Vito sets the benchmark for van design (except interior)
Front fog lamps not working
Horn sometimes didn't work.
Our family got this van through parallel import instead of the authorized MB dealer as they didn't offer this model in passenger van guise. In our country, the van was registered as a "private hire bus" and was thus way cheaper than a "private car", due to the less hefty taxes involved. It was purchased at a very low price of S$55 000 while a Toyota Estima would have cost more than 100k.
The van was originally a panel van and therefore modifications like replacing the panels with glass, installation of the rear air conditioning unit, rear seats and even the central locking system were done ex-factory by a local workshop. Unfortunately, the work quality wasn't very good, the rear windows cannot open; the rear ceiling insulation is far from adequate, the air conditioning unit wasn't very sufficient at times. You pay peanuts, you get monkeys, I suppose. This is Mercedes Benz with a rock bottom budget fitting out.
Dealer woes aside, the MB build is superb in itself. It is a world apart from the Ford Econovan or Hiace models I used to drive. With 102hp and 300nm on tap, the acceleration allows me to keep pace with cars at the stop light with ease, while the Econovan would be groaning painfully. The Vito's torque is very obvious from the engine's grunt and the way it leaps forward upon request from the foot. It drives like a car and will readily overtake cars on the road. It is a very sturdy vehicle and it does not feel light and rolls like the Japanese models do. It is very surefooted at speed as well as cornering. The gearbox spacing is also very car like with 90km/h (55mph) at around 2200 rpm, while the Hiace would be blowing its head off at around 80km/h (50 mph) in fifth. However, the down changes in gears can be very jerky if the action is not coordinated carefully. It was less a problem on the Ford.
The Vito is now the quickest performing van in Singapore now. Unfortunately, this also means that the Vito is also a favourite prey of the highly efficient Traffic Police in Singapore. This is partly due to the speed limit of commercial vehicles, regulated at 70 km/h. this is still more sensible than 60km/h of the past few years, and the initial ridiculous 50km/h. therefore, a passenger car can cruise on the highway legally at 90km/h, a van would be pulled over if he drove at 85km/h, even if the vehicle was empty. Therefore, the penalties apply irregardless of the road limit. As long as you are above the vehicular limit, you get the boot. Thankfully though, the limit is more sensible now. Anyway, I don't really give a damn about the speed limit. Just keep my eyes open for cops.
I am presently very surprised at the fuel consumption figures. Here are some consumption figures for combined cycles:
1. 1.89 litres for 27.5 miles
2. 17.08 litres for 134.8 miles
This turns out to be 4.75l/100km or 59.4mpg (UK gallons) in the first instance and 7.87 (35.9mpg) for the second. I am very pleased with the result because I am not a feather footed driver. And the routes I take are mostly a fair mix of urban crawls and highway runs at around 90km/h. This is even better than the manufacturer's quotes for the new generation Vito models. Therefore, it is a good feeling to know that you are driving a high performance vehicle (for its engine size) with the fuel frugality of a hatchback. With premium 98 petrol costing S$1.60 per litre (US$0.82) and diesel $1.01 (US $0.59) now, the difference is really felt at the pumps. A fill will generally be about US$29 for a full tank while my friend's Mazda 3 is about US$35. In all, it translates to savings of over 50% for over the petrol model of similar engine capacity.
The Vito has so far given me little manufacturer problems. The most headaches come from the inferior local modifications. However, I feel that the interior design is rather Spartan for an MB model. For example, the glove box didn't even have a cover fitted as standard. The trim also feels like any typical Japanese model. Maybe this model was targeted at the bread and butter market. The cloth seats are also unsuitable for our tropical climate as we sweat very easily. The Vito new goods van is fitted with vinyl seats. I hope that a better quality type will be fitted onto the passenger models.
Maintenance wise, the Vito has not given us a single mechanical problem so far. My friend who owns a Vito for 5 years now also said that he has not had a major problem too. However, the local mechanics baulk at the thought of a Vito. They lament that it is a very complicated vehicle to maintain, given the compactness of the front wheel drive system and the common rail system, which is still a break from traditional injection systems. A clutch, they also said, takes about a day to take apart. Their favourite is still the Hiace, which is true that it is not only a more mechanic friendly vehicle, but cheaper to maintain too. Spare parts costs for the Vito will be much more and I hope it won't give us sleepless nights.
In conclusion, the Vito has given us a very good combination of performance, dynamics and fuel economy, though the present Common Rail 3 technologies might put these strengths to shame. Improve the interior quality and this van would be much more desirable. It has drawn plenty of attention from many friends who are impressed by its interior space, performance and frugality. However, I would very much like to see MB put their more generous and state of the art 3.2 litre or even 4.0 V8 diesels into the Vito in future. It would make the Vito the van to die for.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 19th March, 2005