A baby G-Class for the masses

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB is a small crossover that slots between the company’s smallest SUV offerings yet, the 2019 GLA and the 2019 GLC. The 2020 GLB is based on the new platform underpinning the latest A-Class and B-Class, and was previewed by the 2019 Concept GLB at the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show. The GLB stands out compared to the GLA and GLC due to a much boxier design. The crossover is often referred to as the baby G-Class, despite sharing underpinnings with the tiny A-Class and B-Class hatchbacks.

Rumors about a new compact SUV surfaced all the way back in 2012 when Mercedes unveiled the Ener-G-Force Concept at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Created by the company’s Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, California, it looked like a futuristic version of the G-Class and had a hydrogen-powered drivetrain. The rumors turned into certainty when a small but boxy crossover was spotted testing on public roads, but the hydrogen drivetrain was dropped in favor of conventional engines. With one in three Mercedes-Benz cars now an SUV, and one in four a compact model, Mercedes-Benz thinks that a compact SUV like the GLB "combines all the success factors of the company’s highest-volume segments." Let’s find out more about that, shall we?

Exterior

  • Boxy, G-Class-inspired design
  • Unique styling for a small crossover
  • Angular lines
  • Generic profile
  • Almost as big as the GLC
  • Taller than the GLC
  • Looks very similar to the concept
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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The GLB is boxier than the GLA and GLC, but it retains a familiar look

As expected, the GLB crossover is heavily based on the Concept GLB that Mercedes-Benz unveiled earlier in 2019. The GLB is indeed boxier than the GLA and GLC, but it retains a familiar look. Specifically, it takes some angular lines from the G-Class, but it combines them with familiar cues seen on other production SUVs from Mercedes-Benz.

The front grille, for instance, features the trademark horizontal slats on each side of the star emblem, while the fog lamps in the bumper are encased in black plastic elements with fake honeycomb vents. The A-shaped center grille is also based on the unit seen across the entire lineup and gives the SUV a sporty look. For the production model, Mercedes ditched the silver element with big openings on each side at the bottom of the bumper in favor of a simpler protection plate with four holes.

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The almost vertical tailgate design further contributes to the GLB’s boxy, G-Class-inspired look

The GLB’s profile looks pretty generic from the nose to the C-pillars. It borrows a lot from the GLC, but it becomes boxier toward the rear. The rising beltline ascends toward the taillights and creates a narrower quarter window. Compared to the Concept GLB, Mercedes opted for a simpler side skirt design, milder cladding around the wheel arches, and slightly smaller wheels with a more generic rim.

The GLB’s rear end is basically identical to the concept model. The two-piece taillights are borrowed from other SUVs, as is the clean bumper with exhaust pipes at the lower corners. The almost vertical tailgate design further contributes to the GLB’s boxy, G-Class-inspired look.

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The GLB's wheelbase is 5.1 inches longer than the GLA’s and 1.7 inches shorter than the GLC’s

But how big is the GLB compared to other Mercedes-Benz crossovers? Slotted between the GLA and the GLC, the GLB is almost as big as the GLC. Specifically, the SUV is only 1.3 inches shorter and 0.4 inches narrower than the GLC. On the other hand, it’s a full 10 inches taller. Compared to the entry-level GLA, the GLB is 8.1 inches longer, three inches wider, and 16.2 inches taller. Its wheelbase is 5.1 inches longer than the GLA’s and 1.7 inches shorter than the GLC’s.

When it comes to optional features, you can order the GLB with LED High Performance headlamps. Mercedes says that this technology allow extremely quick and precise adjustment of the headlamps. You can also order fog lamps with LED technology. These distribute the light to reach a wider range than the main headlamps and thus increase illumination in peripheral areas.

2019 Mercedes-Benz GLB vs. GLA vs. GLC
Mercedes-Benz GLB Mercedes-Benz GLA Mercedes-Benz GLC
Length 182 173.9 183.3
Width 74 71 74.4
Height 75 58.8 64.5
Wheelbase 111 106.3 113.1

Interior

  • Based on B-Class
  • Large infotainment display
  • Digital instrument cluster
  • MBUX infotainment system
  • Unique passenger-side dashboard
  • Optional three-row layout
  • Seven-seat capacity
  • Trunk bigger than competition
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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The dashboard looks very familiar as it is based on the B-Class for the most part

When I first saw the interior of the Concept GLB, I knew it was ready to go into production with minor modifications. It borrowed from other Mercedes model so heavily that the German firm only had to remove some of the fancier materials to send it on the assembly line. And it’s exactly what Mercedes-Benz did.

The dashboard looks very familiar as it is based on the B-Class for the most part, but the passenger-side dashboard is unique to this model thanks to the carved-in section and the aluminum insert above the glove compartment. The center stack, the displays for the infotainment system and the instrument cluster are indeed similar to the B-Class, but it looks a lot like other Mercedes-Benz models as well. The round, turbine-look A/C vents, the big displays set next to each other, and the thin control cluster on the center stack make appearances in the A-Class, C-Class, and E-Class models too.

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Mercedes-Benz obviously dropped a few materials seen in the Concept GLB

But the GLB has a few unique cues as well, like the tubular element in an aluminum look on the lower section of the instrument panel. Granted, it’s no longer made from milled aluminum like on the concept, but together with the three round center air vents gives the dashboard support and create an impression of robustness and power.

Mercedes-Benz obviously dropped a few materials seen in the Concept GLB, including the upholstery made from Nappa and Nubuk leather. Sure, the more expensive trims do come with leather and Alcantara, but the entry-level model features cloth upholstery. The open-pore walnut trim with the chiselled honeycomb pattern from the dash was removed as well.

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The GLB offers more front seat headroom than the BMW X2 and Audi Q2

Just like the rest of the Mercedes-Benz lineup, the GLB comes with the intuitively operable infotainment system called MBUX. One of the most advanced interfaces on the market, MBUX features a powerful computer, high-resolution graphics, and an all-color head-up display. It also includes navigation with augmented reality, learning-capable software and voice control that can be activated with "Hey Mercedes," just like you activate Google on an Android-operated smartphone.

Mercedes has yet to release full passenger room specification, but did give us a few details, including the fact that headroom in the front row is 41 inches. That’s 1.2 inches more than the BMW X2 and an extra half-inch compared to the Audi Q2. Rear legroom is rated at 38 inches, a figure that also puts the GLB above the competition. The BMW X2, for instance, offers 36.7 inches of legroom for rear passengers. The extra room comes from the second-row seats ability to adjust forward and rearward, which can increase legroom or enhance luggage room, depending on the position. Rear passengers can also adjust the inclination of the backrests in several stages.

GLB Vs X2 Vs Q2 Front Headroom and Rear Legroom
Front headroom (inches) Rear legroom (inches)
Mercedes-Benz GLB 41 38
BMW X2 39.8 36.7
Audi Q2 40.5 TBA
The GLB the first SUV in this class to offer a third-row seat option

When the Concept GLB came into the spotlight, the big question was whether Mercedes would keep the three-row layout for production. As it turns out, the Germans offer an optional third row that adds two more seats, thus increasing the GLB’s passenger capacity to seven. This is the first time when Mercedes offers three rows in a compact vehicle and makes the GLB the first SUV in this class to have such a feature. Legroom will obviously suffer with three rows of seats, so the GLB won’t be too comfortable for rear-seat passengers on long trips, but this layout will be useful for shorter trips.

The third-row seats can be folded flat for increased cargo capacity, but luggage room will also suffer if you add this option. In case you go with the two additional seats, Mercedes will add convenience features such as two cup holders between the seats, two stowage compartments with a rubberized insert on the left and right in the load compartment, each with a USB-C port.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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The GLB's trunk can take up to 62 cubic feet of luggage

In the five-seat configuration, the GLB can swallow up to 20 cubic feet of luggage with the rear seats in place. That’s 3.4 cubic feet more than the BMW X2, rated at 16.6 cubic feet. Compared to the Audi Q2, rated at 14.3 cubic feet, the GLB offers on extra 5.7 cubic feet of space. With the second-row seats folded flat, the GLB can take up to 62 cubic feet of luggage. That’s an extra 11.9 cubic feet over the BMW X2 and a whopping 24.9 cubic feet over the Audi Q2. The competition is rated at 50.1 and 37.1 cubic feet, respectively.

There are no ratings for the seven-seat version of the GLB, but it doesn’t make any difference since BMW and Audi don’t offer similar versions in this market. But I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the seven-seat GLB is almost as spacious as the five-seat Audi Q2.

GLB Vs X2 Vs Q2 Trunk Space
Trunk volume (seats up) Trunk volume (second row down)
GLB 20 cubic feet 62 cubic feet
X2 16.6 cubic feet 50.1 cubic feet
Q2 14.3 cubic feet 37.1 cubic feet

Drivetrain

  • MFA2 platform
  • Four-cylinder engines
  • 221-horsepower unit in the U.S.
  • Diesel options in Europe
  • Eight-speed dual-clutch
  • Standard AWD in the U.S.
  • AMG version possible
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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The turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine cranks out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque

The GLB was unveiled with an M260 engine under the hood for the U.S. market, the same unit found in the latest-generation A-Class. The turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine cranks out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the same rating as the A250 hatchback. This version, called the GLB250, will be the only model you’ll be able to buy in the U.S., save for the upcoming AMG-badged crossovers.

Compared to the only competitor available in the U.S., the BMW X2, the GLB misses only seven horsepower and delivers identical torque. The sprint to 60 mph takes 6.9 seconds, similar to the BMW X2, while top speed is rated at a solid 130 mph.

Mercedes GLB Vs BMW X2 Horsepower And Torque
Power Torque
Mercedes GLB 221 horsepower 258 pound-feet
BMW X2 228 horsepower 258 pound-feet
On the diesel front, there are two models to choose from in Europe

The mill mates to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and a permanent 4Matic all-wheel-drive system with variable torque distribution. The latter, which is optional, features the company’s Dynamic Select configuration, which includes three setups. When driven in "Eco/Comfort," it enables an 80:20 distribution biased to the front axle for optimized comfort and fuel consumption. When driven in "Sport" mode, 70 percent of the torque is routed to the front wheels, while 30 percent goes to the rear axle. Finally, "Off-Road" mode enables a balanced 50:50 split for enhanced climbing capability.

In Europe, Mercedes-Benz also offers an A200 version, powered by a 1.3-liter four-cylinder that generates 163 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Equipped with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, this version needs 9.1 seconds to hit 62 mph, while charging toward a top speed of 129 mph.

On the diesel front, there are two models to choose from, the GLB200d and the GLB220d, both powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder oil burner. The GLB200d comes with 150 horsepower and 236 pound-feet on tap and hits 62 mph in nine seconds. Top speed is rated at 127 mph. The GLB220d benefits from 190 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of twist. The more powerful diesel enables a 0-to-62 sprint of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 135 mph. Both diesels feature an eight-speed automatic transmission.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB - European diesel lineup
GLB 200 d GLB 200 d 4MATIC GLB 220 d 4MATIC
Transmission 8G-DCT (automatic) 8G-DCT (automatic) 8G-DCT (automatic)
Displacement (cc) 1951 1951 1951
Output (kW/hp) 110/150 110/150 140/190
at rpm 3400 – 4440 3400 – 4440 3800
Max. torque (Nm) 320 320 400
at rpm 1400 - 2600 1400 - 2600 1600 - 2400
Combined fuel consumption (l/100 km)1 5.0-4.9 5.5-5.2 5.5-5.2
Combined CO2 emissions (g/km)1 133-129 144-136 146-138
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s) 9.0 9.3 7.6
Top speed (km/h) 204 201 217
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB - European gasoline lineup
GLB 200 GLB 250 4MATIC
Transmission 7G-DCT (automatic) 8G-DCT (automatic)
Displacement (cc) 1332 1991
Output (kW/hp) 120/163 165/224
at rpm 5500 5800
Max. torque (Nm) 250 350
at rpm 1620 - 4000 1800 - 4000
Combined fuel consumption (l/100 km)[3] 6.2-6.0 7.4-7.2
Combined CO2 emissions (g/km)1 142-137 169-165
Acceleration 0-100 km/h (s) 9.1 6.9
Top speed (km/h) 207 236

Driving assistance systems

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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The GLB borrows various driving assist systems from the S-Class. Just like the sedan, the SUV can "see" up to 1,641 feet ahead and drive semi autonomously thanks to new camera and radar systems. It has the ability to adapt the speed before corners, crossroads or roundabouts via Active Distance Assist Distronic, the Active Steering Assist, and the intuitive Active Lange Change Assist. If equipped with the Active Parking Assist with Parktronic, the GLB also has the function extended to automatically restart in traffic jams.

Mercedes-Benz also offers an Off-Road Engineering Package on the base model and includes it as standard on versions equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive. This system adapts the engine’s power delivery and the ABS control to easy off-road terrain away from paved roads and automatically puts the hill-start assistance system into a slow speed setup between one and 11 mph. The package also allows you to select a special animation on the screen that shows an accurate presentation of gradient, inclination angle, and technical settings so you can drive the GLB in rough terrain with more precision.

Prices

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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While logic suggests that the GLB will be placed between the GLA and GLC (which cost $33,400 and $40,050, respectively, it could actually cost almost as much as the GLC. My bet is on a sticker set around the $38,000 mark.

Competitors

BMW X2

2018 BMW X2 - Updated
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The X2 is BMW’s newest crossover, and it should be the perfect competitor for the GLB. Slightly bigger than the popular X1, the X2 is a pretty unique vehicle in the lineup. Despite wearing an even number next to the "X" in its badge, the X2 isn’t a coupe-style vehicle like the X4 and X6. It’s slightly boxier than the X1, and even though it’s not as utilitarian as the GLB, it has a somewhat massive look thanks to the big grille and the tall bumper up front. The interior comes from the X1, and while it looks modern and comfortable, it’s not as fancy as the GLB, so Merc might win this one. Drivetrain options are diverse and start off with a 2.0-liter gasoline four-banger rated at 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. A more powerful version, also offered in the U.S., sends 228 horses and 258 pound-feet to the ground. A 2.0-liter diesel rated at 190 horsepower and 295 pound-feet is already available, but more oil burners will be launched in the future. Pricing starts from $36,400.

Read our full story of the 2018 BMW X2.

Audi Q2

2017 Audi Q2 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 667707

The Q2 is nowhere near as imposing as the GLB, but it’s a cool design exercise and the first Audi crossover that strays from the big Q7. It has quite a few unique features of its own, and it feels boxier than other Audis out there. The interior is based on the A3 hatchback and looks rather bland, but it has all the modern technology, including a fully digital instrument cluster, a seven-inch infotainment display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, USB, navigation a Bang & Olufsen sound system. Just like the X2, the Q2 is available with a wide array of drivetrains in Europe. The gasoline range begins with the 1.0-liter three-cylinder unit rated at 116 horsepower and 148 pound-feet. This engine mates to a six-speed manual standard and a seven-speed DSG optionally and comes in a front-wheel-drive configuration only. Next up is the familiar 1.4-liter TFSi, a four-cylinder that’s available 150 horses and 184 pound-feet and comes standard with FWD and the six-speed manual, but Quattro AWD and the seven-speed DSG can be selected from the options list. The 2.0-liter TFSI engine pumps 187 horses and 236 pound-feet of twist through a seven-speed DSG and Quattro all-wheel drive. The Q2 is not yet available in the U.S.

Read our full review of the 2018 Audi Q2.

Conclusion

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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Judging how all crossover niches have expanded in recent years, the GLB is a necessary addition to the Mercedes-Benz lineup. With BMW and Audi already present in this segment, Merc needed to step up and offer a solid competitor. The fact that the GLB has a boxy, G-Class-inspired design plays an important role here, as it allows drivers access to a more affordable, more city-friendly version of the military-style SUV. That’s something BMW and Audi can’t offer right now. And the only option available is the Jeep Renegade, which is no match for the GLB in terms of premium features and technology.

  • Leave it
    • Will be the most expensive in its niche

Further reading

The 2019 Mercedes GLB Concept a New Boxy, Compact SUV
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Read our full review on the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLB Concept.

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA.

2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class
- image 827003

Read our full review on the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class.

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