FIRST DRIVE | The new Mercedes-Benz GLB will find favour in SA as a compact SUV with 7-seater practicality


Mercedes-Benz has just launched the GLB, the first of its compact vehicles to offer seating for up to seven people, in Europe, and the German automaker is rather proud about it.

Due for local introduction in the second quarter of 2020, Mercedes-Benz launched its all-new GLB to international media during November 2019 in Spain.

The GLB joins the rest of Mercedes’ range of compact vehicles (A-Class, A-Sedan, GLA, CLA, and B-Class), and is the only offering available in either five- or seven-seat configuration.

A range of engine options, comprising petrol and diesel, are on offer, but South Africa will not be getting the full raft of derivatives. Also available are front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive options; the latter available with Merc’s 'Off-Road' driving mode.

The GLB forms part of the B-Class family and completes Merc’s decision to have an SUV option for each of the vehicles under its passenger car banner.

While pricing will be revealed closer to the vehicle’s local introduction, we believe that the GLB has ample in the bag to be another top-seller for the Three-pointed Star.


                                 Image: Daimler Media

Design traits

The GLB shares much of its design characteristics with Mercedes-Benz' family of SUVs. All along the front, side and rear of the vehicle it is instantly recognisable as a Merc product, yet it exudes its own traits and design elements. Though there are various body kits to choose from, each model has its own face and grille.

While the 'lesser' models are fitted with horizontal bars running across the grille (which can be individualised), the GLB 35 AMG has diagonal bars running from top to bottom.

Massive air intakes form part of the package across the range, which does add a touch of aggression to the vehicle’s perceived message to onlookers. Along the side, the GLB looks standard 'Mercedes SUV', but keen observers will note the kink on the chrome strip just above the rear wheel arches.

READ: The new Mercedes-Benz GLB is a compact SUV with 7 seats

This, says Mercedes-Benz, is part of the GLB’s own design language. Depending on the model you’re interested in, the rear also sees a reworking. The GLB 35 AMG will, for instance, have a rear diffuser, whereas the rest of the range will adopt a big chrome strip with the exhaust outlets worked into it.

The GLB does not alienate, and should see an influx of interested consumers knocking on its door. Furthermore, the GLB is fitted with a lavish interior that continues the trend set by the recently-launched A-Sedan and CLA. Mercedes’ MBUX, aka 'Hey Mercedes', is also available on the GLB.

Mercedes-Benz GLB

                                 Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Dimensions and seating

Mercedes-Benz is quite proud of the fact that the GLB is the first of its compact vehicles to offer seating for up to seven people. This is largely thanks to the extended wheelbase the SUV is endowed with.

Should the GLB be specified with five seats, the loading area is a very useful 570L when the second row of seats are in their upright position. Fold it down and the cargo area increases to 1805L. In seven-seat configuration and with all the seats erected, the loading bay seems to be a bit on the shallow side. But, with the third and second row of seats folded down, maximum cargo space is a massive 1680 litres. To ease access to the most-rear seats, the second row of seats can also be longitudinally shifted by 140mm.

Additionally, the two passengers in the back’s legroom can be increased by 90mm, should the middle row of seats be moved slightly forward. The third row of seats can accommodate passengers up to 1.68m in length which means the back row does not just have to be allocated to the kids.

The Mercedes-Benz GLB boasts with a length of 4 634mm, a width of 1 834mm, and a height of 1 659mm on the five-seater (1 663mm for the seven-seater).


                                 Image: Daimler Media

Models coming to SA

South Africa will not receive the full influx of models in the GLB range. Of the five derivatives, two will be heading to our shores; comprising petrol and diesel. The GLB 220d 4MATIC implements a turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine and has a power output of 140kW and 400Nm.

Thanks to the healthy power curve, Mercedes-Benz says that this model will run from 0 - 100km/h in 7.6 seconds, and onto a top speed of 217km/h. it will return 5.5-litres/100km, according to the automaker.

The other model we’re getting is the GLB 250. Apart from being the sole petrol option, it’s the only one to come in front-wheel-drive - despite 4MATIC being available. While the lack of all-wheel drive might irk some prospective owners, the turbocharged petrol engine has enough in the bag to warrant the model’s position at the top of the range.

READ: 7 new Mercedes-Benz vehicles headed for South Africa in 2019

The engine produces 165kW and 350Nm; available between a wide range of 1800 - 4000rpm. Top speed is 236km/h, while 0 - 100km/h is handled in 6.9-seconds. Both models are fitted with Mercedes-Benz’s new eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The models not coming to South Africa are the 225kW/400Nm GLB 35 AMG, the GLB 200 (120kW/250Nm), and GLB 200 d 4MATIC (110kW/320Nm).

Mercedes-Benz GLB

                                                              Image: Wheels24/ Charlen Raymond

How does it drive?

We managed to sample both derivatives destined for South Africa.

While each SUV has its own place in the GLB hierarchy, the driving experience was very similar. Stability through corners, steering feedback, and composure under braking are all traits the GLB can brag with.

Thanks to its strong torque output, the GLB 220 d always had enough shunt in reserve to propel the SUV up a hill or out of a corner. With the driving mode switched to Sport, the engine had a liveliness to it that ensured driving fun.

While not as responsive and overtly eager as the petrol unit, the diesel option gave the impression that it might be to most buyers’ liking. The GLB 250 is an eager option that has no trouble working through the rev range. Regardless of driving mode, the SUV has a generous uptake to throttle inputs.

The gearbox is quick to respond to driver inputs via the steering wheel-mounted paddles, but is quite apt to conduct business on its own. We did find, however, that in Sport mode the ‘box tends to hold onto a gear for longer periods, which can conjure a bit of a whining noise, but that too fades away eventually as you get used to it.


                                 Image: Daimler Media


While the GLB’s local introduction is only a few months away, South Africans can take solace in the fact that the SUV continues Mercedes-Benz’s tradition of building solid products.

Some may question the automaker’s decision to add another SUV to an already filled-to-the-brim market, but the GLB will find favour among those who want seven-seat practicality without wanting to own something big and excessive.

For all the technological features the GLB is equipped with, see images below:

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