detects distraction from the driver’s seat. Our tester was equipped with a full suite of optional driver’s assist features such as Blind Spot, Active Parking, Lane Keeping, Lane Change, Active Emergency Stop, and Evasive Steering Assist systems. Adaptive cruise control system is also included as part of the optional Technology Package, and it works well with the Active Steering Assist system to provide a semi-autonomous driving experience.
The Canadian base price of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC is $43,990, and our tester is fairly fully loaded with optional features that bring the as-tested price to $54,765. While that price might seem expensive for a compact luxury crossover, the Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 does find itself in no man’s land given the extra utility offered by the optional third-row that nobody else offers.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC presents an interesting contrast to its archrival BMW’s approach to creating their compact crossover, the X2 (reviewed here), which places its emphasis on styling and performance above all else. The GLB’s spacious accommodations, unique practicality, as well as its futuristic interior design all put it right up at the top of the compact crossover segment for families. We expect it to be a success that will skew the Mercedes-Benz sales chart even more toward compacts and SUVs in the coming year.