A true Mercedes. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class fills a tiny niche in the brand’s crossover lineup, slotting between the tiny Mercedes GLA-Class and the compact Mercedes GLC-Class. It may live in the shadow of the glitzy larger crossover SUVs, but the GLB is worth considering in its own right.

Unlike the GLA, the GLB borrows heavily from the rugged looks of its larger siblings. The body is square and chunky, with just enough curves to seem graceful. Roof rails and a large grille blend luxury with adventure. Overall, we like the look.

Inside, the design is more elegant and restrained. Metallic trim is a nice touch, but the stars of the show are twin screens for the instruments and infotainment. Mercedes wants buyers to know that the GLB-Class isn’t only for geriatrics, so the ambient lighting ranges from basic white to striking purple.

Your choice of one. At launch, the 2021 GLB-Class comes in only one trim. All-wheel drive is an option, but buyers are otherwise limited to choosing colors and packages. If performance is a must-have, an upcoming AMG model should satisfy.

We’re not too concerned in the meantime, because the GLB 250’s 221-horsepower engine is all we could ask for. It’s responsive and refined, and impressive sound dampening ensures that the cabin stays quiet. Acceleration is lively, and the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is excellent.

Handling is confident in base form, especially when steering is set to Sport. If you have the budget, the optional adaptive suspension is a worthy addition. It dampens bumps without compromising the handling, even with the available 20-inch wheels.

Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class

Goldilocks size. The Mercedes GLB-Class isn’t particularly large for an SUV, but it packs a lot of utility into its frame. The body is the same length as the old Mercedes M-Class, but the cabin is narrower. That means that leg room is plentiful, with more than 38 inches for second-row passengers. Shoulder room is harder to come by, and three adults may be a tight fit in the back.

The second row can slide fore and aft to adjust leg room and cargo capacity. In forward position, it can accommodate an optional third row, but we’d recommend skipping it. It’s only suitable for the smallest passengers, and the larger Mercedes vehicles are a much better fit for large families.

The sliding and folding second row helps the GLB make the most of its cargo capacity. Folding it boosts capacity up to 62 cubic feet of space. That’s good for the class, and surprisingly, even more than the larger GLC-Class. The GLB is larger than true subcompacts like the BMW X1, but it manages to feel more maneuverable than larger crossovers without losing much practicality.

Thoroughly modern. The large screens on the GLB’s dash are just the tip of the technological iceberg. Mercedes’s MBUX system is intuitive and capable, and it’s even better on the optional 10-inch screens. Voice activation works surprisingly well.

Safety tech improves for 2021, as blind-spot monitoring is now standard. If you like to advertise your presence, further upgrades include a loud Burmester sound system and a glowing Mercedes star on the grille. Be careful, though – options inflate the price quickly, and the GLB is less appealing when it costs more than $50,000.

Thirsty SUVs are becoming an artifact of the past, and the GLB’s EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon combined is decent for the class. An odd fact: the all-wheel-drive GLB 250 4MATIC earns a slightly higher mpg estimate on the highway, for reasons we can’t fathom.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Mercedes GLB-Class may seem like it fills a niche within a niche, but it makes a strong case for its own existence. It’s more spacious and practical than a GLA, but more affordable and maneuverable than a GLC.

It isn’t cheap, but the shape is stylish, and fit and finish are everything you’d expect from Mercedes. We predict that it'll have plenty of fans.

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