Mercedes-Benz Vito is the medium-sized van in the company’s van line-up. It’s for sale alongside the larger Sprinter and small Citan, and with a spacious load area and some useful tech on board, it definitely should be on your shortlist if you’re looking to buy a medium-sized van. The Vito is aimed at the busiest and most competitive commercial vehicle sector, but it’s offered at a price that means it’s a strong rival for models such as the Ford Transit Custom, Volkswagen Transporter, Vauxhall Vivaro, Renault Trafic, Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert.
While the last-generation Vito had a premium image that worked wonders on residual values, sales of the Mercedes van suffered because it was only offered with rear-wheel drive in a limited number of configurations. However, the current van comes with either front- or rear-wheel-drive, a choice of two wheelbases and three body lengths.
As well as the panel van versions, you can also order the Vito Crew Van and Tourer minibus models, and of course there’s the Vito Taxi for cabbies, while the eVito panel van is available for zero-emissions deliveries. All told, the Vito now comes in as broad a range as you’ll find offered by its main rivals. The lack of a high-roof variant will be an issue for some buyers, but Mercedes clearly thinks that’s an unnecessary bridge to the larger Sprinter model. Load volumes in the Vito vans range from 5.5 cubic metres to 6.6 cubic metres, while payloads for the diesels go up to 818kg as standard.
Power for the Vito van comes from a choice of four diesel engines, or the all-electric drive offered by the eVito. The diesels are badged 110CDI, 114CDI, 116CDI and 119CDI, and the engine you get will depend on which gearbox you choose. Mercedes offers Progressive and Premium trims, while the Crew Van also comes in Sport spec, and is a bit of a bridge between the Vito van and the platform-sharing V-Class MPV.
Progressive trim is the only one offered with a manual gearbox, and these versions are front-wheel drive with the 110 or 114 1.7-litre diesel, only in L1 and L2 body lengths. All other versions of the Vito diesel feature the larger 2.0-litre motor, are rear-wheel drive and feature Mercedes’ latest 9G-Tronic auto gearbox.
The Vito is a high-quality product, but its problem has always been persuading UK van buyers that it’s worth a premium over the mainstream alternatives. The latest model closes the price gap to its rivals, and it’s a great choice if you prioritise comfort, refinement, technology and a general classy feel. Where the Vito is lacking is in both its raw capacity and the practical features designed to make a hard day’s work pass that little bit more easily.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
The reason behind the Vito’s return to a front-wheel-drive configuration for this generation is one of cost. Mercedes’ mid-sized van has always commanded a premium over the alternatives, and the cheaper FWD models close that gap.
Just as important as the purchase price, however, are the running costs of the van, and Mercedes has never lagged behind in this area. Surprisingly, the Vito with the best quoted economy isn’t the least powerful version. All figures for the Vito quoted by Mercedes are produced under WLTP test conditions, and the most efficient model is the rear-drive 2.0-litre diesel 114 CDI Premium in the L1 body style fitted with the 9G-Tronic auto, which has a quoted combined figure of 39.8mpg.
Surprisingly, the least efficient model is the 1.7-litre 110 CDI Progressive L2 front-wheel drive manual, at 37.2mpg. However, that just goes to show that there’s only a difference of around 3mpg between the Vito’s best and worst performers. Go for a Crew Van, and the extra weight of the second row of seats has an impact, with economy ranging from 35.8mpg to 33.6mpg.
All vans feature stop-start, low rolling resistance tyres and aerodynamic panels underneath the van to boost efficiency, while SCR exhaust after-treatment tech is also fitted to help meet the latest vehicle emissions standards. That means AdBlue is needed, and there’s a 24-litre AdBlue tank on board. The van’s trip computer will tell you when it needs refilling.
The Vito features a 57-litre fuel tank as standard, so you should be able to travel around 420 miles between fills. Mercedes also offers a larger 70-litre tank, which will easily give you another 100 miles of range, based on the poorest quoted official fuel economy figures.
Go for the electric eVito, and there’s an official range of 93 miles. Use the van as intended on stop-start urban runs, and there’s no reason why you won’t be able to see that range in everyday use. However, do faster runs, and the range will drop significantly.
Service intervals on the Vito are up to 25,000 miles or two years. The exact time a service is needed is calculated on an individual basis by the onboard ASSYST computer, which takes a whole range of factors into account. Maintenance and repair costs are reduced by up to 6.4% on the old Vito and the van’s fully galvanized body enables Mercedes to offer a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.
Load Space and Practicality
In terms of outright carrying capacity, the Vito lags a little behind the most spacious mid-sized panel vans. This is partly due to the lack of a high-roof body style.
The three different body lengths that are offered produce maximum load lengths between 2,433mm and 2,908mm in the extra-long version. As for load volumes, the spread is 5.5 cubic metres to 6.6 cubic metres. Other than a growth in length of around 140mm across the range, the Vito’s load area dimensions remain virtually unaltered.
Payloads range from 646-818kg as standard, which aren’t that impressive, thanks to a standard Gross Vehicle Weight of 2.8 tonnes. Mercedes does offer increased GVWs at extra cost, up to 3.2 tonnes for just under £1,000 more. The eVito is able to carry up to 923kg as standard, thanks to its higher initial GVW. However, get anywhere near this figure, and the eVito’s range will be adversely affected.
Access to the rear of the van is via a lifting tailgate, but there is no option to add side-hinged rear doors. Beyond that, you get a pair of sliding side doors – not all rivals offer this as standard, while Mercedes offers optional windows for the doors and the steel bulkhead between the loa area and cabin.
Reliability and Safety
Mercedes is never shy about piling on the safety kit and, true to form, the Vito’s spec list is packed to bursting with TLAs (three letter acronyms).
Driver and passenger airbags are standard on all models while the Tourer minibus versions can be specified with up to eight airbags. Working to prevent those airbags being needed is Mercedes’ Adaptive ESP system that includes ABS brakes, ASR skid control, EBD brakeforce distribution, BAS hydraulic brake assist, LAC load adaptive control and EUC understeer control, amongst others.
The rear wheel-drive Vitos are particularly adept as towing vehicles and TSA trailer stability assist detects the presence of a trailer, adjusting the ESP settings accordingly to prevent fishtailing. The rear-parking camera also has a ‘coupling zoom’ mode, which sounds slightly voyeuristic but is, in fact, an ingenious guidance system helping the driver position the towing hitch to connect a trailer.
Mercedes also offers Lane Keeping Assist, which warns the driver if they stray out of their lane without indicating, Intelligent lighting that adjusts the spread and intensity of the high-output LED headlights according to the driving situation, and a distance warning system that pipes up when you get too close to the car in front. It’s safe to say that a fully-specced Vito is one of the safest vans on the road.
Driving and Performance
The Vito range is split through the middle. The front-wheel-drive 1.7-litre models offer a more affordable option for lighter duty urban work while the rear-wheel-drive 2.0-litre Vitos offer extra muscle for bigger mileages and payloads.
The 1.7-litre CDI engine in the 110 CDI and 114 CDI models is the same one found in the Renault Trafic, although Mercedes is keen to stress that it’s made a number of modifications, including a new Engine Control Unit (ECU), to put its stamp on the unit.
This four-cylinder common-rail turbo diesel is a fine engine for the affordable end of the panel van range, although you do find yourself slightly less willing to forgive the noise levels above 2,000rpm than you would be if there was a Renault diamond instead of a three-pointed star on the wheel hub ahead of you.
The fact is that, for operators using their vehicle primarily in town, the low-end performance and excellent economy will be perfectly adequate.
The 2.0-litre diesel is Mercedes’ own unit, and it’s a lot closer to what we’ve come to expect from Mercedes-Benz vans. It comes with the auto gearbox as standard, so the 114 CDI auto comes with this engine rather than the 1.7, while the 116 CDI and 119 CDI also come with it. The 2.0-litre is quieter, more relaxed and range from the eager to the downright rapid in terms of performance.
The engine is another four-pot common-rail injection unit, this time with a twin-turbo layout. It’s broadly the same engine found right across the Mercedes Benz passenger car range but is modified here for van use, delivering muscular low-end pull coupled with relaxed cruising ability.
The rear-wheel-drive transmission delivers a noticeably more composed feel on the road, accelerating more smoothly out of corners and achieving better traction on slippery surfaces. Around town, the turning circle is tighter.
Having said all that, it’s still unlikely that operators will choose the RWD Vitos simply to access these marginally superior driving characteristics. The FWD will, again, be adequate for most. The real benefit of RWD comes in the increased payload and towing capacity (up to 2,500kg).
The 9G-Tronic auto is lifted from Mercedes passenger cars and proves smooth in auto mode. Make shifts yourself with the paddles and there’s some delay but changes still happen almost imperceptibly. The extra cost means it won’t be for everyone but it is one of the better auto boxes you can get in a van.
Go for the eVito, and there’s decent acceleration off the line – but again that can put pay to the van’s driving range – and it’s extremely quiet and refined at low speeds, while tyre noise is the biggest issue the faster you go.
In general terms, the Vito is quiet and comfortable, feeling every bit the solid, substantial product you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz vans. The downside is that the generally well-weighted electromechanical steering set-up lacks the feeling of connection to the road you get in the best drivers’ vans. That Mercedes’ favored foot-operated parking brake takes a lot of getting used to as well, even with the standard hill holder system.
Cab and Interior
The Vito rolls off the same production line in Vitoria, Northern Spain, as the V-Class passenger carrier, but Mercedes has taken greater steps to differentiate the two in the cabin than it did with the previous generation Vito and its Viano cousin.
The Vito gets a completely different fascia than the V-Class with Merc passenger car plushness replaced by solid, workmanlike simplicity. The design is a sparse, no frills effort but comes immaculately constructed. There’s switchgear lifted from the passenger car range, but the plastics are toughened up for commercial applications.
In the negative column we have the dated infotainment console with its small 7-inch touchscreen and ageing sat-nav software – although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now included. Storage options for small items are plentiful, although the narrow door pockets and lack of an overhead shelf mean bigger items will be harder to place.
Mercedes also declines to offer the in-built holders for phones and laptops that are available in the Vito’s rivals. It cites safety issues arising from drivers using such technology at the wheel, but if the alternative is holding the phone or balancing a laptop on the passenger seat, bespoke ‘mobile office’ solutions seem preferable. The unlined cubby cut in the dash that the Vito offers as a phone holder feels half-baked and will probably lead most drivers to shell out for an aftermarket phone cradle.
The Vito’s interior strengths are it’s firm but comfortable seats with decent side support and loads of adjustment, including for height. It also offers a lower and more car-like driving position than a Vivaro or Ford Transit Custom.
Visibility out over the high dash is good and the steering wheel is beautifully designed – higher spec models get a similar wheel in leather and chrome that wouldn’t look out of place in an AMG model. Primarily though, it’s the Mercedes quality that shines through, elevating the Vito cabin above its contemporaries’.
Mercedes fits a double passenger seat to the Vito, and the cabin is wide enough that it’s comfortable to sit three-abreast without banging shoulders.