Camouflage hides the shape of the Mercedes GLB, but insiders promise it will look like a baby G-Class. Picture: BRIAN WILLIAMS/SPIEDBILDE
Camouflage hides the shape of the Mercedes GLB, but insiders promise it will look like a baby G-Class. Picture: BRIAN WILLIAMS/SPIEDBILDE
The rear shows the squared-off tail end but the design appears to stop short of being a box such as the G-Class. Picture: BRIAN WILLIAMS/SPIEDBILDE
The rear shows the squared-off tail end but the design appears to stop short of being a box such as the G-Class. Picture: BRIAN WILLIAMS/SPIEDBILDE

Mercedes will break with its SUV traditions in 2019 by delivering a harder-core junior off-roader to sit beneath the all-new G-Class that features on our cover this week. We have known about it for some time but here you see the first spy pics of the development mule for what Mercedes insiders are calling the "baby G-Class", the GLB.

The GLB will be the flagship for the next generation of Benz’s new small car family, which will start 2018 with the new A-Class, and will sit between the GLA and the larger GLC SUVs in both price and size.

The 4,600mm GLB will be sold with at least three turbocharged four-cylinder powertrains, ranging from 200, 220 and 250 badges that it will share with the upcoming A-Class.

Unlike the rest of the compact range of Benzes, the GLB will derive its styling cues largely from the new G-Class and draw inspiration from the 2015 Ener-G-Force Los Angeles motor show concept from 2015.

Less road-focused than any other compact Mercedes SUV, the GLB will still share the next A-Class’s MFA2 architecture to make it scalable, and is also likely to score a high-performance GLB45 AMG variant. It’s also likely to swallow the mild-hybrid powertrain from the upcoming A300 hatch.

About 180mm longer than the current GLA, the GLB has been developed under the X247 code name and will give Mercedes a chance at an even more profitable model mix via a range of off road-style body kits, wheel and tyre and ride height packages. There is also a long-wheelbase version under development (likely to be the version in our spy shots), which will add about 200mm to the GLB’s overall length and a third row of seats to deliver a seven-seat capacity.

The X247 project essentially follows the same strategy Volkswagen used for the Tiguan by using a standard model for Europe and a long-wheelbase model, such as the Tiguan Allspace, to target China and the US.

It’s one of the three new badges for Mercedes-Benz’s five existing compact cars, with the others being a relatively conservative A-Class sedan based on 2017’s Shanghai motor show concept car and a two-door coupe to give the C-Class coupe a baby brother too. Mercedes SA says it cannot make any comments on the GLB but we expect the production version to debut towards the end of 2018.

Stars of Detroit

Kia has unveiled the next generation of its Cerato sedan. Picture: NEWSPRESS USA
Kia has unveiled the next generation of its Cerato sedan. Picture: NEWSPRESS USA

The North American International Auto Show is taking place this week and while the show is less of an annual highlight than it was a decade ago, there have still been a few big reveals. One was the new Mercedes G-Class, but Kia also showed the next generation of its Cerato sedan. Kia SA says the new model with its sportier design and increased dimensions will be here before the end of 2018.

The company says it has focused on reducing internal noise and promises much more technology including new infotainment, wireless phone charging and a suite of driver assistance systems.

Hyundai used the show to unveil the next generation of its Veloster coupe but the main news was the reveal of the Veloster N. Following on from the i30 N that debuted in 2017, the Veloster N will feature styling and performance enhancements over the Veloster Turbo, including an engine producing 205kW. Hyundai SA has shelved plans to bring the i30N to SA due to pricing so we are not holding our breath for the arrival of a performance Veloster.

Volkswagen unveiled the next generation of its Jetta sedan, which might have worried Kia SA with its Cerato except Volkswagen SA says it is not likely to be bringing the new Jetta to our shores. That will sadden fans of the nameplate but as VW seeks more cost-effective solutions, we could see an alternative come out of South America in the form of the Virtus.

Being Detroit, Ford had to come up with something special and they did in the form of the Mustang Bullitt, a limited-edition modern interpretation of the car that starred in the Steve McQueen movie. Even more interesting was that the main car from the movie made a surprise appearance at the Detroit show, having disappeared in the 1970s.

Mini: More Britishness

The updated Mini will feature some unique touches such as the Union Jack tail lights. Picture: BMW
The updated Mini will feature some unique touches such as the Union Jack tail lights. Picture: BMW

Mini has revealed the next generation of its, uh, Mini. The company has introduced a number of updates to the hatch and convertible variants including the inclusion of Union Jack taillights. These will not appeal to all of course but as Mini fans we think they are quite cool. The British theme does not stop there though, with Union Jack lighting across the passenger side of the dashboard too. There are probably some other new things about the latest Mini as well and when we stop arguing about whether the taillights are too much or not, we will bring you more details.

Toyota goes super

Toyota is in the mood for supercars with this new concept from its Gazoo Racing division. Picture: TOYOTA
Toyota is in the mood for supercars with this new concept from its Gazoo Racing division. Picture: TOYOTA

We all know that Toyota is working on a new version of the Supra, but what came as a surprise is that the company has also been working on something super — a supercar that is. The company quietly unveiled its GR (Gazoo Racing) Super Sport concept at the Tokyo Auto Salon that Toyota says incorporates everything it has learnt from its involvement in the top class of World Endurance Championship racing. The concept features a twin-turbo V6 mated to a Toyota Hybrid-System Racing powertrain producing a combined output of 735kW. It is unclear when or even if Toyota will put the concept into production but as it aims to make its cars more exciting, we are hoping it will.

Stay safe in 2018

The Volvo XC60 was the safest car tested by Euro NCAP in 2017. Picture: QUICKPIC
The Volvo XC60 was the safest car tested by Euro NCAP in 2017. Picture: QUICKPIC

Vehicle safety organisation Euro NCAP has released the list of its safest cars tested in 2017 and at the top of the chart is the new Volvo XC60, which arrives in SA about the middle of 2018. It was also the safest large off-road vehicle tested. Volkswagen also proved its safety credentials with its new Arteon found to be the safest executive car tested in 2017, the Polo the safest supermini and the T-Roc the safest small off-road vehicle.

Two Subarus also made the list with the XV and Impreza heading the small family car category. The new Opel Crossland X was the safest in the small MPV category.