Having a small family of just the three of us has many benefits, (the weekly grocery bill alone should clinch the deal), however, my son is a popular chap and ‘dad’s taxi’ is seldom just our small nucleus, in saying that, the need for a 7-seat road-going behemoth is equally rare. What we need is a compact vehicle that’s smart, safe, modern, upmarket and can transform from five to seven seats when required – Mercedes-Benz New Zealand has the answer with the new GLB.
As luck would have it, the week that I had the new GLB 250 was a particularly busy one for me, with trips to both Whangarei (for work) and to Papamoa (for play) on the menu, the perfect opportunity to test both the economy and space of the compact SUV.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB is another vehicle in their range that sits on the impressive A-Class chassis, a chassis that may I remind you, their AMG department had a hand in building, however, footprint-wise, the designers have managed eke out an extra 210mm in length over the GLA and 42mm in height but still keep it looking small.
My review model came in Galaxy blue and had the AMG sports package, both are additional options but really made the SUV stand out. The similarities to the GLA are hard to miss, especially when looking front on but when you venture down the SUV’s profile you get wide-wall tyres on (in my case) 19-inch AMG wheels and of course, the ‘boxier’ rear end, I’ll get to that soon.
The interior is again, very familiar to those that have been inside a new A-Class or GLA and that is a good thing. The digital screen that houses both infotainment and instrument clusters takes up half the dashboard, while ‘jet-engined’ air vents and touchpads fill the rest. There’s a lot going on but it’s not too busy.
The seats are leather and Alcantara styled, and contrast stitched, oh and as this was the 250, fully-electric. The rear seats are roomy and can be moved for additional space while the two ‘occasional’ seats in row three will actually take a 6ft 4” goalkeeper.
As per usual, I immediately took the GLB to my test road to see how it handled the curves, bends and balance, and for a model that sits up high on lots of rubber it’s confident and virtually devoid of road noise. The 2L turbo-charged engine is responsive and fun (it should be with 165kW and 350Nm) and gets the compact SUV from zero to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds. 4Matic all-wheel drive keeps you connected to the road and its adjustable damping suspension and sports direct steering was a real plus. BUT, call me tight, knowing I had some extra-special trips planned I switched my mindset to economy – genius.
Heading north to Whangarei gave me time to flick through menus and delve into driver assists. I’m a big fan of adaptive cruise control and Mercedes-Benz version (Distronic) is a blinder however it also came with another gem (that I’m ashamed to say I haven’t discovered before) route-based speed adaption – as seen in the S-Class.
Route based speed adaption takes the ease and convenience of adaptive cruise control and makes things even easier. The system follows other cars and maintains pre-set distances, plus, thanks to its mapping (and the helpful team at Mercedes-Benz NZ) it slows for corners and junctions, adhering to similar speeds recommended by the NZTA. It’s a cool system that offers next-level driving laziness. Where, with other ACC systems you can at times find yourself needing to brake on corners, not so with the GLB. In truth it’s a little too cautious in economy mode but should you change the driving mode to Sport it understands you like to play a little and approaches the corner with more vigour.
The family trek to Papamoa came with all the usual overnight/overpack drama but with 500L of luggage space to play with, we actually thought we’d forgotten something, it made a pleasant change.
We met friends at Papamoa and being extravagant Aucklanders, decided to eat at out at the Mount that evening, as it turned out their family of four (one being the aforementioned goalkeeper) fitted well inside, although it was fun to watch him get in and out of the 3rd row.
The GLB boasts combined fuel economy figures of 7.7L/100km but I managed in fact to at one stage get to 4.8L, which is impressive. With two BIG trips and a week’s worth of normal travel, I only needed to add an extra $40 worth of fuel to the 60L tank (so with Auckland tax that’s only a handful of litres).
With the GLB 250, Mercedes-Benz New Zealand has hit the ideal spot for an active small family such as mine. It’s nimble and compact for everyday driving, spacious enough for longer runs, economical, smart and having those extra two seats back there when required makes all the difference. It’s class, A-Class.