Overall the interior is a high quality affair that rivals anything on offer from BMW and Audi. In fact, with its neat trio of eyeball air vents, metal finished air conditioning controls and three-spoke multi-function steering wheel you could be inside an A-Class, raised driving position aside. That and the use of surprisingly low grade plastics in the lower half of the cabin.
It’s fairly spacious, however, even if the third row of seats are really only of use for very young children or occasional adult use - with the sliding second row in its rearmost setting there’s virtually no legroom behind. Speaking of space, boot capacity shrinks from a handy 570-litres with third row stowed (they fold into the floor in one easy movement), to virtually nothing with the chairs raised - a Discovery Sport offers more space with seats up and down.
Underpinning the GLB is essentially the same MFA2 platform as the A-Class, although it’s been stretched and pulled to accommodate those extra seats. The familiar architecture means a similar line-up of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, up to and including the 302bhp 2.0-litre from the A35. However, it’s the entry-level, front-wheel drive GLB200 petrol we sample here, its 161bhp 1.3-litre turbocharged four pot developed jointly with Nissan and Renault.
Given the 1.3-litre unit’s small size and the Merc’s not inconsiderable 1,555kg kerbweight performance is actually fairly brisk. Peak torque of 184b ft available at just 1,620rpm, plus the nicely insulated engine will happily rev to 6,000rpm. Response is further boosted by the seven-speed DCT twin-clutch transmission that slots home it’s ratios quickly and smoothly.
In many ways it’s this unit that’s best suited to the GLB, its level of performance well matched to the car’s easy-going dynamics that are geared towards everyday comfort rather than cornering crispness.
All GLBs get strut front suspension and a multi-link rear axle, while our car further benefited from optional adaptive dampers that, on our smoothly surfaced Spanish test route at least, served up welcome plushness over bumps - this is a quiet and comfortable way to get about. And while it’s not exactly a thrill a minute in the twisty bits, there’s enough composure and grip to allow you to maintain a decent lick.
The steering is mute but progressive, while the body control is actually rather good despite the lean when pushing on. And with some load going through the suspension you can feel both axles sharing the cornering forces, helping to minimise the natural tendency to understeer. It’s not an exciting car to drive and feels a little loose and heavy at the limit, but for such a tall and hefty machine it feels feels more agile than it has any right to be.
Although not relevant to the GLB200, which is front-wheel drive only, a quick go in the 4MATIC all-wheel drive equipped 220d proved the GLB is fairly handy off the beaten track. On a testing gravel off road course complete with severe up and down hills the Merc never looked likely to get stuck, it’s trick traction control keeping it moving. Only the aforementioned Land Rover is as impressive in these conditions.
At £34,200 this 200 Sport represents the entry point to GLB ownership, undercutting the cheapest Disco Sport by around £5,000. Factor in it’s lower emissions and smoother drivetrain than the pricier diesels, plus its likely use as a laidback and versatile family runaround, and it’s arguably the pick of the bunch.