Compact, in automotive speak, is a word that has an amazing elasticity to it so, while the Mercedes-Benz GLB is glibly referred to as a ‘compact’ SUV, the 4,6-metre long and 1,8-metre wide vehicle truly stretches the definition of compact.
It is 1 658 millimetres high and, as a result, headroom in the first seat row is 1 069 millimetres with 967 millimetres the effective legroom in the rear of the five-seater where two optional additional individual seats can seat people up to 1,68-metres tall in comfort.
The doors reach over the side bar, improving ease of access, and keep the door apertures free of soiling as well as increasing protection in a side impact. All-round protective claddings divide the overall proportions and emphasise the vehicle’s off-road character, as does the stylised skid plate at the front and rear.
The boot compartment capacity goes from 570 litres to 1 805 litres and the second row can be moved fore and aft, enabling the boot to be enlarged by up to 190 litres.
So, it is not a small car and stands its ground against many of those more formally in the ‘C’ segment of the market. Ranged against the GLA, GLC and GLE it is also, perhaps, the most conservatively styled, the two-box square shape, however, suggesting absolute practicality.
The more time I spent in the car, the more I liked the expansive view over the bonnet (with both corners visible) and the excellent view of the road ahead. Certainly if I was planning some long-haul touring this would feature high on the list of vehicle choices.
My test unit, the GLB 250 does not have the permanent all-wheel drive system fitted to the GLB220d but, even so, for reasonable off-tarmac driving the high ground clearance of the GLB250 is more than up to the task.
With a base price of R839 460 it is also quite a lot more expensive than opposition such as the Audi Q3 Sportback 40 TFSI, the BMW X1 sDrive 20d and the Volvo XC40 T5 – all of which come standard with an all-wheel drive setup
Power from the 2 999 cc six-cylinder engine is 320 kW with 520 Nm of torque on tap. The Volvo has a tad more power and the BMW better torque.
The GLB 250 offers a combined fuel consumption of 9,6 l/100 km, with CO2 emissions of 214 g/km. It will accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5,3 seconds and top speed is limited to 250 km/h.
Driving assistance systems are drawn from the S-Class, with improved camera and radar systems that allow the GLB to see up to 500 metres ahead and drive in semi-automated mode in certain situations.
The MBUX infotainment system (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) offers powerful computer, brilliant screens and graphics, customisable presentation, full-colour head-up display, with optional navigation and augmented reality, learning software, and voice control activated with the prompt ‘Hey Mercedes’.
As is usual with Mercedes-Benz there are a host of options that can be attached to personalise the vehicle and the test car came fitted with such things as Driving Assistance Package, panoramic sunroof, traffic sign assist, trailer coupling ESP, night package, navigation package and engineering package.
All this to bolster the long list of standard items fitted to the ‘base’ model that include smartphone integration, Advanced connectivity Plus, Active Brake Assist, LED High Performance headlamp, windscreen wiper with rain sensor, multifunction sports steering wheel in leather, steering wheel shift paddles, tyre pressure monitoring system and touchpad without controller among them.
Of that last item – not my favourite and difficult to control with any accuracy unless the vehicle is stationary. However, once conversational familiarity with ‘Hey Mercedes’ is established, manual changing of things becomes largely unnecessary.
I have mentioned the logical opposition to the GLB but all three of those have sportier shapes, so the GLB is easily my choice for comfort motoring, especially over longer distances where the airy and spacious cabin never comes close to feeling claustrophobic.
Its road behaviour is composed and confident and it will get up and go in a hurry when clicked into Sport mode but I found the standard ‘Comfort’ setting provided enough of everything for just about all needs.