Australians are spoilt for choice when it comes to mid-size SUVs. But despite the options, not too many of them have the ability to seat seven in comfort.
Until recently, families looking for a mid-size seven-seat SUV only had a couple of options. There was the Mitsubishi Outlander and the VW Tiguan. For a more compelling choice, buyers were forced to look at the much more expensive large SUV segment.
But the launch of the Mercedes-Benz GLB late last year brings a new contender to market. Built on the same platform as the popular A-Class. The GLB is a mid-size SUV that promises flexibility, style and the ability to seat seven in three rows of seats.
In this review, we’ll see how well it lives up to those promises.
Like all Mercedes-Benz, the base model GLB 200 is not that well equipped. Standard equipment includes; alloy wheels, wireless phone charging and a powered tailgate. While power is provided by a 1.3L engine that drives the front wheels via a 7sp automatic transmission.
The mid-range GLB 250 comes with a more generous specification. Standard equipment includes; an electric sunroof, electric heated front seats and adaptive suspension. Power comes from a 2.0L engine connected to a 4Matic AWD system. This provides a more sure-footed driving experience.
The range-topping GLB 35 AMG comes with the most bells and whistles. But it has a hefty price tag of $100,000 to match. Standard equipment includes a leather steering wheel, sports seats, carbon trim and privacy glass. Optional features include 20-inch alloy wheels, speed-sensitive steering and a sports exhaust.
Inside the interior is dominated by two 10.25 inch screens. These are used to access the latest generation of Mercedes MBUX infotainment system. This intuitive system is controlled by buttons on the steering wheel and the MBUX touchpad on the centre console.
The seats are comfortable and covered in a soft leatherette material. The front seats are also electrically operated, making it easy to find a comfortable driving position. The cabin feels upmarket thanks to the clever use of materials, but some plastics do feel a little cheap.
The boot space offers a generous 1680 litres with the rear seats folded. Here you will also find a third-row of seats neatly tucked away in the boot floor. When unfolded these have a pretty decent amount of legroom, especially when you consider this is one of the smaller mid-size SUVs.
On the outside, the GLB has a boxy utilitarian look. The front and rear overhangs are short, which should aid off-road ability, while the large 19-inch alloy wheels fill out the arches nicely and give the car an aggressive sporty stance. GLB 250 models also come with a set of roof rails which add to the car's practicality.
The front is dominated by a large grille which is adorned by Mercedes' evocative three-pointed star. This also houses the cruise control radar which is neatly hidden behind the badge. A set of powerful LED headlamps finish things off and give the car its unmistakable Mercedes-Benz face.
Engine and Transmission
The GLB is powered by a choice of three petrol engines. The standard GLB 200 comes equipped with a 1.3L petrol engine connected to a 7sp automatic transmission. This puts out an adequate 115kW. While this is fine in town, it feels underpowered on the hilly bits.
The mid-range GLB 250 is probably the best option for families and comes with a 2.0L petrol engine which puts out 165kW. This is connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission, which makes easy work of town and motorway driving.
The GLB 35 AMG sits at the top of the range. This is powered by a punchy 2.0L turbo engine that pumps out an impressive 225kW. This gives the car a hot-hatch beating performance, but it's probably too much for most families.
While all three engines pump out good performance figures for their size, they are not the most fuel-efficient cars. This is not helped by the fact no diesel or hybrid options are available in the Australian market.
The following combined cycle data is supplied by Mercedes-Benz:
GLB 200 1.3L 7sp Auto - 6.5L/100 km
GLB 250 4Matic 2.0L 8sp Auto - 6.5L/100 km
GLB 35 AMG 4Matic 2.0L 8sp Auto - 6.5L/100 km
As you would expect from a car made by Mercedes-Benz, the GLB comes well-equipped with safety features. The car boasts a five-star ANCAP rating, scoring an impressive 92% for adult protection and 88% for child protection during the test.
Safety equipment includes autonomous braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while passengers are protected by driver and passenger airbags and side airbags for all three rows of seats.
GLB 200 1.3L 7sp Auto - $64,088
GLB 250 4Matic 2.0L 8sp Auto - $79,369
GLB 35 4Matic 2.0L 8sp Auto - $97,569
In The Market For A Luxury SUV? See Our List Of Top 7 Luxury SUVs In Australia
Pros and Cons
Seats seven comfortably
Well resolved ride and handling
5-year unlimited Km warranty
Standard models poorly equipped
Some interior plastics feel cheap
Limited choice of engines
The Mercedes-Benz GLB is a bit of a surprise package. Most buyers will ignore this car and buy a cheaper Japanese or Korean model instead, but they are missing a trick. In the right spec, this is a great mid-size SUV that is stylish, practical and nice to drive.
The car is perfectly sized for a family runabout. It’s small enough to zip around town but still has plenty of space inside for a family of four. And there is the added flexibility of that third row of seats when you need it.
We would avoid the base model GLB 200 and go for the GLB 250 4Matic instead. This comes with a decent specification as standard. And the 2.0L petrol engine offers more than adequate performance.
Is it good enough to tempt buyers away from the Toyota Rav4? Maybe, the three-pointed star is a major draw for buyers in the premium market. But it doesn't offer the same value for money as the Toyota and running costs will be significantly higher. Not least because the hybrid version is not available in the Australian market.
Other Options to Consider
The X3 is BMW's answer to the hugely competitive mid-size SUV market. The X3 comes with a range of petrol and diesel engines and offers a choice of AWD and FWD models. Naturally for a BMW, the X3 offers excellent driving dynamics. But prices, especially for high-end models, are on the expensive side.
The Audi Q3 has proved to be a hit with Aussie buyers. The Q3 comes well equipped by German standards. Even the entry-level model comes with plenty of standard kit. Inside, this is not the most spacious SUV, but there is enough room for a family of four. The only downside is the base 1.4L engine, which feels underpowered for a car of this size.
The Toyota Rav4 is the best seller in the mid-size SUV segment. While not as luxurious as its German rivals, the Rav4 package is hard to beat. It is well equipped, handles well and is available with a range of fuel-efficient powertrains. And to top it off, it comes with a 5-year unlimited Km warranty as standard.