Mercedes-Benz's GLB Class is one of six such utilities to wear the three-pointed star.

Introducing the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB

This compact utility vehicle could be just the right size for all but those seated in the third row

Nearly every mainstream automaker sells an ever-increasing assortment of utility vehicles — crossovers, if you will — of varying shapes, sizes and capacities. For Mercedes-Benz, its most recent addition is the GLB Class that arrived in late 2019 as a 2020 model.

The GLB Class is one of six such utilities to wear the three-pointed star. It’s about 13 centimetres longer than the GLA (the smallest in the M-B-range), and less than five centimetres shorter than the next-largest GLC (which cannot be ordered with a third row). The GLE-, GLS- and G-class models round out the grouping.

The GLB’s stout wagon-like appearance belies the fact that it’s built off the compact Mercedes-Benz A-class front-wheel-drive car platform. The blunt-edge front end and the tall, squared-off roofline gives it an off-road-capable appearance, however it falls far short of the extra-rugged G Class in rugged terrain mastery.

Surprisingly, despite its compact dimensions, the GLB can be ordered with a third-row seat, complete with two cupholders plus a couple of outboard storage compartments and one USB port.

To make sufficient space for two more passengers in a third row, the available second-row bench slides up to 15 centimetres (it also adjusts in the two-row GLBs) and the seatback can be angled in a more upright position. Note that placing anyone larger than junior-size in the back will be a tight squeeze upon entry and exit, and the cargo zone behind is expectedly small. For adult-size riders, you should probably consider using the bench for occasional or emergency seating only.

To get the most space out of the relatively small design, the GLB naturally has a squarer appearance. In particular, the rear hatch needs to be as vertical is possible for third-row passenger headroom and cargo space behind the seat. PHOTO: MERCEDES-BENZ

The split-folding 40:20:40 second row and 60:40 third row can each be partially or completely folded flat for stowing bulky items.

The GLB’s front-seat passengers have a full view of an instrument panel that’s nearly identical to that found in the A-class cars. It comes with two adjoining seven-inch or optional 10.3-inch configurable touch-screens with the latest Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) voice-activated system. By speaking “Hey Mercedes” aloud, a disembodied voice acts on your requests to — among others — change radio channels, connect with your phone’s contacts, or search for the nearest gas stations or restaurants.

The powertrain in the base GLB 250 is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that puts out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

Added for 2021, the AMG GLB 35 comes with a hotter version of the turbo 2.0 that delivers 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet.

Both receive an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

Base turbo fuel economy is rated at 10.2 l/100 km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined.

According to Mercedes-Benz, the 2.0 will propel the GLB to 60 mph (96 km/h) from rest in 6.9 seconds (5.1 for the AMG).

Both GLB models come with 4Matic all-wheel-drive. The system varies the front-to-rear torque split depending on the mode selected. In Eco and Comfort, the front-to-rear split is 80:20. It’s 70:30 in Sport and 50:50 in Off-Road.

The base five-passenger GLB 250 starts at $48,600, including destination fees. Optional features include an adaptive suspension and an AMG styling kit with a unique grille, bumpers and wheels. A full range of active and semi-autonomous driving technologies, including emergency braking and lane-keeping assist is also extra.

The AMG GLB 35 rings in at $59,700 and comes with the adaptive suspension, a sport exhaust system and performance brakes.

Extra for both GLB models is a full range of active and semi-autonomous driving technologies, including emergency braking and lane-keeping assist.

When considering overall design, content and price, the GLB Class models would appear to offer Mercedes-Benz buyers sufficient choices in passenger accommodations and performance in a relatively affordable package.

The optional dash layout with larger screens uses the latest MBUX interface with voice-command tech. Just say “Hey Mercedes” to begin your instructions. PHOTO: MERCEDES-BENZ

What you should know: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB Class

Type: Four-door, all-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle

Engine (h.p.): 2.0-litre I-4, turbocharged (221/302)

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Market position: The premium-compact-utility-vehicle segment is becoming increasingly popular (and competitive) as more buyers are indicating a preference for these models over similarly upscale sedans.

Points: Squared-off body provides at least the appearance of off-road ruggedness. • Modern dashboard and control panel adds to the premium-look interior. • The base turbo four-cylinder engine has reasonable performance, but the AMG version delivers significantly more punch. • Third-row-seating option is ideal for small children, but not so much for adults.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (opt.); lane-departure warning (opt.)

L/100 km (city/hwy): 10.2/7.5

Base price (incl. destination): $48,600

BY COMPARISON

Audi Q3

  • Base price: $39,550
  • Strictly five-passenger model comes with a turbo 228-h.p. I-4. AWD is standard.

Cadillac XT4 AWD

  • Base price: $41,800
  • Compact utility model is stylish and reasonably priced. AWD is optional.

Lexus NX

  • Base price: $46,700
  • Well-equipped with most active-safety tech; hybrid model available, AWD std.

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