If you have just under R1 million to spend on a compact, yet spacious SUV from a German manufacturer, should Mercedes-Benz be on the receiving end with their GLB? We took delivery of the diesel Progressive model to see how well it handles family life.
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After the reintroduction of the GLB a few months ago, Mercedes SA has released a few test models for local media to drive, and we were elated at the chance to put the all-wheel driven 220d to the test last week – but is it everything we hoped it would be?
If you know your Merc SUVs, the GLK will immediately spring to mind when you look at the GLB – this model was only available in North America and was later replaced by the GLC. The new GLB sports the same boxy shape as the GLK (aka the Geländewagen Luxus Kompaktklasse) which was the more compact version of the GL. These square proportions usually allow for much more room inside, compared to the more coupe-shaped SUV styles.
As good as it gets if you don’t spend on extras – and we think it looks pretty good!
Our test model wasn’t treated to an array of exterior extras – the 5-twin spoke light alloy wheels, polished aluminium roof rails, fog lamps, LED static headlamps and night black paint job are all part of the stock standard package.
From the roof rails to the rear LED headlamps and decoratives skid plate, the GLB has all the trimmings to fit in with the other premium mom-mobiles at the kids’ private school!
Interior, space, and convenience
On the inside, things look neat but glamorous, in typical Mercedes-Benz SUV fashion. The driver faces what looks like a wide-screen cockpit, but in the poverty-spec model, the actual screens, (the one in the middle and the one in front of the driver which serves as your digital instrument cluster), aren’t all that big. For the full-screen effect, you would need to spend a considerable amount of money on one of the high-spec equipment packages, such as the Premium Package which will set you back R51 000.
Note the silver tubular elements on the left and the spacious, uncluttered centre console.
As in all new Mercedes-Benz models, the voice-activated MBUX digital assistant is available, but if you choose to make selections to the system manually, using the central trackpad or the satellite controls on the steering wheel is just as easy. Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto are available for true hands-free infotainment.
Passengers of all shapes and sizes will feel at home in the back seats – the middle seat is fairly wide as well.
The GLB is available in a 5- or 7-seater guise (the two rearmost seats are a R20 200 option), and as a result, the second-row passengers have more legroom than they know what to do with. My test model only seated five sets of buttocks, so the kids had oodles of space, and the taller adults who rode along on occasion did too. The kids both complained about the lack of rear air vents, but the two USB C-ports for their phones made up for it. The black leather seats are a standard feature, along with velour floor mats, climate control, and a grubby-mitt-preventing roof liner in black or grey.
Fancy a spot of camping, or a long family holiday? There’s luggage space for days!
The boot is massive at 570 litres and can be expanded to 1755 litres if you fold the seats flat, making the GLB an ideal vehicle if you are partial to camping – as long as you don’t expect the all-wheel-driven GLB to behave like a bakkie with a low-transfer case. If you’d like an additional 12V socket in the boot, this is also a no-cost option.
Standard comfort features include an easy-pack (electronic tailgate), parking package (with rearview camera), cruise control, keyless start, and rain-sensing windscreen wipers.
The drive and performance
I haven’t driven a 220d model in quite a while, so the latest four-cylinder diesel engine in the GLB performed beyond my expectations. With 140kW and 400Nm of torque, there’s a hearty amount of shove, and 100 km/h is reached from 0 in a pleasing 7.6 seconds. Mercedes-Benz’s 8G-DCT gearbox is intuitive and there are standard gearshift paddles should you insist on overriding the automatic system. The top speed for the 220d GLB is an electronically-governed 217 km/h.
The uprated diesel powerplant feels punchier than ever and the overall driving experience in the GLB is a top-class affair.
Ride quality leans toward the firm side but as long as you don’t spec large wheels, you’ll be more than comfortable.
One of the reasons people buy diesel cars is because they’re relatively light on fuel, so I was slightly disappointed by the fuel range of only 850 km from the 52-litre tank in real life, instead of the 1090 km distance that Mercedes-Benz suggests. Our combined consumption came to around 8 litres per 100 km.
The GLB gets a five-star rating from EuroNCAP. Features include ABS, EBD, brake assist, an electromechanical parking brake, hill start assist, traction and stability control, a tyre pressure sensor, seven airbags, and child locks.
As expected, five stars were awarded to the GLB for safety.
Standard driving Assistants in the Progressive model include Blind Spot Assist as well as Active Lane Keeping Assist which will make the steering wheel vibrate if you cross into another lane. Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus, which automatically dips the headlamps when oncoming traffic is spotted at night, is also free of charge. Adaptive cruise control and everything that goes along with it, costs extra.
One of the no-cost highlights in the GLB is the Theft protection package (aka the GUARD 360 vehicle protection) which acts like an invisible, ultra-competent German car guard! it will notify you via the Mercedes-Me app on your phone if someone is trying to break in or if a jealous shopper rammed their trolley into your car by mistake, or if the car is being towed.
|Price (incl. VAT)
|Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 Progressive
|R 965 437
|Mercedes-Benz GLB 220d 4MATIC Progressive
|R 971 188
|Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 AMG Line
|R 1 003 437
|Mercedes-Benz GLB 220d 4MATIC AMG Line
|R 1009 188
The 5-seater GLB competes with the Lexus UX 250h F Sport (R928 900), MINI John Cooper Works ALL4 Countryman, BMW X2 M35i (R940 481), and the Jaguar E-Pace (from R 1 042 208). They’re all a bit cramped in the rear, compared to the GLB with its mammoth legroom area, though.
If you’re not afraid to join the electric revolution, the Volvo XC40 P6 Recharge Plus is priced at R 1 075 000, while the entry-level XC60 B5 AWD Essential is priced at R958 175. Both these cars offer a decent amount of legroom on the second row and the list of standard features is extensive, but sadly, Volvos tend to depreciate much faster than their Bavarian counterparts.
At R971 437, the GLB 220d 4MATIC is a rather pricey SUV in base spec, and once you start ticking boxes for all those lovely extras, you’ll quickly be well over budget. The sheer amount of space on the GLB’s second row and cargo area are huge plus points, though – and if you love the brand, and you have money to spend, the GLB is one of the roomiest compact SUVs around.
Ané AlbertseAné was bitten by the motoring bug at a very young age. Her mom recalls her sitting in her stroller as a 3-year old, naming every car that came past. She was working as a freelance motoring journalist for publications such as Rapport and City Press, when AutoTrader nabbed her for good. She lives in the Western Cape with her two kids and two cats.View News & Reviews