Business Van Review of the Mercedes Vito
WE’VE always been massive fans of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter here at businessvans.co.uk – and the three-pointed star in general to be honest.
The products are always top quality, the technology is usually way ahead of the opposition and the drivability is invariably superb.
But we’ve been rather more ambivalent over the years about the smaller Mercedes Vito.
The Mercedes Vito always seemed to be rather over-engineered. And this was reflected in the relatively high front-end price, which put it out of touch with some of the better value opposition in terms of pence per mile running costs.
Mercedes is well aware of these problems and has solved them by launching a brand new Vito that could well blow the opposition out of the water – (see our verdict below).
How has this transformation been achieved?
Basically by splitting the Mercedes Vito into two distinct models – front-wheel drive versions with a 1.6-litre engine for relatively lightweight urban use and rear-wheel drive 2.1-litre versions for heavier use.
That way the price (for FWD models anyway) will come down more to the level of the other vans in the medium sector, although we won’t know exact details until nearer the official launch next April.
So have the engineers at Mercedes miraculously produced their own 1.6-litre unit out of a top hat?
Indeed they have not. Instead they’ve turned to their partners at Renault (which already builds the Citan at its plant in Maubeuge) and blagged that oh-so-sweet little unit that at present powers the new Renault Trafic and Vauxhall Vivaro.
But when we flew to Vitoria in Spain to drive the new van, Mercedes-Benz bosses were keen to tell us that they didn’t just use this engine as it was. Instead it’s been “Mercified”. That means adjustments to the combustion process, changes to the fuel injectors and exhaust treatment and a different engine management system.
Power outputs for the new Mercedes Vito range from 88bhp to 190bhp.
Gross vehicle weights, meanwhile, go from 2.5 tonnes to 3.2 tonnes, there are two wheelbases, three load lengths and payloads up to 1,369kg – a best-in-class figure.
The new Mercedes Vito is now 140 mm longer than the old one, but the extra comes at the front for added crash protection. The load area remains the same as the old model.
In addition to the front and rear wheel drive models there will be a four-wheel version which won’t make it here. Mercedes has also decided to scrap the electric version which is currently available for the old model. Apparently the demand simply is not there to make such a vehicle a viable business proposition.
- Anyone familiar with the three-pointed star will know that top notch build quality is guaranteed – and the Mercedes Vito is no exception. The whole shebang has a very upmarket feel to it, the doors all snick (front ones) and thwunk (back ones) shut in a satisfactory manner and one gets the impression that this van might actually have been hewn from a single chunk of metal (although it wasn’t as we were treated to a tour of the factory in Vitoria while on our test drives and saw all the different bits being put together).
- As the new Mercedes Vito isn’t due to go on sale until next April, exact details are still a little hazy, but an overall fuel saving of 20% is something to really shout about – a maximum of 49.6mpg on the combined cycle for the 1.6 to be exact. The Vito was always a little on the thirsty side so the smaller engine will no doubt bring this van into view for some small van fleet buyers who would have shunned it in the past. Obviously the bigger engine won’t offer such a dramatic rise in efficiency but even that one promises 43.5mpg, which is pretty impressive in itself.
- Mercedes has always been at the forefront of the safety field and again this new Vito is dripping with anti-crash features. If you prang this van you really shouldn’t be driving at all, we reckon. As well as the usual ESP and ABS and so on, Crosswind Assist, which stops the van being blown off the road in a sudden sideways gust, and Attention Assist which makes a noise and flashes a picture of a coffee cup up on the screen if it feels the driver is nodding off, are slated to be standard. Other features such as Blind Spot Assist, Active Parking Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and tyre pressure monitoring will probably be paid-for options so few van operators are likely to order them. To show how much technology is loaded on to this van, we were told the wiring loom alone weighs 40kg!
- The seats are just brilliant – typically Germanic, which means they feel a bit hard at first but after 100 miles or so you realise that our Teutonic friends know a thing or two about seat design and they are in fact wonderfully supportive.
- The Mercedes Vito has a new electro-magnetic power steering system and the suspension has been modified and improved. While the vans handled nicely (we tested both 1.6 and 2.0-litre units) there was a slight vagueness in the steering which gave the feeling that the steering wheel wasn’t actually connected to the wheels. Having said that, our vans handled some hairy switchback roads around Bilbao without a problem so maybe we are just being picky.
- Some of the opposition nowadays offer a pull-down desk located in the back of the middle seat so drivers can slot a laptop in and work while parked up. The Vito doesn’t have one and when we asked why, the designers told us it was a health and safety matter – they didn’t want people being tempted to watch films and mess around on Facebook and other social media sites while driving along. That sounds a rather lame excuse to us.
- We really didn’t like the Becker sat-nav system installed on our vans. The map on the screen was confusing and the instructions frankly didn’t make sense sometimes. That meant we went wrong several times on our test drives. Give us a TomTom any day!
The aforementioned improvements have really revitalised what was becoming a bit of a world-weary contender in this sector.
We believe a lot more buyers will now look at the Vito as a possible business van choice but it all comes down to front-end pricing. The Mercedes Vito must be competitive here or it just won’t sell in great numbers.
|On the road price (ex-VAT)||£TBA|
|Load length||2,586 – 3,061 mm|
|Load width (max)||1,685 mm|
|Load height||1,258 mm|
|Load capacity||5.5 – 6.6 cu metres|
|Payload||904 – 1,369 kg|
|Towing capacity braked/unbraked||N/A|
|Engines||1.6-litre/2.1-litre 4 cylinder common rail diesel|
|Power/Torque||88-114bhp/134,161-188bhp, /N/A Nm|