Cheap, but the op­po­site of nasty

Merc says what you do with it is your busi­ness

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN

BE­CAUSE I al­ways an­swer “a panel van” when I get the fre­quently asked ques­tion, “What is the best bakkie”, I was all but pal­pi­tat­ing to at­tend the launch of the new Vito at the Zwartkops Race­way in Pre­to­ria this week, cour­tesy of Mercedes-Benz.

Vans, if you don’t know, al­ready of­fer a canopy to pro­tect the load, they cost a lot less to run, their floors are low enough to easily load any ob­ject and — depend­ing on your trans­port needs — you can fit cargo re­strain­ers, seats with three-point seat belts, or a dou­ble bed.

The Vito was al­ready a very good medium-sized van to start with, which is why the MD at Merc’s vans, Ni­co­lette Lam­brechts, had to sharpen her pen­cil to a fine point in­deed to make the latest model range even bet­ter. She did this by adding front-wheel drive ver­sions (more on this be­low) and by mak­ing the ser­vice in­ter­vals longer, up to 40 000 up from 30 000, and the ser­vice plans are up from the pre­vi­ous five-year/90 000 km to an un­prece­dented five-year/120 000 km for all mod­els of the new Vito.

Lam­brechts said this was one of the things clients wanted, and clients’ needs across the world were what drove the new Vito’s im­prove­ments.

Lam­brechts said these cus­tomers had one de­mand in com­mon, “even more re­li­a­bil­ity”.

The end re­sult is a van that can safely shut­tle from tod­dlers up to well over a ton of pay­load.

“Never be­fore has there been as much Vito as there is now. It is a pay­load gi­ant, a dwarf in costs, and a safety ex­pert. It is truly the best van in mid­size seg­ment that will drive the suc­cess of most de­mand­ing own­ers in most chal­leng­ing busi­nesses,” said Lam­brechts.

Two en­gines and four model ranges are on of­fer — the usual bare-bones panel van, which has the high­est pay­load among the medium-sized vans; the Mixto, which is com­petes with VW’s Crew­cab; and ei­ther a Tourer Pro model — aimed at air­port shut­tlers com­pa­nies, or a Tourer Se­lect — aimed at fam­i­lies or com­pa­nies.

Tall okes will be de­lighted that the seats in the panel van can now move eight cen­time­tres fur­ther back, which makes a big dif­fer­ence in the com­fort stakes, but I would have liked the cen­trally mounted gear con­sole to be moved higher, away from my left shin.

Lam­brechts said the Vito’s to­tal cost of own­er­ship has been re­duced by 2,6 l/100 km and the op­tional seven-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion with Blue tech will con­sume only 5 l/100 km. A drag co­ef­fi­cient of 0,32 helped to re­duce fuel con­sump­tion to these lev­els. The ma­te­ri­als in­side the new Vito have been tested in 45-de­gree heat near Uping­ton in the North­ern Cape and all are of good qual­ity, although the en­try-level ra­dio re­ally does not be­long in a van of this stature. Opt for higher spec.

Back to that front-wheel drive sys­tem, the ben­e­fit is that it adds the light­ness leg­endary race car-builder Colin Chap­man was al­ways go­ing on about. The new front-wheel drive sys­tem in the range is very light and can carry a pay­load of 1 344 kg — the most in this class.

As driv­ers of the Fiat Du­cato and Hyundai H1 also tell, the front-wheel drive of­fers bet­ter trac­tion in sticky or slip­pery sit­u­a­tions, where you can use the front wheels to pull your­self out of trou­ble in­stead of push­ing your­self deeper into it.

The front-wheel drive Vito has Re­nault’s trans­verse-mounted, 1,6 en­gine com­mon rail turbo diesel en­gine that is also used in Merc’s A-Class.

But as any driver in a bakkie will also tell you, piling more weight on the rear-drive wheels in­crease the trans­fer of power to the tar (thank you, New­ton’s sec­ond law) which makes the rear wheel drive mod­els bet­ter suited for those long road de­liv­er­ies and to pull trail­ers.

The rear-wheel drive Vito is pow­ered by a 2,2, four-cylin­der en­gine with a 2,2-litre dis­place­ment avail­able with three power out­put lev­els, 100 kW in the 114 CDI; 120 kW in the 116 CDI and 140 kW in the top-of-the-range 119 BlueTEC au­to­matic. A six-speed man­ual is stan­dard, with the 7G-Tronic Plus au­to­matic with torque con­verter an op­tion on the Vito 114 CDI and Vito 116 CDI Vito.

PRIC­ING

111 CDI Panel Van R372 780

114 CDI Panel Van R409 830

116 CDI Panel Van R443 460

111 CDI Mixto R443 460

116 CDI Mixto R556 320

111 CDI Tourer PRO R516 272

114 CDI Tourer PRO R540 314

116 CDI Tourer PRO R572 348

116 CDI Tourer Se­lect R676 088

119 CDI Tourer Se­lect R744 386

“The new Vito cre­ates an as­sertive and un­mis­tak­able im­pres­sion but its de­sign is not an end in it­self. Even at first glance the new Vito’s body­work ex­udes high qual­ity and both driv­ers and oc­cu­pants get the im­pres­sion the ve­hi­cle can han­dle any task thrown at it.”

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

Able to carry well over a ton and sip less than 6 l/100 km, the new Mercedes-Benz prom­ises its new Vito will let you play as hard as you work.

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