Regular readers may recall that the Mercedes-Benz Vito was featured in June 2017’s issue of ‘Truck & Bus Supplement’. There, we featured the long wheelbase Vito in Extra Long guise that clocked in a full-fat 5.37m in length. It could have up to three rows (minus driver-passenger row) of comfortable seats, making it an executive people carrier, or a luggage compartment that looked like it could swallow a small car!
However, what if you are a family man who wants a rugged people carrier with a three-pointed star on the nose? This is where the Vito Compact fits in. At a more parking-space friendly 4.9m in length, it’s the more family-friendly variant (with ample space for the dog, too).
The Extra Long Vito looked lengthy. Commercial, in fact. The Compact on the other hand has a more MPV-ish outlook. It’s got the same face (with the three-pointed star prominently featuring), with LED Intelligent Lighting that automatically adjusts the beam projection, auto dips and turns with the steering angle. While the Extra Long had 16-inch alloys, the Compact enjoys 17-inch alloys with 225/55 tyres that give it a more car-like look once again. Jupiter Red paintwork (rather than the more workmanlike blacks, greys and whites) once again give the Compact a sense of youthfulness. At the rear, LED lighting is used for the brake/park lights. Roof rails are optional.
Mech & Tech
The engine is the OM651 twin-scroll turbodiesel as was tested in the Extra Long, and outputs the same 163bhp at 3,800rpm and 380Nm of twist between 1,400 and 2,400rpm. Drive is to the rear wheels via Mercedes-Benz’ renowned 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox, replete with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Multi-link independent suspension all round is one of the tricks that makes the Vito handle in a more car-like fashion. Braking is via all-round discs that are controlled by ABS and EBD, while steering is via an electric rack.
The electric safety gizmos are covered in the Safety section, and boy are they more than one would expect for an MPV!
Familiar seat to climb into, the upright driving position affords great visibility all round. Just be aware that this is not your typical “Cab Over” van, and that there is a (rather significant) bonnet in front that slopes away from you. Grip a typically Mercedes-Benz steering wheel that is button-laden and has the paddles behind too. Gearshifter is on a stalk, where you would typically find the wiper stalk in a Euro car (or the turn signal stalk in a Jap/Korean/Indian). Crank up the engine and it is muted at idle. A mild vibration transmits through the pedals and floorboard, reminding you that it drinks the harder stuff.
The seat fabric is very grippy and I am told by Shamal Fernando – Business Unit Manager for Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles that this goes in line with the “rugged family use” ethos of the Vito. The Vito is indeed built tough, and ‘wipe-clean-able’ - you can feel it when you touch the surfaces.
If it is leather you so desire, fret not as Dimo can fit high quality covers to the seats – Shamal showed me the ones in his Vito and they certainly match up with the rest of the vehicle. Kudos to the local manufacturer who makes them.
The Compact has a bit more peppiness than the Extra Long – of course a lower curb weight coupled with the same engine spec will result in this. It also corners flatter and the brakes feel stronger – not that the Extra Long was wanting in any of these departments either. On the highway, the Compact cruises effortlessly at 100km/h with the cruise control holding the speed tightly. Give it a push and it will easily go to 130km/h and beyond but 100-110 is the natural territory at which everything settles down to an impressive hush. The speedo is in MPH only, but you can configure a digital KM/H readout on the digital display between the gauges.
We are stopped at a traffic light as the timer counts down. A new-ish Japanese van that is very common on our roads is alongside of us, and in typical impatience, starts moving while the timer is still counting down three seconds in orange. I wait for the light to properly turn green and floor it in manual, paddle-shifting up at 4,000rpm. By the time we reach the other end of the junction, the Vito is properly ahead of the light-jumper who no doubt must still be scratching his head in confusion to this day! The Vito has a get-up-and-go that no van rightfully should have!
The ride is firm – we took it on the much despised “concrete road” that one finds here and there, and you could hear the road, but much of the imperfections were filtered out, albeit firmly. You don’t get that pillow-softened feel of an S class though.
I must lightly mention the three driving modes. ECO dulls throttle response and reduced AC cooling, among other optimized parameters to help eke out maximum KM/L. COMFORT is the best for cruising around, the engine and gearbox sync well to give performance when you demand it. MANUAL is for when you want to take control via the paddles.
Living with the Vito
Unlike the Extra Long, the Compact enjoys a more comprehensive spec. Electric driver and passenger seats with memory and adjustable lumbar? Check. Three-zone climate control (driver, front passenger and rear)? Check. Full multimedia system with Radio, Bluetooth, AUX, USB and Reverse Cam? Check. The sound quality is pretty good. The only missing media source is CD.
In the rear, you get a single bench with three individual, reclining seats that are supremely comfortable and you will easily doze off in them. AC vents at head and foot level keep you chilled (adjusting the AC here is up to the driver, though). You get four ISOFIX mounts for fixing two child seats. There is a convenient “rail” system in the cargo area behind that allows you to fix another row of seats if desired, or secure cargo via hooks and anchors. Auto lights, auto wipers that are sensitive to the rain (we saw this in action during our rain-soaked return on the expressway), cruise control and full trip computer round of an impressive suite of features.
Just like it’s Extra Long brother, the Compact enjoys a five-star EuroNCAP rating has ABS, ESP, four airbags up front, crash absorbing structure, immobilizer, remote central locking and all the standard fitments. But this is just the start. Also add on tyre pressure monitoring, first aid kit, warning triangle and a full-sized spare wheel which is becoming a rarity nowadays!
Additionally, the Vito has Attention Assist which monitors a plethora of driver parameters (including how erratically he/she is driving, steering inputs, etc.) and if the vehicle determines the driver needs a rest it will visually and audibly grumble until such a rest is taken. Very useful to ensure the driver doesn’t doze off on the Expressway.
The Vito also has Crosswind Assist which uses the brakes to help keep the vehicle stable in the event of heavy crosswinds.
Fuel Economy & Price
The Compact retails for Rs. 12.2 million, with a full five-year warranty that includes free servicing and selected consumables. This puts it in an interesting bracket, sandwiched between some Japanese and some competing Euro seven-seat vehicles.
Fuel economy is quite interesting. Throughout the test, the AC was at 18C and I didn’t skimp on any comfort features. However I drove a variety of ‘driving profiles’.
On the highway, the Vito gave 20km/l at 80km/h with cruise control off. Up the speed to 100km/h and put the cruise control on and it was closer to 15km/l. Hard acceleration to the rev limiter showed me instantaneous consumption of around 4km/l, albeit you will not be driving this vehicle at the limiter in low gear for long periods of time!
I tried some hypermiling on a free B-road and was able to achieve 20-21km/l with a very light foot and a lot of pre-planning. Not practical for the average daily driver unless it is 3am, reserve light glowing and miles from the nearest fuel shed. Enter the school traffic rush and I got 6.5km/l with driving like a typical Lankan – that is, heavy acceleration to close gaps in the traffic, followed by heavy braking, rinse and repeat. In total, our average KM/L over these mixed conditions came out to 10km/l – not bad!
t doesn’t appear on the surface to fit in with the typical Mercedes-Benz passenger car lineup until you get inside one and drive or be driven in it. Then it makes sense – and you see where Mercedes-Benz have introduced car-like engineering to make it stand apart from the rivals.
So for the family man or woman who is looking for a vehicle in this price range, undertakes a fair bit of trips and wants something that won’t suffer too much when the kids decide that the dashboard needs a smearing of essence-du-WonderBar, head to Dimo 800 and give the Vito Compact a look.
163bhp @ 3,800rpm
380Nm @ 1,400-2,400rpm
Wheels & Tyres
Kerb Weight: 1,990kg
Fuel Tank: 57L