If there can be such a thing as a workhorse with a pedigree, Mercedes' mid-sized Vito van is surely it. Jonathan Crouch drives one.
Ten Second Review
The Mercedes Vito van is a quality mid-sized LCV contender offered with either a 2.0-litre diesel engine or a full-electric variant. Either way, the rear-driven powertrain is class-competitive in terms of load capacity and payload stats. And there's supple ride and quitean expensive feel that sets this model apart in its increasingly tough segment.
One of the things you learn early on in business is that the cheapest options aren't always the best ones. And that the way you deliver your goods says plenty about them. Both things explain the appeal of the Mercedes-Benz of medium range vans, this model, the Vito, which slots in just below the larger Sprinter model in the German brand's LCV range. Well over a million examples have been sold since its original launch in 1996. A MK2 model followed in 2003 and this current MK3 design was originally launched in 2014. In 2019 though, this third generation 'W447'-series model got a far-reaching package of improvements that made it smarter, better to drive and crucially, less costly to run. An all-electric eVito model arrived at the same time - and was updated in 2022.
All this Vito model line evolution is much needed for this Mercedes to be able to offer a credible alternative to tough rivals as diverse as the Renault Trafic and Nissan Primastar design; the Peugeot Expert, Vauxhall Vivaro, Fiat Scudo, Toyota Proace and Citroen Dispatch collaboration; the Volkswagen Transporter; and of course the ubiquitous Ford Transit Custom. All these alternatives claim to match this Vito's all-round excellence for less money, but Mercedes reckons that it won't take operators very long behind the wheel to appreciate the difference that the Three-Pointed Star can make.
So, what kind of business do you have? If its deliveries are primarily long distance ones, then Mercedes wants to sell you the diesel version of this Vito, which features rear-wheel drive and the brand's usual 'OM 654'-series 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel engine. The base '114' version delivers this unit with 134hp and 330Nm of torque and offers the choice of 6-speed manual or 9G-TRONIC 9-speed auto transmission. The alternative '116' diesel model gets 160hp and 380Nm of torque and comes only with that auto gearbox.
The alternative to diesel power in your Vito is to go all-electric with the eVito variant. You'd expect an all-electric Vito to be uber-refined, which of course it is. And it's quite nippy, thanks to a 116hp electric motor with up to 360Nm of torque. But you might also expect it to go further on a single charge than it actually does. The 66kWh battery manages up to 162 miles - though that's a big improvement on the limited 92 mile range achieved by the little 41kWh battery fitted to the original version of this model. The current quoted range remains rather limited compared to this model's Mercedes EQV People carrier cousin; but it's now competitive compared to direct EV mid-sized van segment rivals. To give you some class perspective, comparable 50 kWh all-electric versions of the Vauxhall Vivaro, the Citroen Dispatch and the Peugeot Expert manage around 143 miles on a single charge.
Whichever Vito variant you choose, one attribute you'll notice on your test drive is this Vito's superb refinement and seat support: quite simply, it's the most comfortable van we've ever driven.
Design and Build
The visual changes made to the improved version of this third generation 'W447'-series design at its facelift back in 2019 were subtle, mainly centring around a restyled radiator grille. Rear twin doors are standard for the van models, which can be opened back to the 180-degree position or locked in place at an angle of 90-degree. A tailgate is standard on the crew van and Tourer models, as well as being a no-cost option for panel van models. Easy access is also achieved to the loadspace via side sliding doors, fitted to both sides of the vehicle as standard, with a wide entry. In addition, a full-height bulkhead is fitted to panel vans as standard.
The Vito's wide door opening and well placed step mean that getting in to the cabin is a simple enough manoeuvre and once seated aloft, you'll find a cab with three-abreast seating that's closer than ever to Mercedes-Benz passenger car standards thanks to the introduction of higher quality fabrics. It helps that the smart steering wheel isn't set at such a bus-like angle as you'll find in some competitors, with further car-like cues found in the way that most of the controls are located on a neatly presented centre console with the gearstick protruding from the dash below. An optional cabin highlight is the digital inside rearview mirror. This can transmit an image from an HDR camera fitted to the rear window and project it on to the mirror's display. Which means you'll always have a fully functioning rear view mirror at all times, even if you've got a window-less full-height bulkhead fitted; or if the boot or load compartment are full to the roof.
Market and Model
With three lengths, three weight variants, and two turbodiesel engines in five power ratings, this Vito offers a broad range, with prices starting from around £28,000 (excluding VAT) for a typical entry-level 110 CDI panel van L2 variant. There are two standard trim levels - 'Progressive' and 'Premium'.
In addition to the panel van range, that Vito Crew Van variant combines the advantages of a panel van with those of a crewbus. For even more focus on passenger carrying, a further Tourer model is available in two versions - Vito Tourer PRO and Vito Tourer SELECT, which come with eight seats (including driver) as standard and the potential to optionally specify nine seats in total.
The all-electric eVito is offered only with this model line's two longer body lengths (L2 and L3) and a single 'Progressive' trim level. Prices start from around £47,000, excluding VAT and OLEZ grant contribution.
Across the Vito range, standard features inside include cruise control with a Speedtronic variable Speed Limiter, a multifunction steering wheel with trip computer, plus an infotainment system including a Bluetooth hands-free system, plus audio streaming, USB and aux-in ports, an iPod interface and an SD memory card slot.
Standard safety equipment includes Adaptive ESP, Adaptive Brake Lights, Attention Assist, Crosswind Assist, driver and co-driver airbags, Hill-Start Assist, reflection-style headlights with daytime running lights, Rescue Assist QR codes, plus a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System. Thorax and window airbags are standard for the Vito Tourer PRO and SELECT, and optional on the panel and crew van.
Practicalities and Costs
The Vito comes in three handy and not so handy lengths: L1, L2 and L3 (just L2 and L3 for the eVito). In the cargo bay, there are load-restraining belts and plenty of tie-down points to keep whatever you're carrying from moving around. If despite all this provision, you still forget to tie things down, there are protective panels up to guard against interior scrapes and dents. The L1 body shape has a 5.5m3 load capacity; for the L2, it's 6.0m3; and for the L3 it's 6.6m3. Diesel panel van payloads range from 917-1,021kgs.
Keeping costs down will be a major priority for potential owners, so it'll be good news for operators that the Vito's OM 654-series 2.0-litre diesel engine line-up is decently economical and clean. CO2 figures now range between 191g/km and 206g/km, depending on variant choice, helped by a standard ECO start/stop function. Combined cycle fuel consumption is in the 36-39mpg bracket.
In the eVito, the 66kWh battery manages up to 162 miles on the combined cycle. Mercedes quotes an 80% recharging time of 35 minutes at a rapid charging point; it's six and a half hours using an 11kW wallbox; or 20 hours from a domestic plug. The eVito payload figures range between 749-807kgs.
The biggest compliment we could pay this Vito would be to suggest it to be the least van-like van we've driven to date. Transit-class designs don't usually also have to function as luxury, up-market people carriers (as this one does) and the difference in build excellence is obvious as soon as you take a seat inside. But nice though it is to have a quality feeling behind the wheel of one of your company's LCVs, that doesn't pay the business bills. So Mercedes has looked at the best that its competitors can offer and borrowed high technology from its luxury car line-up in order to match them. The adoption of the OM 654-series 2.0-litre diesel engine has been crucial here, significantly improving this LCV's efficiency and emissions.
The result is a benchmark among vans that you can buy with head as well as heart and one that can carry heavy loads with speed, refinement, comfort, surprisingly sharp handling, reasonable fuel consumption and decently clean emissions. The eVito EV version can't match the class leaders in terms of driving range though. Whatever Vito model you're looking at, there will of course always be cheaper options of course. Nearly all though, are lacking this van's one most crucial ingredient: Star Quality.