Who’d have thought it? Mercedes-Benz, that automotive innovator, that made its name catering for the well-to-do of this world with large luxury vehicles, now continues to carve a niche with small cars.

With the recent arrival of the GLB-Class, this brings to six the number of models in the Mercedes compact car portfolio, which includes the A-Class hatchback and sedan, B-Class, CLA Coupe and GLA compact SUV.

Britta Seeger, Daimler AG management board member, responsible for Benz car sales says: “Every third Mercedes-Benz is now an SUV, every fourth a compact car, so a compact SUV such as the GLB blends all the success factors of our two highest volume segments.”

Latest model, and the flagship, to land on Australian shores is the high-performance Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic sports utility vehicle, topping out the range at $88,900, plus on-road costs.

AMG also has skin in the game with performance enhancing features such as a special exhaust system high-action brakes, speed sensitive power steering and AMG ride control sports suspension with electronically controlled damping.

The entry-level GLB 200 is priced at $59,900, plus ORCs, the GLB 250 4Matic $73,900 and the AMG GLB 35 4Matic range-topper $88,900.

Flat front, square body, squat stance . . . that just about sums up the Mercedes-AMG stab at this compact sports utility vehicle. Morphing a small hot hatch into a similarly high-performance SUV has resulted in the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic.

AMG bodywork and lettering, Night Package exterior trim features, dark tinted privacy glass from B-pillar to back, black roof rails, plus 20-inch five twin-spoke alloy wheels are all in the mix.

The result is a look that owes more to the traditional wagon than the softer swoopy-coupe styling of others in the small SUV segment. However, there’s plenty of AMG magic in the mechanicals.

Inside exclusive features include carbon-style interior trim, an AMG Performance steering wheel wrapped in Nappa leather, with AMG Drive Unit controller for swift switching between drive modes, and Comfort Sport. There’s stylish Lugano leather.

Brushed stainless steel pedals with rubber studs help the enthusiastic driver keep their feet when in full flight, while the ambience is set off by carbon style trim and a so-called Energizing Comfort Control that can conjure up a complete in-cabin mood.

Twin 10.25-inch high-resolution displays – a touchscreen and digital instrument cluster – are positioned side by side on the dashboard. Both are controlled by the Mercedes-Benz MBUX multimedia system with its pally ‘Hey, Mercedes’ voice activation.

The AMG performance arm is at the heart of this with an in-house tuned 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine stumping up 225 kW and 400 Nm. This is put to ground via an AMG Speedshift DCT eight-speed auto transmission, with Dynamic Select function, 4Matic all-wheel drive.

The GLB range earned a maximum ANCAP five-star safety rating in 2019. Advanced driver-assist systems in the GLB 35 include autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, driver attention alert, tyre pressure monitoring, hill-descent control, hill-start assist, park assist, reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.

Other standard safety equipment includes nine airbags (dual front, front-side, curtain and rear-side plus driver’s knee), anti-skid brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and electronic stability and traction control.

Steering assist, adaptive cruise control, active blind-spot monitoring and front cross-traffic alert are in an optional Driving Assistance Package ($1990) surround-view cameras and high-beam assist included in an optional Vision Package ($1190).

There’s acceleration from rest to 100 km/h in a sharp 5.2 seconds for a start. This is accompanied by a sporty engine exhaust crackle.

Merc makes the claim fuel consumption of 8.3 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle. The test vehicle recorded 13-plus litres per 100 kilometres around town and 6.3 on the motorway.

With Drive Select in ‘Comfort’ mode, it was a toss-up as to what the GLB 35 was up to – hot hatch or practical SUV. Times got hard, literally, with the car picking up the smallest pothole after recent heavy rain. A firm ride persisted on all surfaces.

Braking was assured thanks to bigger brakes with AMG-stamped silver callipers up front, and unlike the choppy ride, steering held no surprises, despite the high-riding SUV stance. Needless to say, this was with driver alone aboard. With seven up, added ballast may have told a different story. The same goes for seating arrangements.

Even with the middle bench able to slide fore and aft by up to 140 mm, entry to the third row of seats is hard to navigate as the middle is unable to tumble forward. With most or all seven seats taken, comfort is at a premium.

Cargo capacity is the opposite, with the 50 / 50 split-fold third row put away there’s 565 litres. This can be increased to a massive 1800 litres with the 40 / 20 / 40 split-fold middle bench vacant. Turning circle is an unwieldy 12.5 metres.

Hot hatch or practical seven-seat SUV, that’s the million-dollar question for buyers of the Merc GLB 35 4Matic. It really is down to the dollars and cents but where else can you get an AMG marked car for less than 100K?

Mercedes-Benz GLB 200 $59,900
Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic $73,900
Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic $88,900
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mercedes-Benz dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Mercedes-AMG GLB 4Matic 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder petrol, 8sp dual-clutch automatic AWD SUV)

Capacity: 1.991 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 225 kW @ 5800 rpm
Maximum Torque: 400 Nm @ 3000-4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 98 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.3 L/100km

DRIVELINE: Eight-speed AMG Speedshift DCT automatic, 4Matic AWD

Length: 4650 mm
Wheelbase: 2829 mm
Width: 1845 mm
Height: 1660 mm
Turning circle: 12.5 m
Kerb Mass: 1839 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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