With seven seats in tow, the GLB250 is a unique proposition when it comes to small SUVs. (image: Justin Hilliard)
The GLB 250 is at its best at the rear, where it exudes presence, with the tough look punctuated by the droopy LED tail-lights and a prominent bumper. (image: Justin Hilliard)
The GLB 250 is about as faithful to the classic two-box design as it gets in 2020. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Mercedes-Benz loves to find/create niches and fill them, and the GLB is its latest example. What is it? A seven-seat small SUV, of course! The question is, though, can you really have three rows that are usable in a vehicle of this size?
We all know by now Mercedes-Benz loves to fill a niche, and if it can't find a niche to fill, it will create one. So, please welcome its latest niche-filler, the GLB.
Despite shaping up as a mid-sizer, the GLB is a small SUV… with a twist. Whereas other small SUVs have five seats, the GLB has seven, lending itself to unrivalled practicality.
So, does the GLB operate in the 'Goldilocks Zone', or is it an answer to a question no-one asked? We put its mid-range GLB 250 variant to test to find out.
Mercedes-Benz GLB 2020: 250 4Matic
Premium Unleaded Petrol
Is there anything interesting about its design? 9/10
These days, so many SUVs try to toe the coupe line by incorporating a sloped-back roofline –and yes, the same is predominantly true of those that call themselves traditional wagons.
That said, prepare yourself for a bit of a throwback, because the GLB 250 is about as faithful to the classic two-box design as it gets in 2020, which we absolutely love.
Up front, it's undoubtedly a Mercedes-Benz SUV, albeit with a much squarer appearance. Simply put, the GLB 250 looks butch.
Up front, it’s undoubtedly a Mercedes-Benz SUV, albeit with a much squarer appearance. (image: Justin Hilliard)
We particularly love its simple LED headlights, classic grille and strong bumper, which make it look smart but capable.
Around the side, the GLB 250 is a typical small SUV with black plastic cladding covering its wheelarch extensions and connecting skirts.
The otherwise plain design is spiced up by a sporty set of alloy wheels (our test vehicle was fitted with 18-inch items with 235/55 runflat tyres) and an unusual kink in the glasshouse, around the C-pillar.
The GLB 250 is at its best at the rear, where it exudes presence, with the tough look punctuated by the droopy LED tail-lights and a prominent bumper, which houses a diffuser element flanked by dual exhaust tailpipes.
Simply put, the GLB 250 looks butch. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Inside, the GLB 250 quickly reveals itself to be a technological tour de force. And yes, if its cabin looks familiar, it's because its mechanical relatives (A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA) more or less have the same cockpit.
As expected, a pair of 10.25-inch high-resolution displays sit side by side proudly atop the dashboard, with one the central touchscreen and the other the digital instrument cluster.
Both are items powered by Mercedes-Benz's new-generation 'MBUX' multimedia system, which is arguably the best there is today thanks its speed and breadth of functionality and input methods.
The GLB 250 is properly premium where it counts. Sure, trainspotters will notice the black 'Artico leather' upholstery covering the steering wheel, seats, armrests and door shoulders is of the artificial variety, but it's inoffensive, unlike in some of its SUV siblings.
Inside, the GLB 250 quickly reveals itself to be a technological tour de force. (image: Justin Hilliard)
Soft-touch materials are used for the upper dashboard, leaving hard plastics for the lower sections, which is exactly what you'd hope for at this price.
While a black headliner lends itself to a dark cabin, brighter highlights come by way of the metallic trim used throughout, notably on the steering wheel, dashboard, doors and centre console. And let's not forget the sensational ambient lighting. It's very, very cool.
And mercifully, gloss-black accents are limited to the surrounds of the steering wheel, turbine-style front air vents, dual-zone climate controls and centre console. The less scratches and fingerprints the better, we say.
Measuring 4638mm long (with a 2829mm wheelbase), 1834mm wide and 1659mm tall, the GLB250 is closer in size to the GLC than the GLA, making it a small SUV on paper only. And that only means good things when it comes to practicality.
For example, cargo capacity with the 50/50 split-fold third row stowed is strong, at 565L, but it can be increased to a massive 1780L with the 40/20/40 split-fold middle bench also out of action. If six or seven seats are in use, though, there's limited space to play with.
That said, the boot is still very well thought out, as evidenced by its massive aperture, lack of a load lip, and flat floor, which make loading bulkier items a lot easier. And yes, its load cover can actually be stored underfloor when not in use!
Second-row occupants are further treated to a fold-down armrest with another pair of cupholders. (image: Justin Hilliard)
The middle bench is where it’s at, even when slid all the way forward. (image: Justin Hilliard)
These passengers also have access to two USB-C ports, which fold out below a small cubby and a pair of air vents. (image: Justin Hilliard)
There are also four tie-down points, two bag hooks, a side storage net and a 12V power outlet to make things that little bit easier, while the rear seats can be operated from behind.
Speaking of which, let's cut straight to the point: Mercedes-Benz claims the third row can accommodate occupants that are up to 168cm tall thanks to the middle bench's ability to slide fore and aft by up to 140mm.
Therefore, my 184cm (6.0ft) frame is a little too tall, but I was still able to sit in the back, albeit not in complete comfort, with about a centimetre of legroom and negligible headroom and toe-room on offer.
The biggest challenge for any occupant is getting in and out in the first place, as the middle bench doesn't tumble forward for easy access. Needless to say, you're not going to look graceful here. Children can learn to deal with it, but adults won't be excited by the prospect.
Cargo capacity with the 50/50 split-fold third row stowed is strong, at 565L. (image: Justin Hilliard)
But it can be increased to a massive 1780L with the 40/20/40 split-fold middle bench also out of action. (image: Justin Hilliard)
If six or seven seats are in use, though, there’s limited space to play with. (image: Justin Hilliard)
The boot is still very well thought out, as evidenced by its massive aperture, lack of a load lip, and flat floor. (image: Justin Hilliard)
So, the middle bench is where it's at, even when slid all the way forward. Behind my driving position, it provides about a centimetre of legroom, but this can be increased to a generous 8.0cm by sliding it all the way back.
Either way, plenty of toe-room is available alongside more than an 2.0cm of headroom – and that's with a dual-pane panoramic sunroof fitted.
The second row can accommodate three adults at a pinch, partly thanks to the short transmission tunnel that ensure there's just enough space for three pairs of fully grown feet across the two footwells. Children will be fine.
While we're on the topic, four ISOFIX and five top-tether anchorage points are on hand for fitting up to four child seats across the second and third rows, making the GLB250 a genuine option for families.
In-cabin storage options are numerous, with the central storage bin on the larger side despite housing a pair of USB-C ports. (image: Justin Hilliard)
In-cabin storage options are numerous, with the central storage bin on the larger side despite housing a pair of USB-C ports, and the glove box is also pretty handy, even if it does have an odd shape. There's also a sunglasses holder in front of the rearview mirror.
The centre console's cubby doesn't lend itself to storage, though, as it's more or less taken up by two cupholders, another USB-C port and a wireless smartphone charger.
The front door bins can take one small and two regular bottles each, while their rear counterparts can carry one small and one regular apiece.
Second-row occupants are further treated to a fold-down armrest with another pair of cupholders, although they're of the retractable (flimsy) variety.
These passengers also have access to two USB-C ports, which fold out below a small cubby and a pair of air vents, which are located at the rear of the front centre console. There are also storage nets on the front seat backrests.
And don't make the mistake of thinking the third row misses out on the action, as two cupholders (one regular, the other small) divide the seats, which have their own USB-C ports and device straps to the sides.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
Priced from $73,900 plus on-road costs, the GLB 250 sits in the middle of the GLB range, above the $59,900 GLB 200 and below the $88,900 AMG GLB 35.
Standard equipment not already mentioned in the GLB 250 includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, aluminium roof rails and a power-operated tailgate.
Inside, satellite navigation with live traffic, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a 225W sound system with nine speakers, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable comfort seats with heating and memory functionality, auto-dimming mirrors and illuminated scuff plates feature.
As expected, a pair of 10.25-inch high-resolution displays sit side by side proudly atop the dashboard. (image: Justin Hilliard)
With one the central touchscreen and the other the digital instrument cluster. (image: Justin Hilliard)
As with most Mercedes-Benz models, the GLB 250 has a long and expensive options list, so the purchase price can blow out quickly if you're a little too keen.
That said, aside from some safety equipment we'll cover momentarily, there's really not that much missing to begin with, making the GLB 250 the sweet spot in the GLB range.
Either way, our tested vehicle was finished in $1490 'Mountain Grey' metallic paintwork, which is one of six extra-cost exterior colour options.
As mentioned, the GLB 250 is a unique proposition, so it's only comparable rival, the $67,852 Land Rover Discovery Sport P250 SE, is from the segment above, despite its similar size.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 8/10
The GLB 250 is motivated by a peppy 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine that produces 165kW of power from 5500-6100rpm and 350Nm of torque from 1800-4000rpm.
Thanks to this combination, the GLB250 can sprint from a standstill to 100km/h in a brisk 6.9 seconds while on the way to its top speed of 236km/h. It also enables a maximum braked towing capacity of 2000kg.
Advanced driver-assist systems extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, driver attention alert, tyre pressure monitoring, hill-descent control, hill-start assist, high-beam assist, park assist, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
What's missing? Front cross-traffic alert, steering assist and adaptive cruise control all form part of the $1990 'Driving Assistance Package', which was fitted to our test vehicle but should be standard for the money.
Other standard safety equipment includes nine airbags (dual front, front-side, curtain and rear-side plus driver's knee), anti-skid brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 9/10
As with all Mercedes-Benz models, the GLB 250 comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is the gold standard for the premium market. It also comes with five years of roadside assistance.
The GLB 250's service intervals are every 12 months or 25,000km, whichever comes first. It is available with a three-year capped-price servicing plan for $2650, but its pricing can be reduced by $500 if paid upfront alongside the vehicle.
What's it like to drive? 7/10
Families are sure to be pleased by the way the GLB 250 drives, because it can be summed up in one word - comfortable.
A lot of the credit has to go to the GLB 250's independent suspension set-up, which consists of MacPherson-strut front and trailing-link rear axles with adaptive dampers.
The ride is sensational, with the GLB just wafting along on the highway. Take it onto a coarse-chip road and this quality does suffer, but not much. That said, road noise does become more of a factor on lower-quality tarmac.
It's worth reiterating that our test vehicle was fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, which are an inch smaller than the GLB 250's standard set that come with lower-profile tyres (235/50), so the chances are our glowing review doesn't apply across the board.
There were also some noticeable underbody creaks when navigating speed bumps and the like, but hopefully they're just specific to our test vehicle.
What will be more consistent, though, is the wind noise generated by the side mirrors at highway speeds. It penetrates the cabin and disturbs its serenity more than any underbody creak ever could, so turn up the sound system.
Handling-wise, the GLB 250 performs just as well as any other non-performance SUV with seven seats and a high centre of gravity, with body roll prominent when cornering with intent.
Put the aforementioned adaptive dampers into their sportiest setting and body control improves somewhat, but you'll still be conscious of the GLB 250's 1721kg kerb weight.
Either way, grip is quite good due to the all-wheel drive system, which works hard to keep things on track. Its front bias is apparent, though, with the GLB 250 running wide of its line at times.
While it's not the sharpest handler, the GLB 250 is far from awful, partly thanks to the electric power steering's variable ratio set-up.
The centre console’s cubby doesn’t lend itself to storage, though, as it’s more or less taken up by two cupholders. (image: Justin Hilliard)
This system goes from lock-to-lock with ease at low speed, making parking manoeuvres much easier to perform, while it's far more stable at high speed.
However, it's not the first word in feel despite being well-weighted… until you make the mistake of engaging the GLB 250's Sport drive mode, which adds too much artificial weight.
Speaking of sporty, the GLB 250 is surprisingly fun in a straight line thanks to its strong engine and transmission combination.
I particularly enjoyed the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine's mid-range, headlined by a useful 350Nm of max torque from 1800-4000rpm.
Once it comes and goes, though, it's a 'long' wait until 165kW of peak power kicks in from 5500-6100rpm, so best to up-shift early.