Cheap, but the opposite of nasty
Merc says what you do with it is your business
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.
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.”
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.