The Vito sits neatly in middle of the Mercedes-Benz van range, in between the larger Sprinter and the urban Citan. It employs the same 2.1 and 3.0-litre units as its big brother, which supply power ratings of between 95hp and 224hp.
The three load lengths and two roof heights correspond to load volumes of between 5.2m³ and 7.4m³. There are three nominal gross weights (2.8t, 3.05t and 3.2t) and maximum payloads vary from 930kg to 1305kg.
Mercedes claims the 2.1-litre engine is up to 15% more efficient than its predecessor, while power and torque have increased across the range of three tunings. The 109, 111 and 115 Cdi models are replaced by four-cylinder 110 Cdi, 113 Cdi and 116 Cdi variants, producing 95hp, 136hp and 163hp respectively. For the power hungry, there is also a revised 3.0-litre V6 model – badged 122 Cdi – that churns out 224hp and 440Nm of torque.
Although the wealth of power on display may be a little bemusing, the availability of 310Nm of torque and 134hp low down in the rev range might have helped keep the Mercedes ahead of the competition in terms of fuel consumption. But the sensible gearing with six ratios and Eco stop/start system to cut power during idling was enough to give the Mercedes a slender lead in the economy test.
Changes to the Vito have increased the gross vehicle weight a fraction, tipping the scales at 2.8 tonnes up from 2.77 tonnes. This has a welcome knock-on effect on payload as the GVW increases with bigger models, however, our 110 compact model retains the 930kg payload capacity of the 109 Cdi.
The external dimensions haven’t changed drastically either, with a slight increase in length, now 4,763mm. Shaving a few millimetres here and there on the inside means loadspace volume is up slightly over the 109 Cdi, now 5.2m³ compared to the outgoing model’s 4.6m³. This is thanks to small increases in the loadspace width and height.
Twin sliding rear doors make loading and unloading much easier, particularly as the tailgate rear could hamper loading in tight spaces. If you do have to use the rear, though, the low loading height of 556mm makes adding payload simpler. Depending on your needs, a slight drawback for some might be the fact that the spare wheel is housed inside the van, rather than under the vehicle.
Standard features include a fully lined rear load area, a valuable asset for protecting the outer skin on a hardworking van such as the Vito, and a full steel bulkhead provides improved security and sound insulation in the cab.
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The Vito immediately won friends thanks to its suave interior, stylish dashboard and ample internal space, and the fact that our test vehicle came fitted with the most powerful engine in the group test probably did it a few favours.
The cab’s appearance and functionality also received praise for its build quality, sensible one-touch electric windows and comfortable centre armrest. However, the Vito’s driving position did come in for some criticism for being too low, too tight to the gear lever housing and with insufficient seat travel.
An absence of storage was also noted – although poor storage applies to most vans in this category – but practical touches such as the pen holder on the centre console and sunglasses-sized cubby on the roof show consideration for the end user. So too does the steering wheel, which in addition to having a number of useful controls for the infotainment system also adjusts for height and reach – a feature much needed in the Vauxhall Vivaro.
On The Road
The refinement of the Vito over the variety of road surfaces experienced en route didn’t go unnoticed by our testers, who scored it highly for its ride comfort and road holding. Braking and steering also impressed, with several testers commenting on the car-like feel and excellent steering feedback and turn in.
The highest praise was reserved for the cruise control and speed limiter function, which was universally liked for its simplicity and ability to take the strain out of motorway driving. Claiming the top spot in two out of four categories and praised by our all of our testers, the Vito is certainly a worthy winner among our group of 3-tonne panel vans.
There were also the usual disparaging comments about the mechanical footbrake, and some criticism was levelled at the youthful gearshift, which due to its lack of miles felt tight and notchy between the gates.
Considering that this is the entry-level Vito without thousands of pounds-worth of extras, we were impressed by the level of standard safety equipment. All round discs are backed by Adaptive ESP as standard, which also incorporates ABS, ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation), EBD (Electronic Brake Force Distribution) and BAS (Brake Assist).
Fog and adaptive brake lights are also standard across the range, while passenger airbags and LED daytime running lights are optional.
Cost of Ownership
Mercedes-Benz has one of the most respected aftersales programs, with over 80 dedicated commercial vehicle dealers in the UK. Warranties last for three years, irrespective of mileage.
There are no set service intervals. Instead, MB offer “Service Care” which tailors the service intervals to the customer’s needs and availability.
While the Transporter might have had the edge over the Vito in our books, the emphasis placed on fuel consumption and its consistent performance in every category is enough to see the Vito edge out the VW. It’s not surprising then that when pressed to pick their overall best mid-sized van and put their own money into one of our group, three out of our four testers said the Mercedes-Benz would be their van of choice.