As is its tradition since 2009, Mercedes-Benz has supplemented its new Vito medium van, launched last year, by introducing a retail market-friendly Sports derivative, which broke cover in November.
With increased emphasis put on styling features, the Sports models are designed to appeal to enthusiasts who want a more head-turning spin on the competent, high-quality standard Vito.
The Vito Sport is available with 163hp 116 and 190hp 119 Euro6 Bluetec engines, as a panel van and crew van and in compact and long body shapes.
Prices start at £25,495 for the 116 Bluetec Compact panel van and rise to £29,990 for the 119 Bluetec Long crew van.
Exterior visual styling elements on the Sport include chrome sidebars and front grille trim, rear model badging, front fog lamps with chrome trim, rear tailgate chrome trim, colour-coded bumpers and
five-spoke alloy wheels.
Inside the cab you get air-conditioning, comfort driver and single passenger seats, Sport-branded floor mats, a media system with a colour screen, and tinted glass.
However, for all that, the Sport’s interior does not impart a great sense of high-tech luxury. Our test 116 Crew Van Long was finished in classy but sombre dark shades, and it felt like an austere rather than a sporty environment.
We like the spaciousness of the interior, which is enhanced by the carpeted gap between the standalone front seats where, in most vans, the handbrake would be, but cannot help but wonder if some sort of storage facility might have been more useful in the location.
There are not many options when it comes to stowing stuff away – a notable absentee is the lack of a shelf above the windscreen.
The sound from the media system is good, but getting just AM and FM streams and not DAB feels a bit mean on a model at the top end of the spec ladder.
All Vito Sport models are pre-prepared for the optional plug-in Becker MapPilot navigation system – which Merc claims is a cost-effective way of bringing fully integrated navigation features through the standard Auto 15 head unit and visual display. Again, on a model with a £27,980 price excluding VAT, getting it as standard wouldn’t go amiss.
Mercedes is persisting with its foot-operated parking brake in the new Vito range. The driver releases the brake with a hand-operated lever on the dash, which makes a loud clunk. The whole operation is less than slick and the absence of an automatic release feels archaic.
Front and rear passengers can use grab handles to help themselves on board, but, curiously, not the driver. Odder still, grab handles are installed in the load area for a non-existent third row of seats.
A feature that makes more sense is the clever fuel cap cover that can only be released by opening the front passenger door. This means the fuel tank cannot be tampered with and negates the need for a lockable fuel cap.
On the road, the 2.1-litre 163hp engine delivers a generous supply of power across all six cogs of the impressively precise manual gearbox. The speed-sensitive electric power steering, however, can feel a little light and overly sensitive in urban settings, but becomes steadier when you pick up speed.
Cruise control takes the stress out of motorway journeys, but once back in town, the lack of reversing sensors can cause the odd worrying moment when it comes to squeezing what is a long (5140mm) and expensive vehicle into restricted spaces.
Mercedes is developing Sport-X models to run alongside the Sport, which should be available shortly after the first quarter of 2016, and the brand would seem to have left itself plenty of leeway to further add to specification and styling features.
|Mercedes-Benz 116 Bluetec Crew Van Long Sport|
|Price (ex VAT) £27,980|
|Price range (ex VAT) £17,855-£29,990|
|Insurance group group 9|
|Warranty 3yrs/unltd miles|
|Service intervals 2yrs/25,000mls|
|Load length 1664mm|
|Load width 1270mm/1685mm|
|Gross payload 928kg|
|Load volume 4.1m3|
|Engine size/power 2143cc/163hp|
|On sale November 2015|
|Combined fuel economy 46.3mpg|
A thoroughly competent van but one that is perhaps not as well-endowed and exciting as its price and Sport badge might suggest.