What is the GLB 250?
The GLB is the latest model to join Mercedes-Benz’s ever-increasing SUV family. At first glance, it appears to be a GLS photocopied at 75 percent, but look closer and you’ll start noticing the differences.
The GLB slots in between the GLA and the GLC and, while it’s based on the A-Class, it is longer than the baby Benz at just over 4.6 meters, but offers room for up to seven occupants. We’ll call it ‘smallish’.
It enters a busy seven-seat compact SUV market that’s littered with choice and the GLB asks a premium over many of its competitors, but it also packs a lot of punch and is well worth considering in the premium mix.
Price and Value
Our test car was fairly optioned up, so its price tag was a neat $80,560 before on-roads. Considering the GLB 250 starts at $73,900, what exactly at you getting for the extra $6,500? For that matter, what do you get for the base price?
The off-the-shelf GLB 250 is not exactly tradie-spec. Its cabin is decked out two 10.3-inch digital screens, with touch sensitivity for the central display as well as controller that works a bit like a fixed mouse. Coloured ambient lighting, wireless charging, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are all standard, as are USB-C power points and tablet holders for the second-row passengers.
Read next: 10 cars with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
There’s also plenty of convenience features including electric tailgate, keyless entry and start, a reverse camera, Mercedes’ MBUX system with voice control and navigation and fully electric front seats with heaters.
As you might expect from the Three-Pointed Star, safety gets a good look in with lane keep assist, brake assist, blind spot assist, nine airbags (front, pelvis side and window for driver and passenger, side curtain airbags for middle and rear rows and driver’s knee) and Isofix child seat anchors to name but a few features.
Capping off the notable kit, 19-inch wheels, 4Matic all-wheel drive system, eight-speed DCT automatic transmission, automatic panoramic sunroof, off-road engineering package, active dampers and a 60-litre fuel tank complete the long list of equipment included in the price.
As if that wasn’t enough equipment, the version we tested had been decked out with a number of options accounting for the extra $6500. They included the Galaxy Blue Metallic paint, Neva Grey/Black Artico synthetic leather seats, Sports package (AMG trimmings including 19-inch AMG wheels, roof rails, some tasteful carbonfibre trim pieces, paddle shifters, sports leather steering wheel and privacy glass on the rear windows).
An optional Driving Assistance package was also part of the deal, which adds lane change assist, route based speed adaptation, extended automatic restart in traffic and a number of other driving aids. And the Vision Package (adaptive high beam, Multibeam LED headlights and a 360-degree parking camera) completed the kit list.
Mercedes says most of these items would usually take years to trickle down from the S-Class vehicles, but have been fast-tracked to the GLB to impart as much extra technology as they can possibly cram into it.
Among other key rivals, Benz is taking aim at the well-rounded Land Rover Discovery Sport with its GLB.
In 250 specification, the Merc aligns closest with the Discovery Sport S P200 AWD Automatic. However, the GLB 250 is better equipped, more powerful, is larger overall and offers more headroom.
This is a Mercedes-Benz and a representative of an automotive brand that’s synonymous with style. To that end, the GLB delivers in boot loads. It mightn’t break any new design ground nor is it going to be the centerpiece of Milan Fashion Week, but it’s sufficiently edgy to appeal to a new audience.
The exterior of the car speaks for itself. Sporty and chunky in all the right ways, whilst still maintaining a sense of subtlety. There’s no “look at me” about it and that is a really good thing. But if the outside doesn’t delight then it makes sense to focus on the interior where, an owner will spend a majority of their time looking around, and where this car really kicks some goals.
From the modern dual screen dash to the steel accented door handles and air vents, the two-tone leather to the ambient lighting that could pass itself off as a slow motion disco. Everything inside the GLB 250 is a pleasing sight that you’re unlikely to tire of. It feels fresh and light inside the cabin, even at night. Spend five minutes in it and you’ll be converted.
Living with the GLB 250
Few SUV’s feel as car-like as the GLB 250. It’s spacious, but doesn’t feel cumbersome, the interior, whilst pretty to look at isn’t delicate, and the digital dash is without question among the most impressive.
Everything on the two screens is customisable to display exactly the information required at any given moment; full-screen maps for navigation, sports gauges or even a monitor to see how kind you are being to the planet as you drive.
The central screen is similarly fantastic. All functions are controlled either through the touchscreen itself or, if you prefer not to have fingerprints all over your 10.3 inches of LCD, you can utilise the mousepad in the centre console. This takes a bit of practice to master and given the choice of just one method, the touchscreen would be staying.
A huge amount of the car’s digital systems can also be controlled through the intuitive MBUX interface, which allows you to tune the radio, set a navigation destination or even open the sunroof with a voice command. “Hey Mercedes” is all it takes to get its attention. A word of advice though - don’t say Mercedes whilst doing a piece to camera or she will interrupt your take.
The MBUX system goes a step further though and actually learns your habits as you drive. Within the first six weeks of driving, the GLB will pick up on your daily driving routine and begin helping you as you drive.
For instance, if you call your partner every day at 5:00pm after leaving work, it will suggest it on the days you don’t. And if you always use the navigation to go to work each day, it will automatically offer to plot the route when you get in the car each morning. Is Siri that attentive?
All seven seats are upholstered in a combination of real and synthetic leather which, as we discovered, can easily be wiped clean of chocolate spillage. Both rear rows are fitted with Isofix child seat anchors across all five seats. The middle row slides forward to allow for more legroom in the rear and all five rear seats fold flat for a massive amount of storage.
However, with all seats in place, the boot is tiny measuring about 150 litres. It gets better with the third row seating out of action and an increase of volume to 560L, while the load volume grows to a whopping 1800 litres with all seats folded flat.
While there’s a decent amount of space for second-row occupants especially in headroom, the third row is a bit of a gesture. You can’t cheat physics and a small car on the outside is almost always going to be small in places on the inside. In the GLB it’s the third row, which should be reserved for the smallest children.
Read next: Boot spaces of Australia’s favourite SUVs
The front seats however, are where the magic happens. Both are heated and have a ‘massage’ function which uses small movements in the bolsters to help keep you alert on long journeys, but double as a soft back rub if the mood strikes.
We often test a vehicle’s storage capacity by throwing in a few of the camera crew’s large cases. The vast majority of small SUV’s don’t even allow you to close the tailgate once loaded but the GLB 250 fits them with ease.
For extra convenience, the tailgate is powered, but also hands free. Simply wave your foot under the rear bumper and, as long as you have the key in your pocket, it’ll open without contact.
Read next: Battle of the affordable seven-seaters
There are some clever low tech features too. The doors extend all the way down to the bottom of the sills to prevent muddy legs when getting in and out, and tablet holders in the rear rows and the back of the driver and passenger seats are hard plastic, which goes a long way when the soccer team played on a rainy day.
Less impressive is the artificially generated indicator sound, which is loud and intrusive and could have been modeled on a 1990s Holden. Then there’s the annoying active lane assist which works flawlessly on the freeway but doesn’t deal well with Australian country roads.
Glancing a white line without indicating causes one front brake to grab angrily at the wheel and yank the GLB back into the lane and, while we’re certain the forward collision mitigating system works perfectly in city and pedestrian scenarios, it failed to identify Skippy’s corpse in the middle of the road. If country drivers feel the same, lane departure assistance can be switched off.
Engine, Transmission and Drivetrain
Ah the GLB 250, the gift that keeps on giving, and its engine and transmission are no exception. A 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder – similar to the one in Mercedes’ A35 hot hatch – takes petrol and turns it into 165kW and 350Nm of torque. That decent output is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
It’s by no means going to take you across the Simpson desert, but the 4Matic system feels planted, while the suspension is confidently firm on gravel and dirt but not uncomfortable thanks to active dampers which enable an incredibly smooth for such a small car.
Where the GLB 250 will live most of its life is on tar though and the 4Matic system is a gem here too. Rather than a part time system, the Merc’s AWD is constantly dealing power to the wheels with most traction, so you never have wheel slipping and the confidence to enjoy a good road is always there.
Benz went a step further and equipped the GLB 250 with its new eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, which means the gear changes are so quick and smooth you would be hard pressed to realise you’ve even shifted up.
Standard is an off-road setting which doesn’t raise the car for greater ground clearance, sprout a snorkel or throw Maxtrax under the wheels, but the GLB is not intended for taking on Kakadu. It will however, take you to a scenic spot where a two wheel drive won’t go.
Off-road mode also changes some of the functions on the car. You get downhill speed regulation (hill descent) to reduce load on the brakes when negotiating a steep, loose track, and it locks the torque split to 50/50 front and rear to boost traction. Cleverly, the headlight globes that usually act as cornering lamps in town are switched on and allow the front facing camera to act as another set of eyes for you when crawling through an unknown area at night.
How safe is the GLB 250?
As you might expect, the GLB 250 has a full five-star ANCAP safety rating and even pedestrians are looked after with and ‘active bonnet’. In the event of colliding with a pedestrian, the bonnet unlatches and reduces the severity of the impact.
The safest place to be though, is inside the GLB with nine airbags throughout the cabin including full side curtain airbags from front the rear on both sides.
Like most Mercedes, it also has pre tensioning seatbelts to reduce the chances of ‘submarining’ and to increase the effectiveness of the restraint systems. That’s in addition to the myriad of standard driver assistance and safety tech we have come to expect on from the German brand.
How much does it cost to run the GLB 250?
We had the GLB 250 for a week and racked up just under 700km of town and country driving from of a single tank of fuel. That equates to about 8.5L/100km, 0.8L more than the 7.7L/100km combined cycle Mercedes claims, but filming duties hardly qualify as ‘regular use’, so we can allow a little dispensation here.
Benz’s vehicles now have one year/25,000km service intervals and a capped-price service model for the first three years of ownership. Therefore, servicing the GLB 250 will cost $2650 over three services and 75,000km.
A five-year/unlimited km warranty is also included with all new Mercedes passenger and SUV models.
The GLB 250, as Mercedes claims, is a thoroughly thought out machine. Everything feels like it belongs where it is without ever feeling pretentious or excessive. Granted, there are a couple of niggles, including some of the driver assistance, which might be a bit of a nuisance. Generally though, most owners would enjoy and appreciate the rich list of kit, rewarding drive and practical features - both high-tech and simple. The GLB 250 is a lot of car for the money.
It would be a shame to see Mercedes’ cracking new model resigned to the school run because it’s a fun little SUV with so much more to offer at a sub $80k price. The GLB is another facet in Mercedes’ broader strategy to target and appeal to a younger demographic, but there’s no getting away from the fact that entry into the Three Pointed Star lounge still comes at a price.
But where the GLB 250 really excels is making a case for downsized luxury. Models including the BMW X1, Volvo XC-60 and Land Rover Discovery Sport are proving that premium SUVs no longer exist exclusively in the large, V8-powered realm.
Every moment with this intriguing new Mercedes was enjoyable and we’re confident anyone’s impression of the GLB 250 would be similarly positive.
Rating Breakdown: 8/10
Value (judged on price, specs v competitors) 8/10
Safety (ANCAP, safety inclusions, child seating) 9/10
Running Costs (warranty, servicing, fuel consumption) 7/10
Comfort and Practicality (all seat positions, cargo space, ease of use) 8/10
On the road (engine/drivetrain, ride and handling) 8/10
What we like:
Comfortable, spacious, fun and light. Always a pleasant place to be.
What you might not like:
Cheap indicator sound, some intrusive safety features. Compromised rear leg room for over six-footers.