- Cute design
- Cool ambient lighting
- Plenty of space
- Poor value
- Drives like a cheap Mercedes
- Inferior materials
As Mercedes-Benz broadens its reach to bring young buyers into the brand, new, seemingly affordable vehicles like the GLB have been developed to welcome them to the family. Although the GLA continues to be the entry-level SUV for the three-pointed star, the GLB is right above it with its boxy styling, a cool interior, and space for up to seven passengers. The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB was specifically developed for China, where a third row—regardless of how tiny and cramped it is—is considered essential for many families.
But in the U.S. market, where customers are not used to seeing small, premium SUVs with a lack of attention to detail, the GLB might not be as well suited. Americans are familiar with bigger products, such as the rear-drive-based GLC or the more spacious GLE, which not only deliver an exceptional ride quality but also treat their passengers right. They feel like a Mercedes. The front-drive GLB does not.
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“The GLB feels like a commodity Mercedes—built to a price point to check boxes on a spec sheet and then handed over to some designers with instructions to ‘make it look like a Mercedes-Benz,'” head of editorial Ed Loh said. “It’s a mercenary, devoid of passion.”
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Although the badge and the look are attractive, our thoughts changed when we got behind the wheel and drove it. The suspension fails to absorb small vibrations, the transmission is constantly shifting, and the power is weak.
Sharing its powertrain with the GLA, the GLB’s heart is a 2.0-liter turbo-four engine that delivers 221 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. But unlike the GLA, the GLB feels lethargic. “This is a really poor powertrain match for this particular vehicle,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “I’m kind of shocked that Mercedes signed off on this—it’s less refined even than Mercedes’ commercial vans.”
The GLB’s interior does at least make a solid initial impression. With the MBUX infotainment system and ambient lighting, the cabin brings a loungelike vibe. But most of the judges were annoyed by the MBUX system, which continues to be unintuitive, with nearly every function buried in layers-deep menus.
Although the interior gives occupants a pleasant sensation, that slowly disappears as you start feeling the materials around the cabin. The hard plastics on the door handles, door panels, and lower center console are evidence this Mercedes was built on the cheap.
Calling the GLB a 5+2 passenger vehicle might sound like a joke. Although there is plenty of cargo space, there’s simply not enough room to fit two more people despite its plethora of headroom.
Held up against our criteria, the GLB failed to deliver a strong value proposition. Our tester came with a $51,760 price tag, which might not seem like much for a Mercedes, but a mainstream automaker will give you everything the GLB has and much more at a lower price. “It’s pretty expensive for what basically drives and performs like any other compact crossover with a much cheaper badge on it,” features editor Scott Evans said.
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In terms of safety, some of the standard technologies, such as adaptive cruise control or lane keep assist, come at a $2,250 premium in the Driver Assistance package, even when the much less expensive Honda CR-V provides them at no extra cost.
All in all, the Mercedes-Benz GLB left us with a dry taste. It could present a solid first impression for those new to the brand, but it doesn’t deliver the quality and performance of its more lavishly appointed and better-powered siblings. “You’re paying for the badge and the look and that’s it,” Evans said. “It’s below Mercedes’ standard, but it’s not a bad car. It’s just … whatever.”
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