- The GLB is mesmerising and priced well enough to render the C-Class pointless.
- Range-topper might seem expensive, around R1 million, but it's packed with features.
- Light on fuel, particularly if you go for the oil-burning 2.0-litre engine.
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The locally-produced Mercedes-Benz C-Class faces some stiff competition. It is fighting the decline of the luxury sedan, but it's also battling against a rising tide of luxurious compact sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and crossovers.
We drove its latest challenger from within the Mercedes-Benz portfolio itself, which might be the C-Class's (and premium sedans in general) worst nightmare.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa is relaunching the GLB in South Africa, with two models - the 220d and 250 - followed by the GLB35 AMG in the third quarter of 2022. Stock challenges remain an issue for premium carmakers. However, now that GLB stock shortages seem to be a thing of the past, the company is confident that more South Africans will opt to live larger in life.
Small outside, big inside
What we find most compelling about the GLB is its ability to swallow seven adults with ease if you tick the box for seven seats when ordering. Ok, rearmost seated passengers will give you an earful about having to cramp their legs a bit, but it's not bad for short trips.
The interior is pleasantly spacious and airy, and thanks to the optional, more extensive dual-screen MBUX system fitted to our test cars, they felt seriously premium.
We found the seats on the firm side for a Benz, as you don't sink into the seat base, and you don't get that tight bolstering on your hips, but it's on par with models like the compact BMW X1 and X2 and Audi Q2 and Q3. The GLB stands 4634mm long, 1834mm wide and 1659mm high.
A decent ground clearance of 135mm on our particular test model (the 220d with 4Matic and 20-inch wheels) gave us the confidence to plough through dirt roads, water crossings, and some tricky gravel surfaces.
The diesel model is the one to go for
The GLB 220d is the only one available with an all-wheel-drive system in SA until the GLB35 AMG arrives later this year. It's a neat system that reacts quickly to changes in traction and lets you carry respectable speeds of tar and dirt. We had no issues with traction, handling or braking. We threw some of the launch cars around the old Zwartkops drive-in in a makeshift slalom course and were impressed with how well the vehicle maintained its composure.
While we had no issues with the petrol-powered GLB 250, the 220d impressed us the most with its power, torque and fuel consumption. The engine in this car is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel unit that punches out 140kW and 400Nm, which is good enough to carry the 220d from a standstill to 100km/h in just 7.6 seconds. It feels energetic, perky and eager to perform from the driver's seat and just has enough of a sports feel to it in Dynamic mode to make you grin.
Sure it's a family car, but it's not going to disappoint you if you like to drive vehicles with some poke and handling.
You can expect the 220d to sip 6.4 litres of diesel away from the performance for every 100km travelled around town. Treat it gently on the open road, and you will see the consumption drop to as low as 5.7 litres per 100km. With the car's 60-litre fuel tank brimmed, you'll theoretically achieve more than 1000km before trips to the fuel pump.
But, we warn you, this car is such fun to drive that you'll be using the accelerator pedal more than you should for those first few months while getting to know it.
Yeah, it's better than the C; we said it
Although we love the C-Class and the fact that it's locally made and contributes to the local economy and job security, we can't help but feel like the GLB outguns it.
Sure the C-Class is a very different proposition where you sit lower to the road and have that traditional sedan feel, which might still appeal to some. Still, the GLB thumps it when it comes to capability as a family vehicle (especially with the folding third row of seats), as the two are priced fairly similarly.
The base price of our GLB 220d 4Matic AMG Line was R963 438 when tested and an equivalent priced C-Class (the C220d Avantgarde) comes in around R912 599. Of course, this is before options and bespoke treatment on your part, but when you peel them back, you are certainly getting more car for your money when you go for the GLB.
There are more affordable front-wheel-drive GLB models available too, and while they are capable, we reckon this range-topper is the one you ought to buy if you can afford to spend around R1 million on a new car this year.
The GLB comes with a two-year or unlimited distance mechanical warranty and a five-year or 100 000km Maintenance Plan.
We'll bring you a review of the GLB35 AMG later this year when the first units arrive in South Africa. We'll also get you the pricing and exact specification of the model for South Africa towards the end of the second quarter; as Mercedes-Benz says, they are bringing it in as a limited edition model with unique touches that will make it different from other markets.
It's powered by a stonking 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that sends 225kW to all corners via an 8-speed double-clutch automatic transmission. If you want to chomp GTIs around town, this is the one for you.
Mercedes-Benz GLB relaunch price list
- Mercedes-Benz GLB250 Progressive - R918 537
- Mercedes-Benz GLB220d 4Matic Progressive - R925 438
- Mercedes-Benz GLB250 AMG Line - R 956 537
- Mercedes-Benz GLB220d 4Matic AMG Line - R963 438