MERCEDES-BENZ VITO 2.1CDI 113 Compact 136
What is it?
You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for the Vito really.
It’s been a rock solid performer in the medium panel van sector for 18 years now, but such is the huge popularity of the bigger Sprinter that it has been very much left in the shade.
it’s the only medium panel van to come in three lengths – compact, long and extra long
Add to this the fact that this segment has been dominated by the Volkswagen Transporter almost since the beginning of time and you’ll see what a struggle the German manufacturer has had in making it a more popular choice for UK operators.
Mercedes-Benz is well aware of this problem – which is about to get even worse now the much-feted Ford Transit Custom has arrived – and has been pushing Vito as a credible alternative to the smaller Sprinter versions. After all, the biggest Vito and the smallest Sprinter almost overlap each other in payload and cargo volume.
The Vito was last upgraded in 2011, with sharper looks, more fuel-efficient Euro 5 engines and an upgraded chassis underneath.
And Vito has quite a few USPs over the rivals.
For starters, it’s the only medium panel van to come in three lengths – compact, long and extra long – and all models get a six-speed gearbox and ESP stability control as standard.
This system helps stop sideways skids and has been lauded as the best safety invention since the seatbelt. On rivals the Citroen Dispatch, Fiat Scudo, Peugeot Expert, Renault Trafic and Vauxhall Vivaro it’s a paid-for option.
There’s a high roof option too, so load volumes go right up to 6.5 cubic metres.
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Two engines are on offer – 2.1-litre four cylinder and 3.0-litre six cylinder – and power outputs go from 95bhp to a mind-blowing 224bhp. Don’t even think about that one unless you have VERY deep pockets or an uncle who happens to own an oil refinery!
We chose the short wheelbase 136bhp model for our Vito van review as it’s one of the most popular models on offer
There’s also a Blue Efficiency version with auto stop-start, special tyres with lower rolling resistance and a few other tweaks and twiddles which improve fuel economy on the combined cycle from 36.7mpg to 38.7mpg. You’ll save 112 gallons of fuel over an 80,000-mile lifecycle (£696 at today’s fuel prices) but as this van costs £630 than the test model, we don’t see much in it.
- The obvious hot item here is the three-pointed star on the front of this van. As with Merc’s cars it’s taken as read that this vehicle is built to the highest quality standards and is pretty much guaranteed to have used buyers queuing at your door when you want to sell it.
- You get the curious feeling when driving a Vito that it may actually have been hewn out of a single chunk of metal, such is its solidity. And on the road the engine proves quiet and efficient, with a real ride-on-rails feel.
- In fact, if you don’t want to undertake any journeys fully loaded up and down hills we’d be tempted to recommend the 95bhp model. It’s no mean performer and costs £1310 less.
- Meanwhile the seats are typically Teutonic – they feel like slabs of concrete when you first sit on them but after a couple of hundred miles you realise that they are in fact very comfortable and supportive. Clever people, these Germans!
- Mercedes-Benz comes up trumps on service, maintenance and repairs (SMR) too. As its offerings go right up to the Actros at 44 tonnes GVW, you as a commercial vehicle buyer get truck levels of service too. If you want your van serviced at 3am, you’ll get it done (which means less downtime) and during the day you won’t get stuck in the queue behind Mrs Smith wanting her A-Class looking at. (Click here for an example of a business that switched to Mercedes because of the quality of service.
- Despite the fact that this van has a Euro 5 engine, it’s lagging behind the latest opposition now in the fuel economy stakes.
- The new Ford Transit Custom ECOnetic, for example, officially returns 44.8mpg on the combined cycle against our review van’s 36.7mpg. This equates to a possible fuel saving of a whopping £2450 over 80,000 miles. The Transit is actually cheaper to buy as well – £19,245 against £19,540.
- Of course, it must be remembered that these official figures are calibrated with the vehicles empty and on a rolling road, so you won’t get anything like them in real life once you’ve factored in cargo, hilly roads and heavy-footed drivers. But suffice to say that on paper the savings are significant.
- In the back end, volume is on a par with the rivals at 5.2 cubic metres and the loading lip is pretty low, meaning cargo can be slid in and out easily…
- …but the Vito loses out on payload to the Ford Transit Custom (930kg against 1083kg) and it won’t carry three-metre lengths of pipe and wood (load length is 2420mm). With the Transit Custom, you get a little hole in the bottom of the bulkhead so that items like this can be slid through into the cab so it will carry anything up to 3055mm long.
- Even extra long wheelbase Vitos only deliver a 2.9m load length
- Problems like this just go to show how quickly van technology is progressing. Ford started with a clean sheet with the Transit Custom and the boffins seem to have factored in a whole lot of handy items (such as the aforementioned bulkhead hole and roof rails that fold right down into the roof when not being used) which older rivals just don’t have.
Business Vans verdict
A stunning performer when it was launched in 2011 but the Mercedes Vito is now looking a little unsteady against the latest opposition.
However, that three-pointed star and its universal allure means it remains – quite rightly – a favourite among small businesses who want a smart and professional image for their business.
And with the Vito, they get it.
What you need to know
|On the road price (ex-VAT)||£19,540|
|Load length (max)||2420mm|
|Load width (max)||1650mm|
|Load capacity (max, seats up)||5.2cu m|
|Towing capacity braked/unbraked||2000kg/750kg|
|Engine||2.3-litre, 4-cyl turbodiesel|