The rear two rows of seats can all be removed to turn this Vito into a cavernous panelvan. Access to the rear is made easy by sliding doors on each side. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The rear two rows of seats can all be removed to turn this Vito into a cavernous panelvan. Access to the rear is made easy by sliding doors on each side. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The Vito is the commercially-oriented workhorse mid-size van option from Mercedes-Benz, where the more luxurious V-Class is aimed more at the family segment.

Positioned as a high-payload but affordable offering, the Vito is a versatile vehicle offered in a number of panelvan and people-carrying derivatives. The permissible gross vehicle weight is between 2.8 and 3.05 tons, and the panelvan’s capable of carrying a hefty 1,344 kg payload.

The variant on test here is the nine-seater 111 Tourer Pro with the 5,140mm body (the Vito is also available in extra-long 5,370mm and compact 4,895mm configurations).

The 111 Tourer is a mid-sized commercial vehicle that can be used as both a people carrier or cargo lugger, or various combinations of the two.

There’s a more premium Vito Tourer Select model also available, but the Vito Tourer Pro, priced at R623,910, is a basic-featured bus aimed at business applications such as shuttle services. It’s not really a family vehicle as there are no family-pleasing gadgets such as touchscreen infotainment or adjustable seats.

The 1.6 turbo engine is reasonably well powered except for some noticeable turbo lag at low revs. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The 1.6 turbo engine is reasonably well powered except for some noticeable turbo lag at low revs. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Only the driver’s seat can be adjusted for backrest angle and legroom. The eight passenger pews are all fixed in place, with the front two seats set at a particularly upright angle that seems as if it could soon become uncomfortable over a longer journey. A little too much cost-cutting there methinks.

Though the seats don’t adjust, passengers do enjoy exceptional leg- and head-room inside this big bus, and there’s heaps of luggage space. The rear two rows of seats can all be removed at the tug of a few levers to turn this Vito into a cavernous panelvan. Access to the rear is made easy by sliding doors on each side.

As for the infotainment, there’s just a basic old-school (non-touchscreen) audio system but it does have USB and aux ports, and Bluetooth, for hands-free telephony and music streaming.

The only other frills in this van are aircon, automatic headlights, electric windows, and central locking. The advantage of having so few gizmos, though, is a very neat and uncluttered dashboard where everything quickly becomes intuitive to operate.


Mercedes-Benz Vito 111 Tourer Pro

WE LIKE: Versatility, fuel economy

WE DISLIKE: Nonadjustable passenger seats, turbo lag

VERDICT: Practical but rather pricey small bus


The seats are cloth-covered instead of leather and the dashboard is all hard plastics instead of the plush soft-touch surfaces we’re used to from Benz, further underlining this Vito’s more workhorse-oriented place in Merc’s pecking order. The vehicle’s also equipped with working-class steel wheels and black bumpers.

Under the short snout is a 1.6l turbo diesel with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission. No automatic is offered in this 111 variant, unlike the more expensive Vitos.

A 1.6 seems a little under endowed for a big people carrier, but the engine is reasonably well powered except for some noticeable turbo lag at low revs. Sometimes you get stuck in a frustrating “dead zone” waiting for this van to awaken from its snooze, but once into its power band this small-capacity engine pulls with surprising punchiness. The 84kW power output is quite modest but there’s a very creditable 270Nm of load-lugging torque on call.

Infotainment is limited to a non-touchscreen audio system but it does have USB and aux ports, and Bluetooth. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Infotainment is limited to a non-touchscreen audio system but it does have USB and aux ports, and Bluetooth. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Usually an automatic makes a better pairing with a vehicle that will probably spend much of its time driving in a stop-start urban environment, but in this case having a clutch is beneficial to keeping that engine in its power band, and so is the hill-start assist feature. It’s also a fuel sipper and our test vehicle averaged 8.2l/ 100km, though this was mostly with just the driver onboard.

Every new Vito benefits from unusually long service intervals of up to 40,000km, or two years.

While the Vito Tourer Select lacks in the luxury department, it’s all solid Benz engineering underneath. It’s a solid-feeling vehicle and a fairly quiet performer, humming along without sounding agricultural, while the low drag coefficient of 0.32 Cd prevents excessive wind noise.

The ride quality is reasonably comfortable, and for a high-roofed bus the handling is satisfactorily planted, without feeling excessively soggy.

This versatile Vito isn’t exactly a working-class hero as it’s expensive compared to the opposition, but that Benz badge might just add an extra touch of class to a shuttle service wanting to make a good impression.


Tech Specs

Engine

Type: four cylinder turbo diesel

Capacity: 1,598cc

Power: 84kW @ 3,800 r/min

Torque: 270Nm @ 1,500-2,500 r/min

Transmission

Type: Six-speed manual

Drivetrain

Type: Front-wheel drive

Performance (claimed)

Top speed:169km/h

0-100km/h: 14.4 seconds

Fuel Consumption: 6.4 l/100 kml/100km (claimed); 8.2l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 163 g/km

Standard features

Nine seats, central locking, air conditioning, audio system with USB and Bluetooth, electric front windows, electric mirrors, ABS brakes, stability control, dual front airbags, Attention Assist

Cost of ownership

Warranty: 2 years/unlimited distance

Maintenance plan: Five years/120,000km

Price: R623,910

Lease*: R13,350 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit


Star rating

Design ***

Performance ***

Economy ***

Safety ****

Value For Money ***

Overall ***

Competition

Ford Tourneo Custom 2.2 TDCi LWB Ambiente, 74kW/310Nm - R529,100

Toyota Quantum 2.5D-4D GL 10-seater bus, 75kW/260Nm - R522,100

VW Transporter 2.0 TDI Crew bus LWB, 75kW/250Nm - R501,300