Lately, the nomenclature of Mercedes’s current lineup is very confusing, covering a whole bevy of different niches. But Mercedes’s extensive MFA2 platform deserves some praise. This FWD chassis underpins a total of 8 cars in Mercedes’s lineup including; The A-Class Hatchback, the A-Class Saloon (Including a long wheelbase model destined for China), the CLA-Class Coupe, CLA-Class Shooting brake, the B-Class MPV, the GLA-Class SUV.
And lastly, the GLB-Class SUV. Now, Mercedes may already have a very reputable subcompact crossover with the GLA, but the GLB further expands on the new and improved SUV formula to give buyers even more space in the rear.
Externally, the GLB differentiates itself from the GLA by way of its boxy design, as opposed to the relatively curvaceous body lines of the smaller SUV. In the flesh, it is noticeably bigger than the GLA too. In fact, the overall profile of the car isn’t too dissimilar to the larger GLC-Class and GLE-Class, which are both full-size SUVs with rear-wheel-drive based platforms.
The GLB is available in various trim levels such as the base Sport trim, an AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus. The AMG Line Premium Plus model comes fitted with more aggressive styling cues. From the Diamond style radiator grille, the flared air intakes on either side of the bumpers, the large vent beneath the grille (with a strip of chrome trim on the front splitter), and 19-inch AMG rims. It even gets a rear diffuser and twin oval faux exhaust surrounds, which do look rather good. But upon closer inspection, you’ll find that the actual exhaust tips are hidden beneath the rear facia. A common trait on lower tiered Mercedes cars. But at a cursory glance, most people wouldn’t notice the difference.
Inside, it’s all familiar Mercedes A-Class, with its two digital gauge cluster screens, and the familiar haptic touchpad on the centre console. The air conditioning vents are identical to the ones on other smaller Mercedes models built atop the MFA2 chassis. So you get triple turbine style vents with button controls finished in satin metal. There are also more prominent ambient lighting strips across the cabin that adorn the trim pieces. And the AMG Line package also includes a panoramic sunroof, which can be easily controlled by a toggle switch in the headliner.
Across the cabin, the controls are very intuitive. You even get metal paddle shifters that have a little dimple in the back just so you know which paddle shifts up and down. The steering wheel mounted buttons and trackpad may take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you have the entire MBUX interface right at your fingertips. Literally. And there are a dizzying array of customization options that can completely alter your main displays to suit your tastes. Want to know your power output figures? Simply switch to your engine information displays to see your horsepower and torque outputs on the fly. Or, you could go full Greenpeace tree-hugger mode and display your active fuel economy figures within the gauge cluster. (Which is recommended when your fuel reserve warnings come on)
Passengers in the second row of seats get loads of legroom, and because the front seats are raised above the floor, passengers in the middle row can slide their legs further forward. But the key difference between the GLB and its other A-Class based brethren, is in the rear seating capacity. The boffins at Daimler AG have managed to add third row seating, while expanding the GLB’s wheelbase by just 100mm. Though admittedly, the rear occupants would be rather cramped on longer journeys. Overall, the car is just 224mm longer and 47mm taller than the GLA-Class. So it’s amazing to see how much space they’ve managed to carve out of the car’s dimensions.
But the engineers haven’t skimped on the ergonomics either. The electric tailgate (which can also be opened by using the key fob) opens up high, but the buttons to close the tailgate aren’t that far out of reach. Similar to the GLA, despite the 4.7cm height difference. The rear seats can be folded up and down by pulling two fabric tabs, and the boot boasts 500 litres of space with the rearmost seats folded. The GLB also has flat folding seats in both the third and second row, so you get a completely flat boot floor that would make Ikea shopping trips much easier.
Under the hood, this GLB200 is fitted with Mercedes’s new M282 engine, which has 1.3-litres of displacement and a turbocharger. The gearbox is the older 7-speed DCT unit found in the previous GLA. Higher spec models such as the GLA250 and GLA 35 AMG get Mercedes’s new 8-speed gearboxes. But in all honesty, the 7-Speed more than does its job of blending fuel economy and performance. Just under a quarter of a tank got me an estimated 122km or range, which given its 52L fuel tank nets you about 11km/L.
Admittedly, it isn’t that close to the rated fuel economy of 6.0L/100km. But mind you, I wasn’t exactly driving in Eco fuel-saving mode. Given the almost 1.5-ton kerb weight and 163 horsepower being generated from the tiny four-pot engine, I’d say the Mercedes GLB’s fuel economy is rather decent. And despite the large dimensions of the car, the GLB feels planted yet pliant on the road. Bumps and road imperfections are well damped, body roll is surprisingly minimal, and the engine produces plenty of grunt when you need it. As a matter of fact, I never found myself craving for more power.
But my one, and probably the biggest gripe with this GLB, and any A-Class based Mercedes for that matter, is the intrusive voice assistant system, which kicks in at the mere mention of “Mercedes”. Now I’m sure there is a way to turn it off, but I found it easier to just omit mentioning anything that sounds remotely like “Hey Mercedes” while in the cabin. Less I hear an automated voice ask me “How can I help you?” for the umpteenth time.
But as a whole, the GLB200 is an impressive package, with its rear seating capability and cavernous boot. It even comes with a load cover that can be stowed under the boot floor when you have all 7 seats up. The question is, would you choose the Mercedes GLB? Or opt for the smaller and more compact Mercedes GLA?
For our review on the GLA-Class, click here.