The automotive landscape has evolved to a point where the clear lines that used to divide big and small are no longer visible. Size has become an extremely subjective and relative tool for differentiation while words like compact have adopted new meanings along the way. At least that seems to be the case with Mercedes-Benz Malaysia's latest addition to its 'compact car' catalogue which packs just as many seats as the towering GLS that was launched recently.
Enter the Mercedes GLB, Stuttgart's take on a seven-seat utility vehicle built on the bones of a compact car - a concept already incredibly popular in Asia if vehicles like the Honda BR-V and upcoming Mitsubishi Xpander are anything to go by. In the case of the GLB, the underlying architecture is the same MFA2 platform underpinning the second generation A-Class, CLA and GLA models, as well as the latest B-Class. However, its wheelbase is stretched to 2,829mm - 100mm more than the B-Class's - to accomodate the extra row of seats and up to 1,805 litres of cargo volume. However, Mercedes is still being realistic about the GLB being a compact car in essence, and admits that the last row is best suited to adults measuring up to 168cm in height, which should still cover a wide spectrum of the population in this part of the world.
With three variants on offer locally, the GLB's line-up is second only to the A-Class in terms of variety; though this may change once a GLB45 S enters the fray. Here's a quick breakdown of the specs currently on sale in Malaysia
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB200 Progressive Line
Like most models in Mercedes-Benz Malaysia's passenger car line-up, the GLB range starts with a 200-numbered model. The GLB200 gets the ball rolling at RM269,118 with a familiar 1.3-litre turbocharged engine first seen in the A200 good for 163hp and 250Nm of torque. It is mated to a 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic that helps the small seven-seater to 100kph from a standstill in 9.1seconds, all the way to a top speed of 207kph.
Features made standard from this entry model include two seven-inch displays that make up the GLB's digital-forward instrument cluster with MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience), Mercedes me connect and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity to match. Keyless ignition, 'high-performance; LED lighting, Active Brake Assist and Active Parking Assist with Parktronic are also part of the GLB200's generous package that lays the groundwork for the variants to follow.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4Matic AMG Line
Higher up in the midfield, the GLB250 spices things up with a peppier two-litre four-pot turbo and flashier components from the AMG Line catalogue. Its 224hp and 350Nm maximum output is managed by a DCT with an extra gear that helps the seven-seater from 0-100kph in 6.9 seconds before topping out at 236kph. Another contributing factor to this amplified performance is the GLB250's 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive system with fully variable torque distribution. If you're looking for a compact SUV that can handle the beaten trail every now and then, this should be the Merc to look at instead.
Obviously, there is a price to pay for the added performance, all-terrain versatility and AMG Line kit which includes 19-inch alloys, a diamond radiator grille and sports seats among other sporty touches. Even after factoring in the tax relief that's due to end in a few months, the GLB250 will set you back a cool RM318,009 - nearly RM50k more than the GLB200 and substantially pricier than the bigger GLC200 too. Then again, it's not even the costliest of the lot...
2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB35 4Matic
At RM363,137, the AMG-fettled GLB35 sits at the very top of the GLB food chain, at least until a GLB45 arrives, and rightly so. The RM45k premium it commands over the GLA250 comes with an additional 82hp and 50Nm for a grand total of 306hp and 400Nm of twist. The only AMG-branded model in the range also loses the last row of seats for good measure, and its trimmer five-seat bulk will do the century sprint in a heady 5.2 seconds as a result - just half a second off the similarly endowed A35 Sedan. Top speed is rated at 250kph just like the sleeker sedan.
The GLB35 4Matic rides on the adaptive AMG Ride Control suspension, which complements equally track-ready tech like its AMG Speedshift eight-speed DCT, AMG Dynamic Select, AMG Performance 4Matic AWD and even AMG-specific displays to bring MBUX up to speed with all other racy facets of the car.
So, which GLB will it be?