Practical vans and station wagons have had their day as family trucks. But can the hip Mercedes GLB and Skoda Kodiaq SUVs with their powerful diesel engines and all-wheel drive really do everything better? The comparison test clarifies that and much more.
One of the greatest joys of everyday life is when you have the right solution ready for every problem, no matter how small. Yes, you, dear parents, are welcome to pat each other on the back at this point. After all, you all run a successful small family business, and there are a number of imponderables that have to be mastered every day.
How good that both the Mercedes GLB 220 d 4Matic and the Skoda Kodiaq 2.0 TDI 4x4 with powerful two-liter diesel engines and all-wheel drive and increased ground clearance can not only overcome speed bumps in front of daycare centers or schools. Because if the little ones suddenly discover dirty hobbies such as downhill biking or paintball instead of football or tennis, the plastic-covered SUVs not only have to load their trailer hitches with bicycle racks - with those of the Mercedes up to two tons, the Skoda even more can pull 300 kilograms more - but also prove off-road capability. Both test cars have extra off-road modes ready for this, which regulate the early torque when starting off on slippery surfaces, soften the throttle response and give traction control more freedom. Okay, of course, the two SUVs are far from elevating them to Jeep or even Landy, but it's easily enough for expeditions over deserted field, forest and meadow paths.
Good brakes, all good
The limiting factor are the more sporty mixed tires anyway, which Mercedes charges for the GLB as well as the 19-inch tires (together: 893 euros). On the other hand, the rubbers feel quite comfortable on asphalt. Is that the reason for the slightly better braking values of the Mercedes? Well, the optimal disc brakes with a larger diameter probably also play a role (only available in the technology package for 3,558 euros), with which the GLB comes to a standstill from 100 km/h after 35.4 meters and thus half a meter earlier than the Kodiaq.
The Skoda with its 2.0 liter TDI also stays close in the 0-100 sprint. Here he loses only a blink of an eye to the 61 kg lighter 220 d. But the measured values reveal only half: compared to the 190 hp Mercedes diesel, the diesel from the VW group looks more tired, especially when starting off. Although it also lifts 400 Nm, these come noticeably later. An impression that is further reinforced as the journey progresses: because even during spontaneous overtaking sprints on country roads or fast motorway stages, a few of the 200 horses always seem to stay in the stable and doze off.
Driving fun is limited
But what if you are late for the family brunch with your grandparents on Sunday? Well, both of them have the almost obligatory sport mode ready: now the gear shifts faster and the four-cylinder diesel engine revs higher, which you can hear a little too well, especially in the Mercedes. The digital instruments are rearranged, the ambient lighting blushes, and the optional adaptive chassis switch tightly - whereby their spread is noticeably larger in the Benz. And the Swabian has his structure a little better under control overall, even if this results in only minimal differences on winding country roads and the ESP corrects him earlier. The fact that the GLB still manages to corner more easily is due to its more precise steering, which gives the driver significantly more feedback. But although both chase each other nimbly and safely through the double lane change and the 18-meter slalom, there is hardly any real driving fun here or there.
Since the stomachs of your fellow passengers usually react sensitively to such sporty driving maneuvers anyway, it is better to slow down voluntarily and switch to comfort mode. Now both, Skoda and Mercedes, fluff over the asphalt surface with their adaptive dampers and even take the shock out of deep potholes. The GLB springs a little bit finer here and rightly sets the benchmark in the compact SUV class.
A relaxed pace is also rewarded at the pump. In the test, the Mercedes indulges in 7.2 liters per 100 kilometers - more than half a liter less than the Skoda. On the Eco round, the GLB even has 5.5 liters, while the Kodiaq exceeds the six-liter mark. And even if the differences seem marginal, every euro that relieves the family budget is welcome - isn't it?
Burdens the family coffers
However, both SUVs are not for low earners: After all, the Kodiaq as Laurin & Klement (test car price with extras relevant to the evaluation: 54,970 euros) has almost everything you need and want. Mercedes, on the other hand, puts the GLB quite naked for 57,193 euros – adjusted for equipment, the two SUVs cost more than 10,000 euros.
The Swabians have arranged the interior more elaborately with neatly merging wood, aluminum elements and piano lacquer - but only above the waistline, below it it quickly gets hard and clumsy. Optionally, the Benz brings more entertainment into the booth: The MBUX has numerous options and submenus ready, but thanks to the touchpads, you can find your way around them more intuitively than in the Skoda infotainment jungle.
The Czechs, for example, hide the reset of the odometer behind six (!) touch operating steps.That's almost as annoying as having to invoke the Benz's massage function via the touchscreen menu. Alternatively, you can simply activate them via voice command. At least as long as the kids in the back aren't busy getting help with their math homework. Didn't you expect that now? Well, the MBUX tells you the Bundesliga game results or presents the weather report.
In contrast, Skoda's voice control often only understands the train station. After all, the most important commands, such as telephone contacts or navigation destinations, can usually be spoken quite accurately. The fact that air conditioning functions cannot be called up here in the literal sense can be overcome thanks to the classic knobs and switches, even if, as with Mercedes, you occasionally use the touchscreen for fine adjustments.
Lots of space for everyday life
Nice and good. But what really counts for families are the practical aspects of the SUV: so let's get into the Skoda. Here you can get in very comfortably through the large doors, the edges of which are protected by a fold-out plastic rail. At the front you sit more comfortably on electrically adjustable leather armchairs than in the rather narrow Mercedes sports seats. Rear seat occupants snuggle up on the softer leather bench in the Kodiaq, rest their feet on the foot cushions and lean back against the adjustable backrest while their heads are supported by the neck cushions. Now just click the smartphone into the mobile phone holder on the front headrests and activate the seat heating, then the journey can't be long enough.
In the rear there is not only 765 liters of space (Mercedes: 570 liters), but also a full-fledged spare wheel and up to two mothers-in-law. Because Skoda hides two pop-up seats in the test car - which would also exist for the GLB. There is not much space left for luggage, but when fully loaded the Kodiaq packs around 200 kg more than the GLB at 641 kg.
The Mercedes suddenly doesn't open the electric flap as wide, but makes loading easier with the lower loading sill and a height-adjustable loading floor, which, however, does not provide space for the luggage blind. As in the Kodiaq, the back seat can be moved for more storage space. The also three-part and tiltable backrest folds down, but not remotely unlocked, which does not change the fact that the boxy shape creates a well usable loading area (1,805 liters, Skoda 2,005 liters). Yes, no station wagon can do that and only a few vans could do it better.
So what remains is a lot of room for the realization that compact SUVs may not be able to do everything, but they can do a lot better - and the Mercedes GLB ultimately secured victory in the comparison test.