More of a people mover than a sporty subcompact, something nobody really offers anymore.
Mercedes-Benz has added yet another crossover to its lineup, slotted between the GLA and GLC models. Buyers want the extra cargo and seating capacity of a full size with the agility of a compact. The GLB, like the GLA, is built on a front wheel drive platform however it is cleverly packaged to maximize space and versatility. The exterior footprint of the GLB makes it hard to believe, but it can be configured as a seven-passenger vehicle. This week we have the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC to take a look at why the it’s such an important and successful addition to the segment.
To achieve the utility in a small platform, Mercedes has designed the GLB to be as boxy as possible. It has a straight roof line and many right angles. There is no attempt to over-style the GLB with the sacrifice of interior space. The design gives the GLB a bold presence despite its smaller size. The black body cladding adds a touch of ruggedness to the exterior, and our tester has the AMG Sport Package with large air vents and 19-inch AMG wheels. The black and white contrast keeps the exterior looking interesting despite focusing on utility; it’s a much more purposeful style and suites the SUV ethos.
The interior of the GLB is stylish, innovative and spacious. The dual 10.25-inch screens set the tone, and the tech laden MBUX infotainment system has an in-car personal assistant to respond to voice commands. The touchscreen operations in additional to touchpads on the steering wheel gives drivers an abundance of ways to control the system.
The user experience is straightforward with many customizations available from ambient lighting colours to themes for the gauge cluster. The basics are solid as well, with excellent seats and interior materials. Supple suede inserts in the door panels and seats with red contrast stitching adds a sporty touch to the GLB 250.
The interior is spacious considering the GLB 250’s compact chassis. Front and rear passengers do not need to fight for leg room, as everyone has ample room to relax in the cabin. The second row seats can move forward to improve cargo volume or recline for maximum comfort. The second row has a 40/20/40 split and folds flat for easy loading. The optional third row is a 50/50 split, though our tester did not have this equipped.
With all the seats down, cargo capacity is a useful 1,755 liters. With the second row in place, capacity is a respectable 560 liters. In our real-world use I found the load floor a bit high, so despite the large volume, loading large objects like strollers and heavy suitcases can be cumbersome. The cargo space behind the second row felt shallow without moving the row forward. However the boxy design means the space can be used fairly efficiently.
Another reason to love the GLB 250 is the nimble handling. The exterior may lead you to think it handles like a top heavy truck, however sharing its platform with the sportier A-Class and GLA pays dividends. The GLB drives much smaller than its sizes suggests; maneuvering in tight areas is no fuss. Steering is effortless while maintaining feel and confidence even at speed. The ride is taut, keeping body motions to a minimum. The 4MATIC all-wheel-drive gives drivers added confidence when the weather acts up.
Power is also ample and useful at the right RPMs. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder produces 221 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 258 lb-ft. of torque at just 1,800RPM. All the torque available so low in the rev range means there is plenty of power off the line, for merging and climbing at city speeds. The dual-clutch eight-speed transmission does an excellent job at keeping the power in the optimal part of the rev range.
A bit of turbo lag is observed in the GLB 250, but the plentiful torque makes the lag unperceivable unless you really look for it. The transmission is smooth and does not exhibit any weird clutch behaviour at take-off, as seen in the previous-generation CLA and GLA models. The GLB’s drivetrain feels refined thanks to excellent tuning. It’s also very efficient, something that subcompact crossover buyers are prioritizing more and more. We observed average consumption of 9.6L/100km with mostly city driving over a week’s worth of testing.
One of the disappointments in the GLB 250 is a lack of advanced safety features as standard equipment. Our tester has all the latest safety tech such as active lane keeping with steering control, blind spot assist, and adaptive high beams, to name a few. However, these features are a $1,700 package, whereas most mainstream manufacturers such as Toyota and Honda are offering them as standard fare right across the board, at price points less than half of the GLB’s.
The GLB 250’s base price starts at $46,500, in line with the likes of the BMW X1 and Lexus NX. Our tester came in at $54,150 with a few optional packages added, but these packages really are must-haves for a premium vehicle. It’s surprising that the third row is a $1,300 option considering it’s a strong feature that sets the GLB apart from the competition. Regardless, at this price range, customers can cross-shop the likes of the aforementioned X1, Lexus NX, or even the Audi Q5.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC is a bit different because it’s more of a people mover than a sporty subcompact, something nobody really offers anymore. Mainstream models like the Mazda5 and Kia Rondo would come close in utility, but they’re long gone. The GLB has seen great success because it’s sporty with a small footprint while having excellent cargo and versatility. There simply is nothing else like it around right now, which will help it grow in popularity.