The Mercedes-Benz GLB is a five-plus-two seater compact SUV swathed in luxuries the carmaker is known for. It is also designed to have an interior space that would please any young, affluent urban family. The concept is found, and it is on that the marketing department can take to town with.
The GLB looks nearly the same as the GLS, with its size being the most significant difference. Despite the more diminutive stature, the GLB seems every bit as imposing as the GLS. Plastic fender panels and skid plates give the GLB a slightly rugged edge, which prepares it for roadside curb excursions and journeys into unpaved parking lots.
You would be pleased with the views this crossover offers. The flat bonnet coupled with the tall windscreen offers better lines of sight. From the windshield, the roofline continues straight as an arrow until the boot lid hinges and then falls straight down to the rear bumper. The tall, boxy crossover looks to promise plenty of headroom, and it delivers.
Space is something the GLB does better than the GLA, even if both shares the same platform. There's ample headroom up front as well as the rear. Mercedes-Benz claims that people with a height of 1.68 metres should find the third row accommodating.
There's a bit of boot space left when the jump seats are up, enough for some shopping at least. The seats fold relatively flat and are flushed to the boot entrance to make loading and unloading easier. When folded, the GLB opens up 570 litres of space that can be increased to 1,805 litres with the second row down. One of the best use of space in the GLB has to be the underfloor storage for the tonneau cover — excellent, this. Add that with the numerous cubby holders all around, the GLB is, without a doubt, practical.
The door opens into an interior dash panel that mirrors the A 200 save for a few equipment choices. You get two monitors housed behind one large frame and glass panel that stretches from the centre stack to the driver's cockpit. Each plays its individual part — one is an instrument panel and the other a media display.
Three air vents line up underneath the screen, and physical buttons for the climate control are below that. Moving downwards, you'll find cubby holes and the touch panel that interacts with the MBUX. So, every essential feature you want from modern vehicles is in the GLB.
What lets the GLB's interior down is the quality and trim finishes that do not meet expectations. In fact, the same interior quality can be had in a crossover of others makes for far cheaper. The piano black and aluminium trim do not do much to elevate the interior. And the aluminium bar on the passenger side glares brightly under the afternoon sun to become an uncomfortable distraction for all in front.
Interior materials aside, it is ultimately the engine that is least impressive. Mercedes-Benz's 1.3-litre four-cylinder powers the GLB 200. The turbocharged engine produces 163hp and 250Nm of torque, suggesting that the crossover has ample motivation. With a seven-speed DCT paired with the powerplant, the GLB achieves a 0-100kph time of 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 207kph.
Although the GLB 200 seem adequately equipped, it is hard to fully tap into the power. There's no urgency to put energy into the wheels, preferring instead to follow its own timetable. It also requires effort to climb up parking lot ramps and hills around housing areas. Pushing the pedal further only makes the engine louder with nothing to show for it. On the other hand, the seven-speed DCT changes smoothly whenever the engine builds sufficient revs for the changeover.
The GLB shares its platform with the A-Class, transferring similar handling characteristics of a small vehicle into the crossover. Turning the wheel uncovers a lively response, changing direction with all the liveliness of a hatchback, inspiring spirited drives in the backroads.
Any slight undulations will cause the GLB to tilt, lean and dip with the road. However, the resulting body roll does not encourage this kind of behaviour, not when the tall crossover's suspension is set on soft. It does not get any better driving on typical roads found in the Klang Valley.
Other than the GLB's intelligent use of interior space and good looks, there aren't any more positives to lay on the crossover. The weak engine and iffy suspension make the GLB 200 seem like an unfinished and unpolished product. Perhaps the GLB 250 or the GLB 35 AMG would be a better proposition instead.
Specifications: Mercedes-Benz GLB 200 Progressive Line
Engine 1,332cc, inline-4, turbocharged | Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, front-wheel drive | Power & Torque 163hp @ 5,500rpm / 250Nm @ 1,620-4,000rpm | Performance 0-100kph in 9.1s, max speed 207kph, 5.9l/100km combined | Price RM269,118.15