One phrase sums up this van – can’t kill it. Our first one did 550,000km, our second is on 330,000km, and we had two Vianos that did 400,000km (airport transfers). The ultimate in turn-the-key-and-go commercial vehicles, the Vito’s underpinnings are the same as its commercial van brethren and it is as tough as nails.
Not without faults, however… The Vito doesn’t have the more expensive and better-equipped Viano’s self-levelling air suspension, so the ride can be harsh, especially with people on board. It doesn’t have the Viano’s sound deadening either, so the agricultural four-cylinder diesel can be a bit tractor-like in NVH levels. The Vito has the commercial van’s heavier steering as opposed to the Viano’s variable assistance effort, and the dual air-con, while very effective, sounds like a 747 taking off.
These are big heavy vans but surprisingly manoeuvrable, and they go, stop and steer very well. Brakes in commercial use will last maybe 30,000km and the rotors will need replacing – a side-effect of good brakes. The legendary MB brake soot can be frustrating, but a good wheel cleaner such as Bowden’s ‘Wheely Clean’ is worth its weight in gold.
Even when neglected and underserviced, you can still jump in one and do a long trip – they are tough old girls. Some have a quirk where the LHF tyre will wear quicker, but there is an internet fix for this. So too for the removal of the front fan blower motor, which MB tells you to remove the dash – erm, no. Watch the bulbs and buy top-quality Philips ones that last the longest.
Take it from someone who depends on these vans for income – never, ever skimp on oil quality, and the engine will repay you in high mileage. We used Mobil 1 or the Fuchs synthetic equivalent (MB uses Fuchs now instead of Mobil) and replaced the oil and filter every 15,000km. Auto transmission service every 30,000km, and if you do it yourself, pull the battery for 30 minutes and let the trans’ program itself with fresh oil (’Benz tells you to service the trans’ every 60,000km, but if you work it hard, halve that).
The brakes are easy enough to do yourself, and like all Euro car parts they are dirt cheap on ‘Fleabay’. Watch the shocks, as they can leak or go soft quickly in hardworking vehicles, but are cheap online.
The coolant overflow and windscreen washer bottles may go brittle from age, and the air-con condenser and radiator like a blast from the jet washer in the carwash every week. Watch all the fluid levels religiously and carry top-up litre bottles in older high-mileage vans.
That’s it – highly recommended, great on fuel, tough as nails, and that badge on the front goes down well with customers. Pulls a trailer like it’s not there, and does that with eight passengers easily day in, day out. Look after it and it will be a loyal hardworking asset for many years in the future.
NOTE: With no photo supplied, and with this being an older model, we’ve included an old press photo with this story.