Fleet News

Road test: Mercedes-Benz Vito 109CDI

I get the distinct impression that even if this van was not a good one, it would still sell well, such is the cachet of the German badge.

Of course, this van IS a good one – a superb one in fact – and a three-week stint with a test model in 109CDI guise brought this fact home fully.

Where do I start with the praise? In my eye, the new Vito is the best looking van in the sector, beating even the graceful lines of the Renault Trafic, Vauxhall Vivaro and Nissan Primastar triplets. Its common rail diesel engine is powerful yet smooth, its cab is big, stylish and comfortable, its load area is large and its handling is impeccable. Add to that a standard six-speed gearbox, CD player, ABS brakes and ESP traction control system and you have a seriously heavyweight contender in this lightweight sector.

The new Vito comes with two wheelbases and three vehicle lengths, along with standard and high roofs. This translates to load volumes of between 4.65 and 6.49 cubic metres. All models are available with gross vehicle weights of either 2,770 or 2,940kg and payloads range from 930 to 1,100kg depending on the tyres chosen.

Vans have the option of a tailgate or conventional twin doors, which can either open to 180 degrees or 270 degrees. The sliding doors are big enough for standard Euro pallets to be loaded and the width between wheelarches – 1,277mm – allows up to three Euro pallets to be loaded one behind another.

Under the bonnet, the new Vito is powered by a choice of three diesel engines. All 2,148cc four cylinder common rail units, they offer power of 88, 109 and 150bhp and torque of 162, 199 and 243 lb-ft. The model on test here is the short wheelbase 88bhp version and although it is the ‘baby’ of the range, there is no shortage of pulling power.

This is likely to be the fleet choice and those operators worried about lack of power can set their minds at rest – it is ample and quite adequate.

The £12,995 ex-VAT price is a competitive one indeed. The base Vauxhall Vivaro comes in at £12,710 but it only has five gears to the Vito’s six, 82bhp to the Vito’s 88bhp and it doesn’t have the ESP system. It does, however, offer five cubic metres of loadspace to the Vito’s 4.65 cubic metres.

Climbing aboard (entry is by remote plip lock), the cab is the usual stylish-yet-chunky affair we have come to expect from Mercedes-Benz. There are three seats, although the middle one should be labelled ‘for occasional use only’ as there isn’t a great deal of legroom between it and the dash.

But the driver’s seat is wonderfully firm and flat and features plenty of lumbar support.

There is a space for a sheaf of A4 papers on top of the dash and a cola bottle bin in each door pocket. It’s nice to see that Mercedes-Benz has included a CD player in the standard spec too. It’s about time old-fashioned cassette players were consigned to the great technological rubbish bin in the sky where they belong.

In the back, our test model featured two sliding side doors which I would say is a tad unnecessary but we can’t complain as they come as standard.

There was also a rubber floor with six countersunk load-lashing eyes, together with rather elegant wood panelling on the load area walls.

Firing up the van in the morning results in a meaty roar which promises power aplenty under the bonnet. Our test van had just 600 miles on the clock and felt pretty tight. But even still the Vito was never short of oomph. For fleet managers – don’t even think of buying the 150bhp version for your drivers! They may love you for it but all that power really isn’t necessary. This ‘cooking’ version will do nicely for most fleet purposes.

Despite its size, the Vito just loves being thrown around the corners and the knowledge that the ESP system will help correct any errors of judgement gives a wonderful peace of mind.

Verdict

Setting aside the rather hideous brown hue of our test vehicle, the Vito is a class-leading performer among a field of superb contenders. It would be a foolish operator indeed who made a buying decision without checking out this van first.

Gross vehicle weight (kg): 2,700
Payload (kg): 1,100
Load length (mm): 2,422
Load width (mm): 1,650
Load height (mm): 1,338
Max power (bhp/rpm): 88/3,800
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 162/1,400-2,500
Price (excluding VAT): £12,995

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