Once upon a time the van was a one size fits all affair as these haulers simply offered an empty space and somewhere for the driver to sit. They were noisy, poorly equipped, and in most cases terrible to drive. In the modern day vans are a far cry from their boxy ancestors with many being more akin to road cars than mobile storage units. Variety is indeed the spice of life and so todays van owner can choose from an almost limitless combination of body styles, colours, trim levels, and options. A white extended wheelbase, yellow high top with dual zone air conditioning, ladder frame, or even one with six wheels. The possibilities are endless and the results tailored to the needs of the user. The new Mercedes-Benz Vito is a very good example of how far vans have come from those days of clattering diesel engines that belched out black smoke.
Here we have the brand new Mercedes Vito, or the 119 BlueTEC Tourer Select Long to give it its full name. The Vito has always been a strong performer for the three pointed star and appeals to those who want a premium touch to their commercial vehicle. It comes in a few van variations, but this Tourer model seats eight and being of the Select trim has plenty of gadgets.
A press of a button electrically opens the rear sliding door presenting the interior. In our configuration the six rear seats faced each other in an almost business meeting type fashion. Prod another button and the door seals your VIPs inside behind tinted glass whilst their luggage is stowed in the boot. A compliment ride also means that the Vito Tourer can really be used as a mobile office space.
Front occupants are treated to armchair-like seating and brushed aluminium buttons. A three pronged steering wheel which isn’t too dissimilar to that found on a C-Class proudly sports the chromed Mercedes star. Lane departure warning, proximity detection, crosswind assist, cruise control, it is all here! Whilst the infotainment system user interface is a bit dated, it does provide access to satellite navigation, radio, media, and Bluetooth connectivity. The interior of the Vito shares plenty of design attributes, materials, and amenities with passenger cars. Considering that the professional driver will spend most of their working day inside the cabin, the interior is a very important space to get right.
Parallels to cars can further be drawn in the way the new Vito drives. Despite being a large vehicle it actually is very easy to operate. Reversing camera, lane departure warning, and parking sensors made moving from one place to another very easy and much less intimidating. Our test van could also park itself meaning that as you fit into a tight space on the high street, you look like a parking God. A 7 speed automatic transmission smoothly selected appropriate gears and high levels of refinement meant that long motorway journeys were found to be relaxing.
In terms of efficiency, the 190HP four cylinder diesel engine emits 163g/km CO2 which would have been considered which craft in such a vehicle in days gone by. Mercedes-Benz also claim a respectable 45.6MPG combined.
Clearly the van has come a very long way and as competition in this marketplace becomes ever stronger, the products are only going to get even better.