In the spirit of giving the fans what they want, we’ve been reviewing plenty of commercial vehicles lately, and the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Vito 114 LWB van is the latest to spend some time in the CarAdvice garage.
The commercial van sector is perhaps more competitive now than it has ever been, and the appearance of affordable European alternatives has had an effect on the never ending sea of Toyota Hiace vans we used to see on suburban streets around Australia. Owner/drivers need the entry price to be on the money obviously, but they also need a reliable workhorse that won’t spend days on end off the road.
Released toward the end of 2015, the new 2016 Mercedes-Benz Vito range looks to capitalise on that new wave of Euro-focused interest, while leveraging the quality and endurance that comes with any vehicle wearing the coveted ’Benz badge.
Read our Mercedes-Benz Vito launch review story.
On the subject of affordability, our test Vito isn’t at the cheaper end of the spectrum, but it does carry some noteworthy standard kit – as well as some cost options. The ‘Arctic White’ exterior will ensure it slots nicely into the ‘fridge white van’ brigade and pricing starts from $46,400 for this model in standard specification, plus the usual on-road costs. The as-tested price for our Vito is $57,345 though, with the options added, plus on-road costs.
Standard specification highlights include the 2.2-litre turbo diesel engine, which features BlueTEC and is Euro 6 compliant. The engine generates 100kW and 330Nm, which in theory at least, should be more than enough grunt to haul the Vito – and some cargo – around town efficiently. Stop/start is standard on this model and the system is no more or less annoying than any other we’ve tested. I still disable it, because I don’t like it, but if you leave it active, it’s never too intrusive.
The Vito is RWD, unlike some of the competition, has BlueEFFICIENCY technology, chrome interior trim, Crosswind Assist, Attention Assist, an Audio 15 sound system with 5.8-inch colour display, Bluetooth phone and audio connection, and a reverse view camera. The reverse view camera especially is a solid standard inclusion that we’d expect for a van of this size, and absolutely makes it a safer day-to-day proposition.
Optional extras include the Becker Map Pilot sat nav system, a full bulkhead, Active Park Assist, 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission, comfort seats with lumbar support, thorax airbags for driver and passenger, left fixed window in sliding door, Driving Assistance Package (Collision Prevention Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist), leather-trimmed steering wheel and rain sensing wipers. Added up then, the options require buyers to outlay an extra $10,945 on top of the purchase price.
You could absolutely live without the leather steering wheel and rain sensing wipers, and it’s understandable that the fixed rear window and automatic transmission are cost options, but it’s feasible to assume the safety kit would come standard in the base Vito. That is especially the case for the extra two thorax airbags, but also for the driver assistance technology. As long as the Vito delivers the driving experience to match the price though, buyers might not mind.
The cabin then is comfortable without being spectacular. It feels solid and well insulated, but it retains a basic aura thanks to the sea of black plastic that abounds. It’s hard plastic too, so there’s nothing too luxurious about any of the cabin trim. There are no nasty edges that bruise elbows when you’re driving at least though, so that’s a positive.
The seats are comfortable, no matter how many hours you spend in them, and the cabin feels airy and spacious. There’s plenty of storage, the controls are placed sensibly and it doesn’t take an age to do simple things like pair your phone to the Bluetooth system. The Bluetooth connection never once dropped out either, and callers reported it to be clear at all times.
What we didn’t like was the low rent feel to the satellite navigation system. The mapping was fine in terms of accuracy and directional guidance, but the screen and the display itself feels well past its use-by date. The same goes for the infotainment controls, which in lieu of touchscreen functionality require you to work through a rotary dial and buttons that aren’t intuitive enough to work out easily. It’s important to note that the system works, and it isn’t glitchy, but in comparison to say the Citroen Berlingo we tested recently (with Apple CarPlay), the Vito feels very much last generation.
General visibility is excellent, aided by the optional fixed glass panel in the left hand side sliding door. It’s a must in our opinion, given it makes reversing out of driveways so much easier and safer. You’ll love it if you spend any time in tighter loading docks or congested residential areas. Forward visibility from the driver’s seat is also excellent and the reverse view camera is clear. It’s another non-negotiable standard inclusion for our money and pairs with the sensors to make city parking a breeze.
The cabin ambience remains calm and unruffled up to about 80km/h where we started to notice a drumminess that entered the cabin, possibly from the empty load area. It’s nowhere near as noticeable – or annoying – as some other vans we’ve tested, but it is there. If you used the Vito heavily loaded often, you would almost certainly notice the noise disappearing.
We fire straight into Sydney peak hour traffic in the Vito and aside from the fact that it is a long van physically, it’s still quite nimble. The engine is punchy and the seven-speed auto is smooth but snappy in the way it slices through the gears. We loved the way the gearshift was almost imperceptible even under hard acceleration, allowing the Vito to get up to speed efficiently. You’ll have no problem rolling from low speed up to 110km/h on the freeway either, a bonus for owners who need to deal with the cut and thrust of urban motorways regularly.
Around town, the Vito is definitely rapid enough off the mark, able to nip into gaps and make the most of any small openings you need to access on the run through the congested confines of the city. The diesel engine is never noisy or intrusive either, bringing passenger car levels of refinement to the commercial vehicle realm, a segment that not too long ago was still relatively uncouth.
The steering is precise and sharp, and makes manoeuvring the Vito a pleasurable experience. You can execute tight U-turns quickly and the steering system itself is also perfectly weighted. You’ll find yourself darting around town with more vigour than you expect if you’re new to this segment – the steering plays its part in this experience.
Despite the usable power on offer and the fact that the Vito is capable of more impressive performance than you might have expected, it is genuinely efficient. We covered more than 500km during our week behind the wheel, and the Vito returned an impressive 7.2L/100km – something you’d never have believed a commercial vehicle capable of even five years ago. That’s impressively close to the ADR-claimed 6.1L/100km with the automatic transmission.
The Vito rides comfortably even unladen and makes short work of poor road surfaces. It doesn’t skip and bounce around, even over sharp, raised traffic platforms, and you never feel like you’re being flung around the cabin by a crude suspension system. With a few hundred kilos in the back, the ride remains just as composed, and there’s no doubt the Vito would be pleasant to live with longer term. It’s the ride that is perhaps the Vito’s strongest point, making it comfortable to live with, an important factor for owners who spend long hours behind the wheel.
With an 1130kg payload rating, the Vito is a useful work tool, with the space to carry longer and wider options as owners may require. We’d like to see a better non-slip surface on the floor of the van as standard, but there are plenty of options to customise the load space to suit your needs so owners aren’t left without a choice there.
The Mercedes-Benz Vito is covered by a 36-month/200,000km warranty and requires servicing every 12 months or 25,000km, longer intervals than some of the close competition.
While some of you may appreciate the added power of the 116 or 119 variants, the 114 we’ve tested here is as close to the pick of the range as you’ll get. Option the excellent seven-speed auto into the mix, and you’ve got an economical workhorse that’s also enjoyable to drive.
Click on the Photos tab for more 2016 Mercedes-Benz Vito 114 LWB images by Christian Barbeitos.