Test: Mercedes-Benz Vito 114 BlueTec

By: Steve Atkinson


Deals on Wheels takes the Mercedes-Benz Vito 114 BlueTec Crew Cab for a spin and finds that it drives like a car and has all the advantages of a van

Here at Bauer Trader HQ, we’ve had a Mercedes Vito LWB 114 BlueTec Crew Cab van on long-term loan for the last few months. The new ride replaced a tried-and-trusted Toyota Hiace that served the daily needs of the division for many years.

It’s fair to say some here were sad to see the old van go; none more than the millennials who occasionally commandeered it for shifting furniture between central city flats. So when the Mercedes Vito arrived in the car park, quite naturally some feathers were ruffled. Throwing the keys in my direction, the boss instructed me to drive it like I owned it and clock up some kilometres. He wanted us to see if it could handle the pace and differing tasks required.

Mercedes Vito LWB 114 BlueTec Crew Cab

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The Mercedes Vito LWB 114 BlueTec Crew Cab van model—if I’m allowed to call it that—is quite an interesting piece of kit. First off, calling it a van doesn’t seem quite right even if it does have the diesel-engined breeding common to most vans these days, and has a cargo bay big enough to fit a whole pallet of goods.

However, in my opinion, it’s much more than just a van. But by the same token, since it has a conventional passenger seating layout, calling the Vito a car isn’t correct either. Sure, the vehicle had all the trimmings of a decent car and certainly way more than I’d likely find in most vans these days.

The passenger cabin itself has spacious seating for five, with walkthrough access from front through to the back. One idea the Vito’s German manufacturer can steal from the Japanese is the provision of armrests especially on the driver and front passenger seats, but that misstep aside, people-comfort design is a priority with this vehicle.

Other interior comforts include a good air-conditioning system and radio—or media centre as they like to call them these days—complete with Bluetooth connectivity and which is easy to connect and has a more than decent sound quality.

Transmission

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Transmission-wise, a stick off to the right side of the steering column helps select the direction you want to travel and also houses the ‘park’ gear for the transmission. With the indicator stick located on the opposite side to Japanese-designed vehicles, the occasional faux pas is almost guaranteed to happen, when the need to turn a corner or swap lanes results in the Vito’s gearshift lever accidentally being knocked into the Neutral position. I know because it happened to me a few times.

Going full-on Euro style, paddle shifters on the steering wheel enable F1-styled gear changes through the seven forward ratios, should you want to try and dispatch a competitor at the traffic lights, but I’m inclined to think the addition of these was just Mercedes designers showing off a little.

Rear end

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The rear—or what I would call the ‘commercial end’—of the LWB crew cab Vito is essentially a completely separate compartment, being divided from the passenger section by a solid steel-panelled partition. No cargo barrier mesh somehow gives the vehicle a feel of two completely different vehicles.

With a maximum loading length of 1894mm, this variation of the Vito van will easily accommodate a standard wooden pallet of 1220mm x 1016mm with room to spare. If you’re not into transporting around the odd pallet of product, then there’s a myriad of other uses one could dream up for the large empty 4.1 cubic metre space. Other Vito models allow for a load length of more than three metres, but you’ll have to forgo the rear seats.

On the road

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First-time users are advised to spend time reading the owner’s manual, as the Mercedes Vito will more than likely catch the unprepared.

First off, there is the stop/start technology, which is intended to conserve fuel by stopping the engine when the Vito is at a standstill. Depressing the footbrake past a certain point shuts the engine down. When the brakes are released, the vehicle immediately restarts and begins to move forward. It feels a little unusual during the first few times of use, but once you get accustomed, you realise it’s quite a clever feature. Hopefully, the starter motor has been beefed-up to handle the extra work load.

Another feature I discovered is that under no circumstances should you open the driver’s door when reversing. Even though the Vito is fitted with an excellent reversing camera, alpha males frequently find the need to open the driver’s door when reversing into tight spots such as car parks; it being a necessity—and one way of differentiating the men from the hipsters. Unfortunately, this show of male strength cannot be used with the Mercedes Vito, as once the door opens when the vehicle is in motion, one of the numerous safety systems will immediately bring the Vito to a stop.

Safety systems

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As has been the Euro norm for longer than I care to remember, airbags feature heavily in the Mercedes Vito. In the case of this model, there are driver and front passenger airbags along with curtain airbags. Gone are the days of commercial vehicle drivers and their passengers being treated as second-class citizens.

Also supplied as standard is the on-board safety system that enables the Vito to sense crosswinds. These can be created from passing trucks or just a common windy day. The vehicle will sense the direction of the crosswind and ‘strategically’ (as Mercedes puts it) apply the brakes on the affected side and cushion the steering to keep the vehicle in a straight line. Apparently, the driver does not notice this is happening. In my few months of driving the Vito, this system may have been initiated a number of times, but I have never noticed, which means it works as intended.

The test

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Despite its size (5370mm end to end), the Mercedes Vito is surprisingly manoeuvrable, with the power from the 100kW (136hp) four-cylinder diesel engine more than adequate to haul a load of passengers and freight up to this model’s maximum payload capacity of 905kg.

Over the few thousand kilometres covered over the last few months, the Vito has performed flawlessly. A large portion of its use has been inner city driving loaded up with different types of freight and people—so far coming through unscathed and still with the new car/van smell.

New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays® at Mystery Creek in June saw the vehicle well used and abused throughout the week of the event, as it ferried people and equipment between Auckland and Hamilton continuously and even got stuck with a bunch of other vehicles on one muddied paddock excursion.

Some of you may remember the weather didn’t really play ball this year and mud from boots slicked up the inside well and truly at the end of each day. The benefit of clever designing is that it was a breeze to mop out the flat floor once the troops had departed and the Vito was quickly made ready for the next day.

Verdict

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So what’s my take on the Mercedes Vito LWB 114 BlueTec Crew Cab? The vehicle handles well and has a nice van-less feel when driving but with the added advantage of having a van in the back when needed.

I reckon it would suit a diverse range of people from classy tradie through to sporting families who want to throw all the mucky gear out of the way after the game—and everyone else in-between. The versatility the vehicle offers is only limited by the imagination of the owner or central city renter.

Mercedes-Benz 114 BlueTec specifications

Make and model Mercedes-Benz 114 BlueTec

Body style LWB crew cab

Drive Rear wheel drive

Transmission 7G-Tronic auto

Engine 100kW(136hp)@3800rpm

AdBlue req. Yes

Gross vehicle mass 3050kg

Unladen weight 2145kg

Payload capacity 905kg

Towing capacity 2500kg braked; 750kg unbraked

Max. load capacity 4.1m3

Turning circle 12.5m

Overall length 5370mm

Overall width 2244mm (incl. mirrors)

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