Revised Mercedes Vito

Date: Monday, October 18, 2010

Mercedes-Benz has revamped the Vito, with new Euro5 engines borrowed from the latest Sprinter and said to be up to 15% more fuel-efficient than their predecessors as well as being more powerful and offering more torque.

 

It also gets a redesigned chassis plus internal and external restyling. It can carry more too.

In most cases power for the medium-sized panel van comes courtesy of a 2.1-litre four-cylinder common rail OM 651 diesel developing 95hp (110CDI), 136hp (113CDI) or 163hp (116CDI) and married to a six-speed ECO Gear manual gearbox as standard. It’s got a short first gear, but a long top.

Maximum torque is 250Nm, 310Nm, and 360Nm respectively with CO2 emissions quoted at 203g/km, 195g/km and 195g/km again for the two more powerful models.

At the top of the range however there’s the 122CDI with a 3.0-litre V6 common rail diesel generating a meaty 224hp and marketed solely as a five-speed automatic. Top torque is 440Nm and a particulate trap forms part of the package. So do four chain-driven overhead camshafts. CO2 emissions are set at 226g/km.

Also married exclusively to a five-speed auto box, a 258hp V6 petrol lump is available too in the 126 model, but is unlikely to be offered in the UK.

Operating at a maximum injection pressure of 1800 bar – the V6 diesel operates at 1600 bar – the four-cylinder diesels come with a chain-driven camshaft, a particulate trap and Lanchester balancer shafts to help them run more smoothly.

Two counter-rotating shafts running under the crank case and driven by spur gears, they’re named after pioneering British automotive engineer Frederick Lanchester. He was renowned among other things for his work on reducing vibration in car engines in the late 19th century.

Grossing at from 2.8 to 3.2 tonnes – the previous start-point was 2.77 tonnes and a 3.05-tonner is now available – Vito boasts an 800kg–1,330kg payload capacity. Depending on the model selected that’s a rise of up to 100kg.

Load cubes range from 4.6cu m to 6.49cu m and Vito is produced with three different body lengths and either a standard or a high roof.  Standard safety equipment includes ABS, Electronic Stability Programme, Acceleration Skid Control, Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution.

 

On the Road

So far as the chassis is concerned, Mercedes has made detailed changes to the front axle and the front and rear suspension. Alterations to the latter mean that the set-up varies according to whether the Vito concerned will primarily carry cargo or passengers.

Vito is produced as a crew bus and with rear seats plus a cargo area at the back as well as in straightforward van guise.

Most Vitos are rear-wheel-drive. The only ones that are not are the electric version (see September’s What Van? for our report on the excellent front-wheel-drive Vito E-CELL) and the 4x4. Minor engineering changing to the four-wheel-drive Vito should help cut vibration and component wear.

Vito fans will be able to distinguish the latest model from its predecessor by its new front lights and bumper.

Internal styling changes include a new shift lever and a different switch layout. Bluetooth is standard along with an aux connection, and the top-of-the-range audio systems now available boast voice control for the radio, CD player, and sat nav.

So what’s the latest Vito like to drive? We flew off to Germany and pursued a tortuous route in and around Hamburg and its sprawling dockland in a standard roof long-bodied 113CDI to find out.

There’s no denying that the Three Pointed Star’s latest offering is remarkably well put together. In fact the build quality is so high that most of its competitors feel like tin cans on wheels by comparison. Nothing squeaks, rattles or shakes, and everything fits precisely.

It rides well too, even when asked to tackle Hamburg’s cobbled quaysides. The handling is safe and predictable, with ample feedback through the steering, and the performance on tap makes it easy to nip quickly through any gaps that may present themselves in big city traffic.

Like the Sprinter also road tested recently, our 113CDI was fitted with EcoStart, an extra-cost option. Pull up at the lights, pop the gear lever into neutral, and the engine cuts out, saving fuel and reducing CO2 emissions.

When the lights go green all you need to do is dip the clutch, and the engine fires up again immediately. It makes a decent contribution to cutting light commercial operating costs, and we’d like it to be made a standard feature on both the Vito and Sprinter.

EcoStart is included in an environmentally-friendly optional BlueEfficiency package that embraces a variety of other energy-saving measures, including low-rolling-resistance tyres.

 

Drawbacks

We cannot understand why Mercedes persists in equipping Vito with a foot-operated parking brake.

Far from being an endearing eccentricity, it’s a real irritation as you keep grabbing for a non-existent handbrake lever. Nor does it make it easy to execute hill starts.

OK, you get used to the set-up eventually. But why should you have to? It should be replaced with a conventional parking brake release.

Our demonstrator suffered from a notchy, clonky gear change, something that we also noticed on early left-hand-drive versions of the latest Sprinter. It’s not something that appears to plague later, right-hand drive, Sprinters though – our road test Sprinter didn’t suffer from it – so hopefully neither will right-hand drive versions of the new Vito.

The 113CDI packs enough poke for the majority of applications. Going for the 116CDI could make a lot of sense however if you have to tackle a lot of long-distance intercity runs.

It offers oodles of performance and delivers it smoothly; we sampled it with the optional auto box. The 110CDI we suspect is best confined purely to stop-start urban work, with the V6 diesel an option for those who do a lot of high-mileage work fully-laden and hauling a heavy trailer.

Vitos come with an Assyst service computer that detects when a visit to the workshop is required, taking into account the vehicle’s actual usage. The likely average oil change interval is reckoned to be 18,750 miles.

Vito prices start at £16,750 with a hill-hold function available on the four-cylinder engines as a £100 option. Along with EcoStart – not suitable for autos – we’d like to see it made standard on manual models.

 

Verdict
While the latest Vito has its drawbacks, it remains an impressive piece of kit. Its
extraordinarily-high build quality should ensure strong residual values and plenty of interest.




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