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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - Vito - 114CDI LWB

Our Opinion

We like
Inherent safety, design, dash layout, cabin space, passenger-car instruments and multimedia interface, manoeuvrability, load-friendly packaging
Room for improvement
Tardy diesel response, dull steering, no standard camera, no overhead grab handles, no rear sensors, foot-operated park brake

Gallery

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Mercedes-Benz logo6 Nov 2015

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

Price and equipment

Vito is to Mercedes what Transporter and Transit are to Volkswagen and Ford respectively – European designed and tuned vans with that extra measure of safety, refinement, and capability. Or so the reputation goes.

Now in its third generation, the Spanish-built commercial vehicle range is 140mm longer than before in all iterations, though short- and long-wheelbase measurements remain the same as before at 3200mm and 3430mm respectively. Width remains steady at 1928mm, as does height at 1910mm.

The 447 series Vito also adopts front-drive for the first time on some models, as well as a host of safety upgrades – some even available as standard.

The latter includes dual airbags, a seatbelt reminder, driver attention assist (a fatigue detection device), crosswind assist that counteracts strong buffeting from the side – handy in a slab-sided van – and latest ESC stability control with enhanced understeer control, a brake disc drying feature, and a pre-brake prep system hitch up a trailer and there’s now Trailer Stability Assist there too.

Our van is the diesel-powered 114CDI BlueTec seven-speed automatic long-wheelbase, starting from $48,115 plus on-road costs for the long body, or $51,390 as tested with the extra-long body that is almost 5400mm long.

Among its standard features are cruise control, power windows, remote central locking for all doors, Bluetooth audio streaming and phone connectivity, air-conditioning, power steering, electric mirrors, and a plethora of storage places.

But you’ll need to pay $700 extra for dual side airbags, $900 for a reversing camera, and $790 for curtain window bags.

Additionally, the latest Vito offers automatic parking assistance for $1230, or for another $1600, a Driver Assistance Package consisting of Collision Prevent Assist (with audible and visual warnings), Blind-spot and Lane-Keeping Assistance, rain sensors, and leather-sheathed steering wheel drop Collision Prevention and that option falls to $1300.

Finally, LED headlights, as part of the Intelligent Light System which also brings Adaptive High-beam Assist, is a $1900 option.

Interior

Van hardiness meets late-last-decade Mercedes cabin tech inside the latest Vito, though the latter is no bad thing really.

Complete Benz instrumentation (classy analogue with a very comprehensive digital TFT screen in the centre that includes a handy digital speedo and trip computer), contemporary three-spoke leather-lined steering wheel, quite complicated and non-touchscreen but effective multimedia system (with a fussy toggle), cruise control stalk, and lovely power window/electric mirror switches are the items familiar with the passenger-car side of things.

Though sturdy, the plastics look and feel as if they should last a lifetime of use the ventilation is excellent storage is sufficient and the view out is commanding, aided by large mirrors and very deep front and side glazing. Nice one, Daimler.

But the Vito has some surprising omissions and disappointments inside too, beginning with seats that feel a bit flat and unsupportive the foot-operated park brake is an anachronism (necessitating a long reach down to the release handle) the climate control interface feels cheap, with a difficult to read (analogue) temperature setting and why are a reversing camera, overhead grab handles, or rear parking sensors not standard at this price point?Out back, the load area is vast as you’d expect from a 5370mm extra-long van, with massive sliding doors, a large tailgate (barn doors that open at 90 degrees and then 180 degrees are optional), low floors, and eight floor-mounted rings to tie things down with.

Note, however, that very long objects can’t be slid into the cabin underneath the front seats, such as some of the Vito’s rivals are able to.

We’d think about getting a rubber floor cover though, to help drown out the tyre and road boom coming inside when the Vito is driven unladen.

The width of the panel van’s cargo space is 1685mm the loading lengths is 2908mm in this extra long body. Cargo space volume is 6.6 cubic metres respectively. Payload of 1369kg.

Engine and transmission

Merc’s long-lived and bulletproof 100kW/330Nm 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel is feeling its age now, particularly as it chugs away at idle.

Far from feeling sprightly, off-the-line response is a bit doughy, though it does have 2145kg of weight to lug around. However, once the revs are up and the turbo kicks in, things liven up significantly, with plenty of load-lugging torque on tap. Still, it isn’t especially smooth or refined, and never quiet.

However, the seven-speed torque converter auto does a fine job shuffling drive to the rear wheels as needed, and is particularly seamless doing so. It saves the 114CDI’s drivetrain, and also helps with its impressive 6.8L/100km (indicated) lifetime average over 2050km.

Ride and handling

If you’re used to the current VW Transporter, or driven the latest Ford Transit, you might find the steering a tad too doughy and feel-free.

However, once used to the slightly slow-geared ratio, and the Vito becomes your ally, with just enough lightness for it to be a cinch in city streets – aided by a very tight turning circle – yet planted and secure at freeway speeds thanks to a measured response. Plus, the Benz van isn’t too fazed by crosswinds.

The ride is also quite comfortable, while the brakes feel completely up to the job – even when laden with a heavy load.

Steering is electric rack and pinion while the suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a semi-trailing-arm set-up out back.

Safety and servicing

Mercedes says it offers “a range of maintenance and repair options at a pre-determined, transparent and low price”. There are three levels of cover: BestBasic, SelectPlus and Complete.

The Vito has not been tested by Euro NCAP or ANCAP, but the passenger van version – the Viano – has scored a five-star result in Europe.

Verdict

The handsome Mercedes-Benz Vito certainly achieves it commercial vehicle objectives with aplomb, backed up by an economical engine, excellent automatic transmission, secure dynamics, and a comfy ride.

If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the Spanish van also offers top-class passenger-car safety gear, enhancing its appeal significantly.

But we’d prefer a bit more steering feel, a punchier and smoother engine, and more supportive driver’s seat, while – for the money – a camera or rear parking sensors would certainly help.

At any rate, if you can afford it – and many tradies spend lots more on inferior pick-up trucks – then the Vito is up there with the class best.

Certainly you’ll struggle to find a safer proposition.

Rivals

Ford Transit Custom 330L manual from $39,490 plus on-road costs
Fifty years in the van business shows, with the latest Transit majoring on design, practicality, car-like dash, dynamic tuning, sweet manual gearshift and storage galore. But no auto option, driver-assist tech, and dual-sliding side doors are barriers.

VW T5 Transporter TDI400 DSG from $45,290 plus on-road costs
Though over a decade old, the venerable VW T5’s 2010 GP update has kept the German competitive, with a gutsy drivetrain (jerky DSG excluded), big space, and comfy seats. But it is austere in there, and very utilitarian. Wait for the T6 reskin coming soon.

Renault Trafic L2H1 Energy dCi 140 manual from $38,490 plus on-road costs
A new-gen model has brought downsized engines with less power but more efficiency, an updated cabin, and more connectivity, but is hamstrung by the lack of driver-assist safety and no auto availability.

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