Mercedes’ new GLB 250 is a true surprise and delight

Priced from under $37,000, it's the best compact-luxe SUV you can buy.

Mercedes has a new little bundle of awesomeness that – mark my words – is going to take the compact luxury SUV market by storm.

Ladies and gentlemen, would you say a big ‘Oh Yeah’ to the all-new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250. Priced right from just $36,600, or around $45,000 very nicely loaded, it might just be my new favorite, family-friendly Merc, and my new favorite compact SUV.

What I love about this box on wheels is that it puts practicality and versatility first. It doesn’t try to be some faux sporty sport-ute with a cheesy, coupe-like roofline, or kinked-up waist. This is old-school station wagon design given a modern twist.

To me, it takes its styling cues from the big ’n boxy G-wagen and honking GLS rather than the more swoopy GLC. From its bolt-upright grille, towering roof and CinemaScope windows, it’s more retro than rakish.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have its flourishes of design glitz. That bold grille is filled with what looks like hundreds of shimmery diamonds; those swept-back headlights are an explosion of bright-white LEDs.

And this is no Mini-Me Benz with a scaled-down footprint. It’s only 1.7 inches shorter than the mid-size GLC, while its wheelbase is 5.1 inches longer than Mercedes’ starter sport-ute, the swoopy GLA.

But what really sets this new GLB apart is its terrific interior, which is  all form with a ton of function.

Much of its appeal is down to that towering roof. With a class-leading 40 inches of headroom, huge windows and slender roof pillars, this GLB is like being inside an automotive loft.

Climb into the rear seat, slide it back and recline the backrest, and it feels like you’re in a limo. Opt for the giant panoramic glass roof – a must-have $1,500 option – and the cabin gets flooded with light.

And surprise, surprise, you can even get a third row as an $800 option to turn the GLB into a seven-seater. It’s only suited to kids – Mercedes recommends 5ft 6ins and under – but for occasional car-pooling it’s a great option to have.

It’s also a proper load-carrier. With the rear seats folded there’s an impressive 62 cubic feet of cargo space – that’s around 10 per cent more than the bigger and pricier GLC has to offer.

Flip forward the front passenger seat and you get 105 inches – that’s almost nine feet – of load space. Step-ladders, surfboards, paddle boards, fishing rods, two-by-fours. You name it can get swallowed-up.

Powering this brawny Benz is a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder from the new Merc CLA 250. It’s good for 221horseys, 258 lb-ft of torque and 0-to-60mph sprinting in 6.9 seconds. Top speed is restricted to 130mph and on the highway it will sip fuel at the rate of 30mpg.

There’s an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic which, on the standard GLB, drives the front wheels. But you’ll want to spend the extra $2,000 on the optional 4MATIC all-wheel drive – the front-driver likes to spin its wheels and tug at the steering during feisty acceleration.

With 4MATIC and 221hp the GLB 250 is a blast drive. There’s plenty of punch for powering out of turns or safe passing, and with the drive-mode selector set to Sport, everything from throttle response, to gear shifts to steering feel gets amped-up.

And sitting behind the wheel of this new GLB is one cool place to be. I love the funky jet-engine-nozzle air vents and the terrific glass dashboard with its twin 10.3-inch screens and MBUX interface for tablet-like tapping and pinching.

The only disappoint is the plain-dumb “Hey Mercedes” voice control which failed to recognize a single command I spoke. Must be the English accent.

I feel that Mercedes has definitely slammed one out of the park with this new GLB. It’s the right size, at the right price and with the right focus on cool design and practicality.

Interested? You’d better get in line. This is going to be huge.

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