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New Mercedes GLB ride review

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Mercedes GLB - prototype side

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8 May, 2019 11:00pm Malte Büttner

The new rugged Mercedes GLB SUV is set to arrive in November. We join the development team to see if it stands a chance of success

The door of a Mercedes used to close like the sound of a bank vault. But now? I've been trying to close the passenger door of the new GLB and I've failed – for the third time. “Careful, the camouflage sticks” explains Jochen Eck, Head of Overall Vehicle Testing at Mercedes. Auto Express has joined Eck and his team in the North of Sweden to complete the final development tests for the compact SUV, and we’ve hitched a ride.

You’re probably wondering whether the world really needs the GLB alongside the GLA, GLC, GLE and all their off-road relatives? The answer is a clear yes. Because instead of finding new niches, it closes a massive gap in the Mercedes range. It's not another lifestyle crossover, but a practical competitor for the Volkswagen Tiguan, BMW X1 and Ford Kuga.

Although the GLB is based on the A-Class platform, the tread width and wheelbase have grown. At 4.63 metres there is now plenty of room for five people. If you order the three-section adjustable rear seat you will love the business class legroom in the rear.

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Mercedes GLB - prototype rear

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For an additional £1,200, roughly, you can have two more folding seats that come out of the floor of the boot. They are claimed to be comfortable enough for adults up to a height of at least 1.69 metres. If you put down all the seats you get a storage area of 1,800 litres, and even with five seats the space is still 560 litres. And this is what the Mercedes guys mean when they keep comparing their latest creation to a Swiss Army Knife.

Under the bonnet, the family resemblance with the A-Class continues. The entry-level model is the GLB 200 powered by the 162bhp 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine developed with Renault, while the GLB 220 d comes with the 189bhp 2.0-litre diesel. Unfortunately, Mercedes has no current plans for either an electric or hybrid version.

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Mercedes GLB - prototype interior

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Our first taste of the GLB, however, comes in the range-topping GLB 250, which makes use of a 224bhp 2.0-litre turbo. Despite its 4MATIC four-wheel drive system, the GLB can’t hide its front-wheel drive genes. In comfort mode, the power distribution is 80:20 in favour of the front wheels. Compared to the GLC, the GLB is slightly more rustic and there is more road noise. But it also handles well and the ride feels up to the job of transporting a family comfortably, even in this early prototype.

Even though it sports all of Mercedes' latest technical highlights and numerous assistants, its rough appearance and practical talents will quickly win it a lot customers when it hit showrooms in November. As long as the door shuts by then.

The new Mercedes GLB offers a lot of space and versatility despite its compact dimensions. With its rustic but elegant design it will likely attract a range of buyers especially if Mercedes can bring it to market at around the £30,000 price bracket it’s aiming for. The Tiguan may have to watch out.

About Alex Ward

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