Both the compact and subcompact crossover segments are awash with highly capable vehicles, with more than a few proudly bearing the Mercedes-Benz Tri-Star. But for 2020, the Germans have decided that, perhaps, the subcompact segment needs to evolve to meet the challenges of a changing market, and the Mercedes GLB still delivers the dexterity of a smaller crossover on the busy city streets that buyers want, without sacrificing the practicality of a larger vehicle. Thus, the GLB was born. Marketed towards young professionals who may be thinking of growing their family, the SUV is slightly larger than its GLA sibling, with more than enough space for five passengers and their luggage, or even seven passengers if you opt for the available third row of seats. It's powered by a more than capable turbocharged four-cylinder engine, borrowed from its acclaimed sibling, the CLA luxury sedan. With 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque on hand, the GLB gets around town with ease, and it does so with a level of refinement few can match. It may be a bit sparsely appointed for established Mercedes shoppers, but newcomers will find it has all the basics and an appealing starting price of just $36,600.
The GLB-Class is a brand-new entry to the Mercedes-Benz stable for 2020 and, as such, has no immediate predecessors with which to be compared in the USA.
Drawing inspiration from both the GLA and the GLC, the new middle brother presents buyers with an interesting mix of the two design philosophies. Marketed towards young couples starting their families, the subcompact draws inspiration from the G-Class wagon, too, giving the standard sleek SUV a boxier aesthetic that advertises its spaciousness. Riding on 18-inch alloy wheels, the Merc comes equipped with fog lights as standard, along with a full suite of LED exterior lighting elements. It can be dressed in slightly sportier apparel through the AMG Line Package, and a panorama roof is available, too. It's a ruggedly handsome crossover that treads the line between form and function well.
Mercedes-Benz' latest offering in the crossover segment measures in slightly longer than its direct competitors at 182.4 inches, which, paired with a 111.4-inch wheelbase, could account for its spacious cabin that can accommodate a third row of seats. Its width and height dimensions are a bit more on par with the segment, at 79.5 inches and 65.3 inches, respectively. This means it gives drivers a pretty good view, but it can sometimes be tricky to park. It's not much heavier than the BMW X1, weighing in between 3,638 - 3,759 pounds, but it's quite a bit lighter than the Audi Q3.
A choice of nine paints makes up the color palette for the Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class subcompact. Of these, only two come as no-cost standard options: Polar White and Night Black. The remaining seven comprise the metallic palette, with each option adding $720 to the initial cost. These metallic paints consist of Digital White, Cosmos Black, Iridium Silver, Mountain Grey, Denim Blue, Patagonia Red, and Galaxy Blue. If you're going to spend the money asked for by a vehicle of this caliber, we certainly recommend going for something a little more exciting than plain black or white, even if it does cost a little extra.
Both models of the GLB-Class share identical performance figures, despite each getting a different drivetrain. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine is standard, though, delivering 221 hp and 258 lb-ft to your choice of the front wheels or all four. This gives the little subcompact a lot of zip, allowing it to make the 0 to 60 mph sprint in under seven seconds - 6.9 seconds to be exact. This is on par with the Audi Q3, but the BMW X1 is a little more performance-driven and has a higher top speed, making the same claim in just 6.3 seconds with its all-wheel drivetrain. But what the GLB may lack in pure athleticism, it more than makes up for with smooth refinement.
While it may be a brand-new entrant to the market, the Merc GLB inherits its engine from the already established CLA sedan. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine develops 221 hp and 258 lb-ft. This power output is regulated by a refined eight-speed automatic gearbox and directed to the front wheels on the GLB 250 or all four wheels on the 250 4MATIC. This is very much on par with what's under the hood of the X1 and Q3, and it gives the GLB more than enough power to get around town with zip in its step. On the highway, the little busy-body merges into pretty small gaps in traffic without a fuss, and passing requires only minimal amounts of effort.
Many Mercedes-Benz fans will probably be expecting the zippy subcompact to be pretty athletic, but it's focus on practicality becomes abundantly clear once you're on the move. The powertrain has plenty of power to move the small crossover, but it just doesn't have the handling of more nimble rivals like the BMW X1 or Audi Q3. The steering is light and precise, perfect for getting around town or maneuvering around tight parking lots, but there is almost no feedback.
The suspension is pretty soft for the segment, too, delivering better ride quality than crossovers that focus more on the driving experience. While this is definitely good in an SUV marketed towards families that are likely to have little ones, it's not as appealing to those who still want to get a thrill from their daily driver.
Along with the smooth ride, the GLB also presents a cabin that is well-built and well-insulated. There is very little wind and road noise, and the gentle drone of the turbo four-pot is muffled under normal levels of acceleration.
While it may be a new entrant to the market, the GLB-Class subcompact is definitely well-designed to meet the competition, at least when it comes to fuel economy. Paired with the standard front-wheel drivetrain, the turbocharged four-cylinder engine gets an EPA-estimated 23/30/26 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. The all-wheel drivetrain is actually slightly more efficient, getting one extra mile to the gallon on the highway. This compares very well to the BMW X1, arguably one of the most competent subcompacts on the market, which gets 24/33/27 mpg in FWD guise and 23/31/26 mpg in AWD trim. The heavier Audi Q3 is less efficient, getting only 19/27/22 mpg, it is only available in AWD. With a well-sized 15.9-gallon tank of premium gasoline, the Merc GLB can traverse 413 miles before needing to refuel.
The inside of the GLB is certainly comfortable, with plenty of space to easily accommodate its five-passenger capacity. Power front seats come standard, but to get most of the features Mercedes buyers have come to expect from their purchases, you'll have to tack on quite a few of the available packages. The infotainment suite is pretty comprehensive, though, and it's well-positioned for ease of access. However, the voice controls are extremely finicky. There is very little in the way of standard driver-assistance features, though, which is discouraging in a vehicle aimed at burgeoning families.
The cabin of Mercedes' latest crossover is remarkably spacious considering the segment. As standard, it comes with two rows of seats accommodating up to five passengers. The first row supplies excellent head and legroom, while the second row loses only an inch or two over this. However, unlike its direct competitors, the GLB offers the option to install a third row of seats. Headroom back there isn't amazing, though, and legroom is downright awful. But, there are actually a few midsize crossovers out there with worse space, so the subcompact should be pretty proud of itself. As standard, the front seats offer 12 directions of power-adjustability, with four-way lumbar support and three-position seat memory. Getting in and out of the crossover is simple enough, but accessing the optional third row of seats can be quite difficult. Visibility is good all-round, but those who want an extra layer of security can opt for the available blind-spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert.
Build quality is top-notch inside the Merc, but unlike many of the brand's pricier offerings, luxury is not a primary concern. The materials certainly aren't low-quality, but they have been chosen for durability and reliability more than sheer luxury. The standard upholstery is Mercedes-Benz' MB-Tex synthetic leather, available in plain black or Macchiato Beige. You can add Neva Grey/Black and DINAMICA/Black with red stitching to the palette via the AMG Line Package. Paired with the standard upholstery is Spiral Look or Carbon Structure metallic trim. However, if you decide to upgrade to the available leather upholstery for $1,450, you can choose Black, Bahia Brow, Red/Black, or Titanium Grey/Black - the catch is that to specify this, heated seats, heating and ventilation, or a rather pricey appearance package is automatically added, too, depending on the color scheme. If you want the best looks available, you should also add the available natural wood trims for $325, available in Linden or Walnut.
Since the GLB was specifically designed to be a more practical variant on the popular GLA-Class, it's not surprising that the subcompact supplies an impressive amount of cargo space. But, while it may enter the market as a rival to the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, the GLB still makes some sacrifices in the name of style and luxury. With all its seats in place, the Merc supplies a commendable 22 cubic feet of trunk space, compared to the 23.7 cubic feet provided by the Q3 and the 27.1 cubic feet inside the X1. Naturally, this space suffers greatly when the optional third row of seats is installed. This sets the GLB apart from its less customizable rivals. When all the rear seats are folded down, the Mercedes subcompact actually comes out in the lead, beating the X1 and Q3 with its 62 cubic feet of cargo space.
Inside, the spacious cabin offers various bins and cubbies to store all your knick-knacks. There is a standard glove compartment and an average-sized center armrest cubby. A pair of cupholders are concealed beneath a sliding tray up front, and all four doors offer somewhat small pockets. A pair of cupholders rest within the second row's middle-seat folding armrest, and another two are positioned low down between the two third-row seats, assuming you opt for them.
Most Mercs are known for their lushly appointed cabins, but the GLB is marketed as a starting point for those new to the brand. As such, it trades opulence for affordability. The interior comes upholstered in MB-tex as standard, with available genuine leather. The front seats are 12-way power-adjustable with four-way lumbar and position memory. Dual-zone climate control, cruise control, and keyless entry and ignition comprise the standard conveniences. The front seats can be upgraded with heating and ventilation, while the cruise control can be replaced with adaptive cruise control. There is a seven-inch digital instrument cluster on every model, which can be upgraded to a 10.25-inch variant. The only driver-assistance features that come standard are a rearview camera and attention assist, but further available features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change alert, lane keep assist, forward collision avoidance, a surround-view camera, and Pre-safe Plus collision mitigation.
The infotainment suite is pretty basic, but that also makes it relatively easy to operate. The system centers around a seven-inch MBUX touchscreen with a supplementary touchpad interface. From here, users can operate the standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and HD Radio. Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming are available, too. This suite can be upgraded to the 10.25-inch touchscreen with built-in navigation, SiriusXM, and in-car Wi-Fi. Five USB ports come standard for charging devices, while a wireless charging pad can be installed. The standard sound system can be upgraded to a 12-speaker premium Burmester surround sound system.
As a brand-new market entrant for 2020, there is not yet enough consumer feedback to determine the overall reliability rating of the SUV. There also have not yet been any official recalls of the vehicle. However, two complaints have been lodged against individual vehicles. The first was for a faulty airbag or airbag malfunction light, while the second was for a vehicle that was allegedly poorly constructed, with multiple rattling components and faulty or missing equipment. Mercedes-Benz offers a very average standard warranty on new purchases, covering the powertrain and limited warranty for 50,000 miles/48 months. No complimentary service is provided as it is with rivals like Jaguar or BMW.
Neither the NHTSA and the IIHS have done a comprehensive review of the Mercedes GLB, and thus there are no crash-test results available. This may be because the vehicle is still quite new to the market, but it's more likely that Mercedes-Benz simply did not submit the SUV for testing, which is not uncommon. There is a full consignment of airbags and quite a few standard and available advanced safety features.
Both variants of the subcompact crossover come standard with ABS, stability and traction control, and an impressive nine airbags: dual front, driver knee, front side, rear side, and side curtain. LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and basic fog lights come standard, along with crosswind assist, active brake assist, attention assist, and a rearview camera. The most advanced safety features come as standalone options or as part of the available packages. These include: active LED headlights, high beam assist, forward collision avoidance, Pre-Safe Plus rear collision mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, or a surround-view camera.
The GLB may be new to the US market, but it's bound to make a splash. The subcompact crossover segment grows increasingly competitive each year, and Mercedes' latest entry tries to fill a rather niche subsegment. With a capable four-cylinder engine and a surprisingly spacious cabin, it offers the same kind of performance as the popular GLA. However, where the smaller vehicle is a little more fun to drive, the GLB is more practical thanks to its much larger standard cargo space and available third row of seats.
Still, the BMW X1 and Audi Q3 are close competitors with similar strengths. Both are more enjoyable to drive and offer comparable cargo capacity, but the Merc boasts the smoother ride and more comfortable interior, especially over long drives. It's also pretty affordable for the segment, although this comes at the cost of standard features. If you want the best the GLB-Class has to offer, you're going to have to pay well beyond the starting price.
There are more established subcompacts with solid track records on the market, but the GLB is just starting out, and we expect it to make a good name for itself.
As the automaker's latest market entrant for 2020, the Mercedes GLB's price is relatively reasonable for a luxury vehicle. The standard front-wheel-drive variant of the SUV will cost you just $36,600 MSRP while opting for the available all-wheel drivetrain will add another $2,000 to the bill. However, the GLB is still very much an entry-level crossover and, as such, doesn't come with all the fancy gizmos and gadgets many Merc buyers will be expecting. If you absolutely need these high-tech add-ons, there are certainly more than enough on offer, but you had best be prepared for the significant increase in price that comes with this. These prices don't include tax, registration, licensing, or Mercedes' $995 destination charge.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class debuts with two models on offer: the GLB 250 and the GLB 250 4MATIC. Under the hood of the subcompact rests a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 250 comes with a front-wheel drivetrain, while the 250 4MATIC gets the all-wheel drivetrain.
Apart from this difference, the two specs are identical. Both GLB models ride on 18-inch alloys and come equipped with LED headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights along with standard fog lights. Inside, the 12-way power front seats offer four-way lumbar and memory settings, with MB-Tex upholstery throughout. Dual-zone climate control, cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, and a seven-inch digital instrument cluster come standard. A similar seven-inch touchscreen, along with a touchpad interface, grants access to the Bluetooth functions, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and HD Radio. The standard safety suite comprises crosswind assist, active brake assist, driver attention assist, and a rearview camera.
While even the base-model GLB may come with its fair share of standard tech, there is still plenty on offer behind the paywall of the available packages. Some of the more desirable options include the Parking Assistance Package ($1,090), which adds active parking assist and a surround-view camera, or the Driver Assistance Package ($2,250), which adds adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, collision avoidance tech with cross-traffic functions, blind-spot alert, lane keep assist, lane change alert, and rear collision mitigation. Those who want convenience, too, may be interested in the Premium Package ($2,200) to gain access to blind-spot assist, auto-dimming driver-side and rearview mirrors, a hands-free tailgate, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen display. For an upgraded infotainment suite, the Multimedia Package ($1,150) adds navigation, augmented video for navigation, and speed limit assist. Notable standalone options include a third row of seats ($850), or multi-contour front seats ($590).
There isn't all that much choice when it comes to the GLB crossover. You either get the front-wheel-drive version or the all-wheel-drive. However, the standard models are a little lacking when it comes to certain features, such as the safety suite. To remedy this, we suggest looking at the Driver Assistance Package for the added blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and collision avoidance tech. Shoppers who want the added luxury of a more premium Mercedes-Benz crossover but are happy with the practicality of a subcompact could also consider adding the available genuine leather upholstery for an extra $1,450, but opting for this automatically includes the AMG Line or seat heating/ventilation packages, which adds a few thousand dollars on top of this. Still, it pairs well with the available $325 natural wood trims.
The GLC-Class has been around for a few years already, and it has certainly earned its reputation as a comfortable and luxurious compact SUV. Set in a slightly higher segment, the GLC, naturally, gets a slightly stronger engine to carry its extra weight around town. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine develops 255 hp and 273 lb-ft for either the rear wheels or all four wheels. Despite being classified as a compact SUV, the GLC isn't actually any bigger than the odd-job GLB, which actually offers more passenger and cargo space and an available third row of seats. The GLC is plusher inside, though, and it comes with more standard features, but you pay a fair sum for this improvement, with the base model going for $42,500. Sometimes, newer is better, and that seems to be true in the case of the GLB-Class, which offers all the practicality of a larger vehicle at a much lower price.
The BMW X3 is a hard car to beat, even for other compact SUVs that challenge it on equal footing. It gets a capable 248-hp turbo four-pot as standard, but can be equipped with a beastly turbocharged six-cylinder that develops 382 hp and 365 lb-ft. As such, it's not hard to believe that it's hella fun to drive. It isn't quite as soft to ride in as the GLB, but it's not far behind, and the extra level of enjoyment is certainly worth the small sacrifice. The X3 is also remarkably practical, with excellent cargo space and more than enough passenger space for five. Plenty of features come standard on the BMW, and it isn't that much more expensive than the Merc GLB. There's a reason we give the BMW X3 an almost perfect score, and the latecomer that is the GLB-Class still has a ways to go to prove itself.
Check out some informative Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class video reviews below.