Mercedes-Benz GLB250 2020 road test review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 03 October 2020

Tim Nicholson puts the family-friendly Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4Matic through its paces.

  • Thumbs up

    Spacious and flexible cabin, exceptional visibility, balance of comfort and performance, distinctive design, in-car tech.

  • Thumbs down

    Fake leather and hard plastics cheapen cabin, jerky transmission, it’s not cheap.

  • Perfect for

    A growing family that wants to stand out from the crowd.

  • Verdict

    It won’t be to everyone’s tastes but the unique GLB is a practical and safe family-friendly SUV that will also engage driving enthusiasts.

In the past year, Mercedes-Benz has overhauled its entire SUV line-up, launching all-new versions of the GLA, GLE and GLS and an updated GLC. Benz is successfully covering the small, medium, large and upper-large SUV segments, but the German car-maker has found space for another new nameplate – the GLB. A quirky proposition with a polarising design, the GLB might just be the family car you didn’t know you needed.

Mercedes Benz GLB250 4matic 2020
Mercedes Benz GLB250 4matic 2020


Price and positioning

The GLB is not your typical premium SUV. Its boxy, upright, almost utilitarian exterior design won’t appeal to everyone, but it stands out against more traditional SUVs. 

Offered exclusively in Australia with seven seats, the GLB sits above the small GLA and below the medium GLC in Mercedes’ line-up. Like the GLA and A-Class hatch, the GLB is based on Benz’s MLB2 small vehicle architecture.

The GLB is available in three model grades with three different powertrains: the two-wheel-drive GLB200 at $59,990 before on-road costs, GLB250 4Matic (all-wheel drive) tested here at $73,535, and the sporty Mercedes-AMG GLB35 4Matic at $88,535. 

Compared with the three equivalent GLA variants, the Mexican-built GLB is between $4800 and $7000 dearer, but the GLB is roomier and has seven seats. The Land Rover Discovery Sport ($62,450 to $82,288) is the only other premium small-to-medium SUV available with seven seats. 

These days Benz includes more standard equipment in its models and the GLB250 isn’t missing anything obvious. Our test car was fitted with a $1900 Vision Package (adaptive LED headlights, 360-degree camera) and a $1990 Driving Assistance Package (active lane change assist, active distance assist and more).

Safety first

The GLB has a five-star ANCAP rating and a lengthy list of standard safety features. As we’ve reported, Benz’s lane-keeping aid applies the brakes if you get too close to a line marking and can startle you when driving. But the self-steering Active Distance Assist Distronic system is excellent. As is the active lane-change function that safely guides the vehicle into the next lane. 

Mercedes Benz GLB250 4matic 2020 engine
Mercedes Benz GLB250 4matic 2020 gears


The inside story

The GLB cabin follows the design of the related A-Class with its clean lines and modern vibe, but hard plastics on the lower parts of the cabin and fake leather seats don’t scream $80,000 premium SUV. 

The focus on technology is clear with the two huge 10.25-inch digital screens housing the instrument panel and infotainment. There’s a lot of new technology to get your head around, but features like voice recognition, haptic touchpad and customisable settings are genuinely useful. A head-up display is available as an option but given the placement and clarity of the digital display, it’s not a must-have. 

Storage is excellent with a deep central bin, room for large bottles and more in the doors, and a storage net in the front passenger footwell. 

The GLB’s upright shape and extensive use of glass ensures exceptional visibility. It is incredibly spacious despite the small footprint, with acres of head room and ample leg room. 

Seats are supportive up front but flat in the rear. There are two more USB-C ports back there and air vents. The third row is cramped and strictly for occasional use by small children. Benz says it can accommodate people up to 168 centimetres. There are storage nooks with USB ports and cupholders but no air vents.  

Lowering both rear seating rows makes for a flat cargo-loading area. Measuring up to the roof, cargo space is 150 litres with all three rows in place, 700 litres with the third row stowed and 1680 litres with both rear pews lowered.

The GLB250 has run-flat tyres so it’s not offered with a spare wheel.

 
Mercedes Benz GLB250 4matic 2020 wheel
Mercedes Benz GLB250 4matic 2020 rear


On the road

Power comes from the same 165kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine as the A250 hatch. The GLB250 is sporty enough to satisfy punters who want a spirited drive, but without getting into performance-car territory. 

Acceleration is brisk from a standing start and the steering is light but direct. Other than occasional jerkiness under hard acceleration, the eight-speed dual-clutch auto is well matched with the engine.

It’s about 200 kilograms lighter than the equivalent Land Rover Discovery Sport and feels nimble, particularly around town. It’s easy to park and has a city-friendly turning circle. 

The GLB250 is geared for comfort and this is evident in the ride around town and on rough B-roads. A quick loop on a badly pockmarked road highlighted this further. It’s worth noting our test car was fitted with optional 18-inch wheels with a higher profile than the standard 19-inch wheels. 

A well-calibrated suspension setup and 4Matic all-wheel drive ensure the GLB250 pitches into corners with ease and rewards the driver with decent levels of grip. We encountered some light understeer on a tight corner and a few mid-corner bumps on a sweeping uphill bend, but little else flustered the GLB. 

Aside from tyre noise on coarse-chip roads and some wind noise, the cabin is well insulated, but it’s no C-Class. 

Benz has nailed the balance of comfort and performance with the GLB250 4Matic, making it one of the better-driving medium SUVs on offer.

Our 12.5 litres per 100-kilometre fuel-economy figure was well off Benz’s official 7.7L/100km.

 

Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4Matic

PRICING

List price: $73,900 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $78,570 before on-road costs.

Model range: $59,900-$88,900 before on-road costs.

DRIVETRAIN

2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Power: 165kW@5500-6100rpm.

Torque: 350Nm@1800-4000rpm.

Wheels: 235/55 R18.

FUEL

95 RON petrol, 60-litre fuel tank.

Consumption: 7.7L/100km (government test), 12.5L/100km (RACV test).

Emissions: 173g/km CO2 emissions.

STANDARD SAFETY

Five-star ANCAP rating, nine airbags, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitor, ‘Pre-safe’ accident anticipatory system.

STANDARD FEATURES

Heated fully electric front seats with memory function, wireless device charging, keyless entry and start, 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen with digital radio, sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

WARRANTY

Five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing plan up to five years. Service intervals every 12 months or 25,000 kilometres.

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