Small business and everyday life needn’t be mutually exclusive. At least that’s what the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Vito 119 Crew Cab suggests for people who wish to bridge the gap between a work vehicle and one for home.
Trends these days suggest buyers look toward the dual-cab ute market for that lifestyle-oriented work vehicle. But what if you actually needed to use a car’s load space rather than just looking like you do?
From the outside, Vito 119 Crew Cab looks like any other VIP-spec van fresh from the Tullamarine Airport run. But open up the dual-sliding doors and you’re greeted by a layout designed with logistics in mind – with five seats and, more importantly, a 3600-litre load capacity. Certainly not something you’d expect on airport transfer duty.
It’s more intended as a halfway house between work use and family life, whereby you can drop the clan off at school and then head straight out to deliver goods to clients, or haul your apprentices to the worksite with you. For that reason, it’s quite basic on the inside.
The seats are fabric; the floor is durable chipboard and there’s next to no insulation in sight – sound or otherwise. There’s an older version of Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND media system that takes centre stage on the dash, the one with a toggle to switch between menu screens – it’s not a touchscreen.
Priced from $58,670 (all prices before on-road costs and options), the Vito 119 is considerably more expensive when compared to its competitors, like the five-seat Toyota HiAce Crew Van ($42,120) or the $43,790 Hyundai iLoad Crew Van (which seats six). If that wasn’t enough money already, there’s also smattering of options on offer for the Vito – our tester is fitted with $8780 worth of extras.
That said, options like the collision prevention, lane-keeping and blind-spot assist (as part of the $1600 Driver Assistance Package) do come in handy around town and might even protect your precious cargo – be it passengers or goods. Charging $1490 for metallic or $590 for solid paints is hard to swallow if you don’t want your van to look like white goods on wheels.
Up until recently the Vito was lacking curtain airbags for the front row, however they’re now available across the range, at a bizarre option price of $350, per side. The bad news though is that airbags are still unavailable for the second row, in a vehicle that will likely see a lot of passengers.
So apart from the three-pointed star badge on the grille, what do you get for the extra outlay over cheaper alternatives? Well, it’s a decidedly nicer place to make a mobile office, with a perforated leather steering wheel pinched from Mercedes’ passenger cars, that 5.8-inch TFT media screen, and a walk-through alley to the second row.
There’s ample room for the junk that will inevitably build up over time, with an ice cream container-sized tub below the centre stack and cubby holes either side of the HVAC controls, with USB and auxiliary input hiding (inconveniently) in the farthest one.
Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND infotainment system is easily one of the better units to use in the segment as is, but it’s a shame the company can’t offer the latest system out of the current passenger car range, like they did with several other aspects of the interior. The screen, while adequate, is frustratingly small and contains less functionality than you’d expect from a premium brand, especially considering Hyundai offers Apple CarPlay in its iLoad.
Navigation is yet another added extra at $900, but we would suggest buying a cradle for your smartphone and utilising that as your navigation system. Bluetooth phone pairing and voice control both worked flawlessly, with clear sound on either end between supplier and deliverer.
Space is not an issue in either the front row or the rear. You could almost ask for more boot space in exchange for the some of the room you get for your legs sitting behind the cockpit. Those in the front row are treated to a nice, high seating position, and the steering wheel is reach- and rake-adjustable for taller drivers.
Externally, the $5300 Exclusive 119 pack freshens up the look with 17-inch alloys, LED lights for front and rear (including dynamic/cornering headlights), body-coloured bumpers and rain-sensing wipers. The additions come together nicely to make the van look classier than the interior would lead you to believe.
Hitting the roads about town, the commute is easier than anticipated. Even unladen, the body control is good with the 2155kg (kerb) heft staying level through corners, and changes of direction are made easy with nice, light steering.
The punchy 2.1-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine comes in various states of tune for the range, however we had the 119 model, which receives the most powerful 140kW version with a peak torque output of 440Nm from just 1400rpm.
Sending the power to the rear wheels via a smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic, the van never seems to run out of puff and continues to pull hard right up to its redline – even piled up with most of our Melbourne office staff.
Manoeuvrability is also excellent with an extra tight turning circle and the gear selector stalk being right at your fingertips. It’ll also go into most underground car parks with a height of just over 1.9 metres. The high seating position aids vision and the tinted dual side windows in the rear help viewing in traffic.
It’s a comfortable place to spend your day when compared with cheaper alternatives, and requires less effort to drive. The rear end is well behaved over speed bumps and won’t spring back abruptly, even without anything in the back. The seats are also quite comfortable and come in a hardy fabric built for purpose rather than looks.
If you are planning on having this as a daily shuttle though, there are certain aspects that may prove annoying over time.
The front doors are heavy, and while that’s not particularly a bad thing, opening and closing them all day while out on business will get old very quickly. Luckily the rear sliding passenger doors require less effort to enter and exit through – especially considerate for (potentially) young kids.
And the rear-view camera – which would come in handy when parking the 5.1-metre long bus into a parking bay – is positioned too low, and it gets even worse when you start to load up to its 895-kilogram load capacity.
The Vito is obviously still destined for work rather than play, which is no bad thing – and buyers will appreciate the fact there are three different service plans available to choose from: the entry-level Best Basic for maintenance only (from $10 per day), through to the Select Plus level which includes some repairs, and the Complete level, which includes wear and tear cover. Services are due every 12 months or 25,000 kilometres, and Vito vans are covered by a three-year/200,000km warranty.
Sure, there are some aspects to the Vito Crew Cab that make you feel special, like the steering wheel, driving experience and looks, but equally it’s still just a van with wood panels lining the interior and hard plastics all around.
For some, paying a premium price for a product that may not be as prestigious as its badge may lead you to believe, could be seen as a recipe for failure, especially in a segment where the competition is catching up. And the number of option boxes there are to tick – just to make choosing a premium brand worth it – means you’d want to really desire the three-pointed star badge for your business, or just your driveway, because there are more affordable options that are most certainly more suitable to the crew-van application.
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