As the first sometimes seven-seaters in the medium prestige SUV race, which of these two versatile haulers fits family life the best?
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is no stranger to Australians, having gone on sale here in 2015. The Mercedes-Benz GLB, however, is much newer having gone on sale in 2020.
Both occupy the medium-SUV class, and both fall into the ‘prestige’ sub-segment of the category. So far, they are the first of their kind to offer seven seats, though plenty of mainstream medium SUVs at lower pricepoints already run with a three-row seating layout.
It may seem like a mismatch at first, with the Mercedes owing its underpinnings to the A-Class small hatch range, while the Discovery Sport’s platform is a little more stand-alone, though trace its family tree back and the roots reach to the Ford Focus.
Both offer prestige appearance and equipment, both pack in seven seats and the promise of family flexibility, and both sit just over the $70,000 mark before options.
So, which is the better of these two flexible family freighters?
Pricing and Spec
Starting with base price, the Discovery Sport P250 R-Dynamic SE is the more wallet-friendly of the two from $70,867 before options and on-road costs. The Mercedes-Benz GLB250 isn’t far off that mark, though, from $73,535.
Both come standard with all-wheel drive, seven seats, dual-zone climate control, 19-inch alloy wheels (instead of the optional 20-inch wheels fitted here), LED headlights, and electrically adjustable front seats.
The Discovery Sport we’re using here is an MY20 model, but an MY21 version is just around the corner. Changes are only minor, but the price will creep up slightly to $74,076.
The Discovery Sport P250 includes standard adaptive cruise control, while the GLB250 comes with a sunroof. Standard Discovery Sport trim is partial leather, while Mercedes fits leather-look. The Benz has a more advanced driver-assist package, while the Land Rover is better equipped for off-road use.
You get proximity-key entry, semi-automated self-parking, and configurable ambient lighting as standard equipment in the GLB. You have to option those, either as packs or stand-alone features, on the Discovery Sport.
Things get tricky when it comes to safety, too. While not a perfect match of like-for-like features, it might be hard to decide what you do and don’t need the most.
A major attraction for the GLB is its child seat compatibility – there are five top-tether seat mounts across the second and third rows, and four ISOFIX points. The Discovery Sport, meanwhile, won't let you use the third row for child seats, with only two ISOFIX and three top-tether points in the middle row.
ANCAP awarded five stars in 2014 for the Disco, five in 2019 for the Benz, which means the scores aren’t a perfect match as the criteria get tougher each year.
There are eight airbags in the Discovery Sport, although one of those is bonnet-mounted to protect pedestrians. The GLB has nine, with rear-seat side airbags that aren’t included in the Discovery Sport. Both feature curtain airbags that extend to the third row.
Both cars come with blind-spot monitoring, rear-view cameras, front and rear park sensors, autonomous emergency braking, and lane-departure warning. Things like the 360-degree cameras (as seen on these particular cars) are options, and the Land Rover’s has a function to let you virtually see under the car for off-road use.
There are some differences, too. The P250 has reactive lane assist, and it’ll bounce you back into a lane if you stray out of it. The GLB250 has lane-keeping as part of the optional Driver Assistance Package, which means it can steer for you in short bursts, keeping the car centred in its lane more naturally.
Adaptive cruise control comes standard on the Discovery Sport, but it’s part of the Driver Assistance Package for Mercedes, which also adds features like lane-change assist and cross-traffic assist.
While some of the included features might be a little glitzy and lacking in substance, Mercedes-Benz includes them all the same, leaving the Discovery Sport to play catch-up in the equipment stakes.
|Mercedes-Benz GLB250 4Matic||Land Rover Discovery Sport P250 R-Dynamic SE|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power and torque||165kW at 6100rpm, 350Nm at 1800–4000rpm||184kW at 5500rpm, 365Nm at 1400–4500rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic||Nine-speed torque converter automatic|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim, combined (ADR)||7.7L/100km||8.1L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.9L/100km||11.8L/100km|
|Boot volume (behind third row / behind second row) (Learn more about SAE v VDA measurements)||140L / 500L (VDA)||157L / 754L (SAE)|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (2019)||5 starts (2014)|
|Warranty||Five years / unlimited kilometres||Three years / unlimited kilometres|
|Price as tested (before on-road costs)||$86,465||$81,947|
Tech and Infotainment
Mercedes-Benz has a crisp, fresh MBUX infotainment system with snappy load times, crisp graphics and a raft of interaction options: touchscreen, console touchpad, steering wheel capacitive control, and spoken instructions.
Right now, Land Rover has a slightly older system in the Discovery Sport called Touch Pro, but from next year a slightly updated model is set to arrive with a newer system called Pivi.
What’s the difference? Well, Touch Pro is a little menu-heavy, there’s a pause between screens as you swipe through, and the graphics, while not terrible, are more obviously grainy. Access is via touch or voice.
That’s being hyper-critical, of course. Both are fine to live with day to day, perfectly functional, and easy to access favourite functions on. But if you’re used to the latest-generation phones and tablets, the Land Rover does feel a little off the pace.
Inclusions common across the two cover things like inbuilt satellite navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, online access to remote vehicle functions and information services, and Bluetooth.
The Benz packs in digital radio and wireless phone charging. Land Rover would like you to pay more for those features.
Until the MY21 Discovery Sport arrives, we have to assess based on what we have here. With a little more detail and clarity, a few extra features built in, and more ways to access the system, the GLB’s fresher MBUX system takes the win.
Something about the styling of these two makes the GLB look the more compact of the pair, but it’s actually longer at 4638mm nose to tail compared to 4597mm for the Discovery Sport.
That suggests passenger space should be roughly even, or it would be were it not for the width difference – 1834mm for the GLB against 1904mm for the Discovery Sport, externally.
The impact is immediately felt inside, where the Land Rover uses its extra space to liberate more elbow room between front passengers and extra second-row space, making for a more versatile family car.
Mercedes tries to counter its more compact interior with some clever design tricks. The upper dash is set quite low, and the clean lines of the un-hooded instruments give the driver and front passenger a feeling of more open space.
That’s undone a little by the busyness of the dash details. There’s a slickness to the five vent-turbines in the dash, but a lot of individual elements that busy things up.
The cleaner, less cluttered look of the Discovery Sport feels a bit calmer.
There’s also a more solidly constructed feel to the Land Rover. Grab the door pulls or lean on the dash and console plastics and there’s no creaking or flexing.
In the Mercedes, while not flimsy, there’s a less precise tactility to a number of often-touched parts.
Mercedes does its bit for practicality with a huge glovebox and big front door bins, but with a narrow centre console, the lidded storage section isn't very wide. While the Land Rover is wider, it doesn’t offer up any real practical advantages.
There’s also a nice, supportive grippiness to the Discovery Sport's front seats.
The Luxtec and suedecloth trim is interesting. The faux-suede looks and feels like suede (though Light Oyster is a bold trim colour for a family car), but the Luxtec fabric feels, well, durable more than comfortable.
Thanks to the AMG Exclusive pack fitted to the GLB, leather trim covered the seats in place of the standard faux leather.
For a car that may be subject to food and drink spills, muddy shoes climbing over seats, dog dander, and any other mysterious liquids or semi-solids that come with family life, it seems like Benz has picked the right solution.
Head to the middle row and both feel spacious enough to carry a pair of adults in absolute comfort, provided there’s no-one behind.
The seats can slide, meaning you can maximise leg room or bring the little ones closer should you need to. On longer trips, both feature second-row recline for extra comfort.
Though it’s still a fairly new feature spreading through the seven-seat segment, neither of these cars has a one-touch electric release to get to the third row. It’s not difficult to flip forward the seats, but it could be better still.
The GLB really shows up its lack of width.
There’s more room to slot in a third occupant in the middle row of the Land Rover, but in the Mercedes it's a pinch, and not helped by a centre position that’s not really shaped for bums or backs.
There are air-con vents to the second row in both cars, but no USB power in the Discovery Sport. You do get a 12V barrel plug, though, so you can BYO adapter.
So then, those third rows?
It’s surprisingly mix-and-match for accommodation in the back-back. You get a narrower seat in the Mercedes, there’s no ventilation back there, and outward visibility is hampered by the tiny side glass.
There’s more space to spread out your feet, and a smidge more head room, but getting in and out can be trickier.
On the other hand, the Landy makes you twist your body to make room for your feet, yet there’s more knee space and easier in-and-out access. The seats are a little more generously proportioned, and you can option ventilation to the third row.
Handily, the Discovery Sport's windows are orientated a little further forward, which gives a better view out and should hopefully result in reduced travel sickness on longer drives, along with the vents and booster fan.
On the other hand, the GLB offers third-row charging and a more natural seating position.
Ultimately, the third row was the hardest to decide on. Both carry serious compromises, but Susannah and I are both adults – not kids who might fit in more easily.
We didn’t have the best time getting in and out, but the little balls of energy who’ll spend time there might have an easier time of it. In either case, row three is for occasional use, not full-time family transport.
Boot space, as you might expect with all three rows up, is pretty slim, but you can pack a couple of green shopping bags in, just.
Things like school bags, sports gear or overnight duffles might need to find a space on the floor, on laps, or on spare seats if you need all seats deployed.
Benz ticks boxes by providing a space to stow the cargo blind, which Land Rover misses. It also has a slightly more usefully sized space with the third row down, just. Your own needs might be the deciding factor here.
The GLB has 500L with the rear row down or 140L with it in place, while the Disco Sport looks to have an advantage with 754L or 157L with the third row up, except that’s not quite as it seems.
Both brands, frustratingly, use different official measuring procedures.
To the naked eye, the GLB’s boot is a tiny bit more accommodating with the third row in action, although neither car will leave much room for your groceries!
This was the hardest to judge. Every time I think one car has it over the other, something pops up to sway the decision. More space throughout the interior in the Discovery Sport, but more utility in the GLB.
It has to be a draw here. Not because the two are equally matched, but because they do so much, so differently, within their respective cabins.
Similarities aplenty here, too. Four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines, check. All-wheel drive, check. Even things like the mechanical packaging – transverse engines with front-biased (but variable) all-wheel systems.
Some of the differences centre around transmissions, with a nine-speed torque converter auto in the Land Rover and an eight-speed dual-clutch auto for the Mercedes.
Outputs vary slightly, too. The GLB250 musters 165kW at 6100rpm and 350Nm from 1800–4000rpm, but the P250 delivers 184kW at 5500rpm and 365Nm over a wider 1400–4500rpm band.
Both ask for 95RON premium unleaded. Officially, the Benz is a touch more frugal with a 7.7L/100km consumption rating. The Discovery Sport isn't far behind on 8.1L/100km.
On test that gap widened. Cycling both drivers through back to back, the Benz recorded 8.9L/100km and the Land Rover worked up a thirst at 11.8L/100km.
Our test-condition drive loop covers everything from city streets to quick freeway dashes and suburban ambling, with 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and 100km/h limits along the way. Interestingly, the Benz showed an average speed of 35km/h, the LR showed 40km/h indicating it had less time stopped, crawling or at idle, theoretically benefitting consumption.
Weight is the Discovery Sport’s enemy here, with a tare weight of 1905kg, almost 140kg more than the GLB at 1766kg. Neither is a lightweight, but getting mass rolling takes extra fuel, and the Land Rover tended to be a little more reluctant to build speed.
A draw then. The extra grunt from the Land Rover is handy to have in reserve, but the more frugal Mercedes-Benz is something handy to have around town.
Read on, though, because the on-road experience drives an interesting wedge between the two.
On the Road
While it may be the more powerful of this pair, the Land Rover doesn’t feel that way around town.
Whereas the GLB250 tends to accelerate with verve and feels lighter and more agile on urban streets, the Disco Sport P250 is quite timid, building speed slowly, with a long-travel accelerator that feels incongruous with the driveline response.
Certainly, the lighter, narrower Mercedes really makes the most of that advantage. Be it cruising the freeway or running to the shops, there’s always a nimbleness to how it drives.
There are some minor grumbles around the way the stop-start system coughs gruffly into action. Similarly, the dual-clutch auto can still feel vague at parking speeds, but is mostly polished.
The Land Rover leans more through even gentle bends, the steering doesn't offer much feedback or connectivity, and the transmission felt perpetually confused around town. Either refusing to upshift at times or aggressively kicking down multiple gears at a time for light rolling acceleration.
The Landy’s stop-start, while smoother, is slower to spring to life and get moving. At times it can be nerve-wracking.
The Mercedes is the softer-riding of the pair with adaptive dampers set to comfort mode. It’ll waft over most of the ripples found on an average street, but when it found a bump too big to handle, it really crashed and thumped its way through.
The Discovery Sport splits the difference. Not as wafty, feeding a little bit more general shake and wobble into the cabin, but also better able to cope with surprise potholes and whumps.
The Discovery also tended to be a little quieter on an open-road cruise, with tyre noise from the Mercedes being more pronounced.
As tested, the GLB wore 235/45R20 Bridgestone Alenza tyres, and the Disco Sport wore 235/50R20 Pirelli Scorpion Zero rubber. Different sizes and different tyre makes may yield different results.
Using some of the driver-assist features shows that the Benz has the more natural-feeling assistance for things like lane holding and adaptive cruise control, which operated as smoothly as if it were a human driver doing the work.
The Discovery Sport’s system is by no means bad, but it shows how quickly these systems have evolved. There’s not quite the same comprehensive list of functions, and things like adaptive cruise tended to accelerate and brake notchily, and not as smoothly as the Mercedes.
Once again, it’s hard to make a definitive call. The more settled and quieter ride of the Land Rover, or the more lively acceleration and easier manageability of the Mercedes-Benz?
Everyone will have their own priorities here, but the Benz feels more at home on city streets and more poised on the freeway, so it gets the nod.
As standard, the Mercedes comes with a five-year warranty with no kilometre limit. The Land Rover gets three years or 100,000km of warranty protection normally. However, there’s nearly always a special offer on the Disco Sport extending the warranty to five years.
Pre-paid servicing for the Discovery Sport is available at $1950 for five years. That’s a long-shot cheaper than the GLB250’s $3500 for five years, and a big win for the Land Rover.
Unofficially, I would like to call a draw. Every family is going to have their own priorities for space and capability, so the ultimate winner is the one that’s right for you and your family.
On points and by individual segment wins, the GLB takes the blue ribbon. It has better safety credentials, feels more fluent on the road, and has a fresher, more technical edge.
Conversely, the Discovery’s extra width could pay for itself if your family is likely to fill the middle row more often. Similarly, if weekends are spent out of town, where conditions can be a bit more variable, the Land Rover feels like the better fit.
Neither of these is perhaps an ideal seven-seater for full-time use, but they’ll certainly hold up to occasional use when required. There’s packaging flexibility in spades with the added freedom to do more, or carry more, when required.
This was a tricky comparison to judge because it really comes down to your individual lifestyle needs – and Kez and I actually initially disagreed on the winner based on our first impressions (hence the draw).
City dwellers will definitely find the GLB250 easier to live with thanks to its smaller size, zippier drivetrain and lighter steering feel, which all contribute to an overall more agile energy.
By comparison, the width of the Discovery Sport can prove cumbersome in smaller streets and make manoeuvring a little trickier. Although, as Kez said, the transmission can feel a little more polished than the GLB250’s at lower parking speeds.
Both cars feature an idle-stop system, but for me the Mercedes’s version is far smoother and better executed, although not imperceptible. By comparison, I ended up turning the Land Rover’s version off because I found it so incredibly laggy and grumbly that I couldn’t bear it any longer. That’s a problem, too, because this is a car that really needs the extra fuel-saving measures thanks to its sheer size and the extra grunt on offer.
In my experience, driving both cars in peak-hour traffic will see fuel consumption figures of just under 9.0L/100km for the GLB250, or well over 11.0L/100km for the Discovery Sport – the latter meaning more regular pit stops at the petrol station.
Taking numbers out of the equation, both competitors feel equally matched in terms of power and torque, but the Discovery Sport erred on the sluggish side for me, while the GLB250 was more immediate to react to pedal input.
Kez was spot on in saying the GLB250’s suspension is more floaty but a little unsettled over larger bumps, while the Discovery Sport feels more balanced and even-handed all round.
In terms of value for money, the GLB250 certainly appeared to me like the more expensive car in terms of the level of equipment and the way it’s all packaged together.
The digital displays are crisper, the seats are nicer and much more comfortable, and there’s a lot more driver assistance and customisation available, with that optional sunroof really sweetening the deal.
My equipment gripes with the GLB250 were fairly minimal – the lack of traditional USB ports was annoying, but easily fixed with a USB-C adapter, while the location of the gear shifter on the indicator stalk is something I find perennially bewildering.
Finally, some of the faux-metal elements felt a bit tacky and flimsy, but that feels like I’m nitpicking.
The Land Rover is similarly well equipped and everything certainly has a sturdier feel than the GLB250, possibly winning it points as the more hardy, practical family car contender.
However, while Kez found the Luxtec and suede cloth front seats to be supportive and grippy, I found them to resemble a fortified piece of cardboard.
While the digital displays aren’t as crisp, they’re also not as convoluted or overwhelming, and infotainment usability is higher than in the GLB250.
Finally, the rear row was the real kicker in this comparison. As far as I’m concerned, boot space was comparable in both cars, if slightly greater in the GLB250 (though not by much).
Getting in and out as an adult was equally unpleasant in both, and neither feels particularly spacious – with leg room a real balancing act based on the position of the middle seat.
But while it was missing air vents and a substantial rear window, the GLB250’s rear row won it for me. I had more uncomplicated leg room than in the Discovery Sport, which required me to do some yoga/gymnastics to get my lower half comfortable, and head room was slightly better.
It also has ISOFIX points all the way to the rear which – while I pity the poor soul who has to put a child seat in the back – is certainly handy for bigger families.
Both cars had one thing in common – their back seats are temporary solutions for kids, rather than full-time options for adults.
For me, the clear winner was the Mercedes-Benz GLB250. It has versatility on its side thanks to its size, the plethora of ISOFIX points is a boon for families, the fuel consumption was lower, and the comfort, equipment and packaging edged ahead of the Discovery Sport.
As far as I’m concerned, the only thing the Discovery Sport has over its competition is its lower servicing costs. But if you’re shopping at this pricepoint, do you even care?