Seventh heaven. With six SUVs in its current range, Mercedes-Benz has aimed the 2022 GLB at larger families and people requiring the added practicality of third-row seating. A sliding second-row bench reveals two rear seats which are sufficient for smaller passengers and shorter journeys. You wouldn’t want to pull the short straw on a long journey, though.

Third-row occupants can only look enviously towards the driver and front passenger, whose well-bolstered seats have power adjustment and plenty of range customization. There’s synthetic or real leather trim (depending on the model), while heating and cooling can be added into the front seats as optional extras. Third-row passengers are also likely to have cargo piled up behind them; there’s just 5.1 cubic feet of space when you’re seven-up, increasing to 27 cu ft with the third row dropped flat.

Eye of the beholder. It would be a push to describe the GLB as an attractive car, especially when its SUV siblings include the industrial-chic G-Class and the sleek GLE. From the side, the GLB resembles an outsized Volkswagen Tiguan, while it’s hard to make a compelling case for all the external adornments used to jazz up this rather boxy vehicle. At least the slab-like proportions don’t damage fuel economy – you can expect 26 MPG combined on GLB 250 models.

If the exterior’s banks of chrome nostrils and light-up Mercedes badge strike you as being a bit tacky, the interior is unlikely to impress. From textured metallic trim to the array of ambient lighting options, it’s colorful bordering on garish. While the twin 10.3-inch screens on higher trims are undeniably impressive (they’re 7.0 inches on lower models), their brightness can be overwhelming at night. That said, the pixel detail on both screens is crystal clear, and many manufacturers are digitizing their dashboards – this is the shape of things to come.

A surprisingly involving drive. It’s best to consider the GLB’s two engines separately since they have such different characteristics. The standard GLB 250 engine can be mated to either the front or all four wheels, generating a respectable 221 hp and hitting 60mph from standing in less than seven seconds. That’s impressive in a car weighing around 3,600 lb, especially when you consider the well-weighted power steering and rapid throttle response. Adding available adaptive dampers improves the handling and responsiveness even further, though it’s not necessary.

The AWD-only GLB 35 gains 300 lb in weight while offering 80 more horses, dispatching the 0-60 sprint in 5.1 seconds. That’s impressive for a seven-seat SUV, while its road-holding is also a step up on the 250. The Sport+ mode on this model firms up the steering and ride, but for our money, Comfort remains the best way to smooth over imperfect surfaces in the way owners of large rigs like the GLB often expect.

All the equipment you’ll ever need. The GLB is an impressively safe vehicle, with a five-star NHTSA rating including four stars for front-passenger protection. Every model comes with blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking, representing the tip of a technological iceberg.

For less than $40,000, the GLB 250 comes equipped with everything from a power tailgate and front seats to keyless start and LED headlights. You could easily spend $10,000 on luxuries including a Burmester audio system, adaptive dampers, and ventilated front seats. Alternatively, you could put that money towards the $51,000 35 AMG model, which has a pair of 10.3-inch screens with additional voice commands, while four-piston brake calipers nestle behind meaty 19-inch rims.

Final thoughts. Given their differences in performance and specification, you could almost treat the GLB 250 and GLB 35 AMG models as separate entities. However, both share a number of attributes including a seven-seater cabin, outstanding safety, and impressive levels of equipment.

If your budget will stretch, the more expensive GLB 35 model offers blistering performance allied to superior infotainment and a more comprehensive set of safety features. However, either GLB will be a good addition to your family – if you can live with the questionable looks and chronic lack of cargo space in a seven-seat guise.

Check prices for the 2022 Mercedes GLB-Class »