Mercedes-Benz Vito 119CDi Sport – Whatever the road and whatever the load, it delivers more than admirably.
Powered by a 2.1-litre, twin-turbo four cylinder diesel that develops 190hp, the Vito Sport lives up to its name and is clearly no slouch, either in urban conditions or on the motorway. Working perfectly with the seven-speed automatic transmission (which comes with paddle shift as well as traditional ‘D’-selection), the Vito’s engine responds admirably to a small dab of the throttle and even more to a sizeable pedal prodding.
Mash the accelerator hard and it’s clear the ’box has dropped down a couple of cogs, but the changes are smooth both up and down the range, the only indication, other than a slight rise in engine noise, being the rev counter needle moving. On the move there’s very little noise intrusion, even when scaling long steep inclines or when overtaking a line of slower vehicles. In all, the engine punches well above its weight, but that performance doesn’t come at the expense of economy – on a non-stop, 315 miles run from King’s Lynn to West Wales, the Vito still served up 49.4mpg. The brakes are supremely powerful, with a reasonable amount of feel – while the pedal doesn’t feel wooden, it slightly lacks life but what is slightly lost in feel is more than compensated for in confidence-inspiring.
Again, the Sport moniker gives an indication of how the Vito rides and handles, but that’s a positive sign rather than otherwise. The steering is first class, being very light at low-speeds, while on fast A- and B-roads (as well as motorways) it has enough weight and balance to give a feel for the road surface, but not be burdensome – drivers don’t need biceps like Popeye’s, even after a six-and-half hours’ journey from Carmarthenshire to King’s Lynn. Ride control is good, thanks to a short front overhang and not much length behind the back axle. The Vito’s ride is never choppy, even on the worn inside lanes of a motorway.
Handling is good too – getting a move on over East Anglia’s Fenland roads it’s hard to wrong-foot the Vito: Diving into an ever-tightening bend doesn’t lead to panic-induced braking – some steering wheel input puts things right with the minimum of fuss. Also noteworthy is the lack of road noise. The 17-inch alloys with relatively low profile tyres, plus an empty van body, could be seen as the starting point for much road noise amplification, bit that isn’t the case. Long journeys are as relaxing as any in an upmarket saloon car. Mention must also be given to the seats which are immensely comfortable – there’s plenty of back and thigh support and enough adjustment to meet the demands of drivers (and passengers) of all sizes.
Loadspace and practicality
Large sliding doors on either side plus the top-hinged tailgate means loading the Vito is easy, even with heavy items like cylinder blocks and gearboxes. While some drivers might complain about the rear tailgate, it offers good protection from the rain. The floor is flat and low and the wheel boxes are small, meaning the entire floor is almost entirely uninterrupted and there’s a solid bulkhead between the cab and the load area to stop sudden-braking load surge: Having said that there are eight floor-mounted load-fastening hooks. The floor is lined with hard-wearing material but it could benefit for having more grip. There’s a large, reasonably bright light mounted above the nearside loading door.
The Vito combines sensible modern ergonomics with simple switches and controls – as an example, there’s a button to turn on the radio, and buttons for radio station selection. There’s a button to turn on the heater/air-conditioning (which is supremely powerful and clears the glass quickly on a wet day), and one to adjust the temperature – easy to use, and effective. The instruments are clear too, with speedometer and rev counter easily visible, while the switches all have a precise action. Space-wise the Vito scores very well, with large door bins big enough to carry large pop bottles. There are three storage slots above the dashboard and the glovebox is well-sized too.
The Vito manages successfully combines great looks with practicality, and in many ways mirrors earlier Mercedes-Benz vans like the 207D/307D. The relatively short bonnet means most of the Vito’s length is dedicated to load space, and its box-like rear (which is not to decry its appearance) means large, bulky loads are easily accommodated. The bonnet’s compact length means moving through traffic, and squeezing into tight spaces, isn’t too much of a chore. The door mirrors are effective: they make low-speed reversing easy, but they’re also good on the motorway where, because of the full-length bulkhead and solid tailgate, rear-view visibility is at a bit of a premium. The deep windscreen and door glass is good, offering excellent forward-facing and side visibility, and unusually for a modern van, the windscreen pillars aren’t too thick.
The Garage Verdict
We covered just shy of 1100 miles in six days with the Vito Sport, and whatever the road and whatever the load, it delivers more than admirably. It’s extremely practical, it’s very economical and it has a first-rate turn of speed. For the driver it’s supremely comfortable and a pleasingly simple dashboard design makes a welcome change these days. Build quality is good: the doors are like Mercedes-Benz vans of old, closing with a decent ‘thunk’ and point to a long service life. All in all the Vito does the job extremely well, and for any business that has to be reassuring.