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First Drive

First Drive: Mercedes GLB

The story: Mercedes adds to its small car line-up with a new seven-seat baby SUV slotting in above the GLA crossover and below the GLC SUV.
Category:Small SUV
Key rival:BMW X1
On sale:Now

The new GLB baby off-roader is the seventh and final element of Mercedes’ small car plan, which started three years ago with the new A-Class hatch and has since spawned A-Class saloon, B-Class MPV, CLA Coupe and Shooting Brake, GLA crossover and now, the largest of the family, the GLB seven-seater.

Coming with 163hp or 306hp petrol and 150hp or 190hp diesels, the latter of which we drive here, the GLB comes with seven seats as standard on all models and is styled as a squarer almost shrunken full-sized off-roader compared to the sleeker GLA crossover.

It’s 160mm longer and has 40 litres more luggage space than the Audi Q3, which is already bigger than the BMW X1. Neither the Audi nor the BMW can offer seating for seven, either, although to be totally honest, getting seven people into the GLB requires several of them to be small.

First Drive- November 2020- Mercedes GLB-Image 6Isofix fittings in the third row are useful for car seats, and the second row slides to optimise passenger space according to the shape and size of those being accommodated, but it’s as cramped as might be expected, given the baby off-roader footprint. Adults will struggle to sit upright in the third row, and getting into and out of it is also a bit tight for anyone not youthful and flexible. But housing adults comfortably in the second row is easy with the seats slid back to maximise legroom.

The 190hp diesel is a great engine from a performance point of view, and offers a slick shift through the eight-speed transmission that’s standard on all bar the entry petrol engine, which has a seven-speed auto. It isn’t the most refined of engines though, especially on start-up and under acceleration.

First Drive- November 2020- Mercedes GLB-Image 1Still, the GLB rides bumps well, and although there is some body roll when cornering, it’s all kept well under control.

The interior benefits from the dual-screen layout seen across Mercedes’ newer models, with Sport and AMG Line trims getting the smaller seven-inch pair of screens. The higher three specifications from AMG Line Premium upwards benefit from the more impressive 10.25-inch digital instrument and touchscreen displays. AMG Line upwards also gets the eye-catching red leather stitching that further lifts the cabin.

The styling works in an unpretentious and slightly old-school way. The GLB isn’t trying to be a sporty coupe-crossover model, it’s got more grown-up pretentions.

paul barker

The verdict

New GLB crowns Mercedes’ broad small car range and offers seven-seat practicality (just about), or plenty of passenger and luggage space for five, in a nice-driving package that looks the part as a mini off-roader.