New look, refreshed cabin, and more safety tech to feature, but European market's greener new diesel engines won't make it to Australia for a while
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Mercedes-Benz Vans has given its Vito a substantial mid-cycle update to keep it sharp against the Volkswagen Transporter, Ford Transit Custom, and Renault Trafic.

Australian examples to be sold from the first quarter of 2021 will get a new frontal design, a touchscreen in the cabin, and more active safety features including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and active cruise control.

However, not all of the changes announced today will make it to our market. Because of its stringent CO2 emissions caps, European-market Vitos get new 2.0-litre diesel engines in various states of tune (code OM 654).

But markets like ours without the need for engines meeting Euro 6d-TEMP compliance requirements will stick with the current 2.1-litre (OM 651) engine range which is cheaper to produce, and won't require technician retraining.

"It makes sense for us to continue with that [the old engine], and it helps us to be more price-competitive," said the company's local communication head, Blake Vincent.

"Eventually we'll need to switch in to OM 654 but right now we can continue with the existing."

Engines

The OM 654 engines are said to be up to 13 per cent more efficient, and quieter, compared to the previous-generation (in Europe) diesels.

They have a slippery Nanoslide coating on the cylinder walls to reduce valve friction, multi-way exhaust gas recirculation, AdBlue after-treatment, and a particulate filter to catch remaining NOx particulates.

The engines are also matched to a 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission with torque-converter in place of the old 7G-Tronic transmission. Drive is to the rear wheels, or 4x4 as an option.

Of course the downside is that Australia will stick with the older OM 651 engines, but the upside is the that the outputs of the new Euro 6, 2.0-litre engines are identical to our 2.1-litre models.

The new and old 114 CDI models make 110kW/330Nm, the 116 CDI 120kW/380Nm, and the 119 CDI 140kW/440Nm.

Meanwhile the base 110 CDI front-wheel drive option uses a Mercedes 1.7-litre diesel engine mated to a manual gearbox, with outputs of 75kW/270Nm.

By contrast, Australian entry models will still be called 111 CDI and use a 1.6-litre diesel sourced from Renault, mated to a manual gearbox.

The European range-topper 124 CDI uses the same 2.0-litre engine, tuned up to 176kW/500Nm, and has the ability to offer 30Nm extra on overboost. Fitted to the Tourer MPV version, it slashes the 0-100km/h time to 7.9 seconds.

Other changes

Mercedes-Benz will now make available its Airmatic air suspension system that can raise or lower the van via a button, and which smooths out the ride.

New safety systems include Active Brake Assist (forward-collision alert and AEB) and Distronic active cruise control, plus a digital rear-view mirror that displays a camera view looking behind the van, meaning rear visibility is unaffected by a bulky load.

The Intelligent Light System ILS is also available as an alternative to the halogen headlights. The pack encompasses LED indicators, daytime running lights and cornering headlights.

While the bigger Sprinter van has adopted the latest MBUX infotainment system from Mercedes' passenger fleet, the Vito doesn't get anything that advanced. But the old button-heavy fascia is gone in favour of a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and integrated sat-nav. There's also a sharper new 180-degree reversing camera.

Mercedes PRO digital services run off an LTE communication module and cabin SIM, and send data to your smartphone. Remote data available to fleet operators includes live traffic feeds, digital trip records, vehicle supervision, a drive-style monitor, and more rapid accident and breakdown management.

Design-wise there's a new-look grille, turbine-shaped air vents, new cloth trim, more colour choices, and various wheel shapes in sizes between 17- and 19 inches.

Australia

With the demise of the X-Class ute, the Vito will revert to being Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia's second most popular offering behind the Sprinter - the van of choice for ambulance services. High profile fleet operators of the Vito include Australia Post and the RACV.

The MY20 model shown here will arrive as a MY21 model in Australia from early next year. As always, Europe will get the priority when it comes to early supply from the Spanish plant.

On a side note, the company also revealed an upgraded eVito Tourer electric people-mover with a 90kWh battery and 421km maximum driving range that you can read about here. And no, it's not coming to Australia any time soon, due to production constraints.