That great singer, songwriter and raconteur, Dave Marks, wrote in his iconic 1968 song titled Master Jack “It’s a strange, strange world we live in…” – never realising just how prophetic those words would become.
Much as South Africans loathe the minibus taxis that unrepentently and brazenly flout every traffic law known to peoplekind, these vehicles do move thousands of workers to and from their homes every day; transport that is as vital to them as it is to the economy of the country.
Many are overcrowded but when the last possible is squeezed, those left behind may have a long wait before the next one travel that particular route – partly the reason, I suppose, why so many people glared at me as I trundled and empty Mercedes-Benz Vito 111 Pro past them.
The anticipation on their faces was unmissable as the vehicle hove into view, changing to a bit of eyebrow-raising since Mercedes is not the primary choice for taxi operators and then to disappointment and an occasional touch of anger as all those empty seats swept past.
Moving away from the taxi ranks, the Mercedes-Benz Vito has found favour with shuttle operators, hotels, small tour operators and corporates that have to provide staff transport.
The current Vito range is now newcomer and has been around for several years but, it is this specific derivative – the 111 CDI Tourer Pro – that has been given some small tweaks to improve its profile among those buyers.
While still a ‘base’ model it gains an anti-theft package with seating upped to nine with the fitment of a knee-breaker double co-driver seat. Rear door sliding windows improve air circulation.
I am no giant, but that central front seat is horrendously uncomfortable and suitable only for small children who, actually should still be seated in a proper child seat. Still, one has to assume the change comes from customer demand!
The Mercedes-Benz Vito is a versatile and real professional among mid-size vans with a permissible gross vehicle weight between 2,8 tonnes and 3,05 tonnes.
When the new Vito was launched the slab-sided design of the original gave way to a much more aerodynamic profile, with the company quite proud of the fact it had a drag co-efficient of just 0,32 – and this does have a significant effect on fuel consumption.
In my various test cycles I managed to get the consumption down as low a 5,2 l/100 km on the open road and, adding a bit of rural driving this moves up to around 5,9 l/100 km. However, in the real world much of the time this vehicle will be in use will be short-hop stuff and probably plenty of traffic, so drivers should expect around 7,8 l/100 km.
Still, not too shabby for a vehicle that is 5 140 mm in length and has a tare mass of 1 900 kilograms.
For the new generation the cockpit was completely redesigned, for functionality and ergonomics and this clear and uncluttered space is vital for working drivers who will see that as their ‘office’. The cockpit has an exceptionally high-quality look for this vehicle class.
What does vanish with the centre seat is a lot of the stowage capacity for oddments since there is no longer a midle storage bin.
The front-wheel drive Vito has a transverse-mounted, compact four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 1,6 litres and produces 84 kW at 3 800 r/min with peak torque of 270 Nm coming in from 1 500 r/min, driving through a six-speed manual gearbox.
Considering its use, it is the torque that is the most important factor and, even with a full load, it will pootle along in a suitably fuel-saving high gear – and not having to constantly ‘row’ it along is also far less tiring for the driver.
It has a load capacity of 990 litres and is able to tow an unbraked mass of 750 kilograms.
City driving is less strenuous than the length of the Vito would suggest – however, it does have a large turning circle of 12,9 metres and the width (including mirrors) of 2 244 mm does just about fit a correctly sized parking bay.
Park Distance Control is an optional extra but the large electrically operated side mirrors provide a good view of what is going on behind and make squeezing into tight spaces in reverse rather easy.
Standard features include anti-lock braking and dual front air bags, air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, auto on headlights, fog lights, high-level third brake light, towbar and heated side mirrors.
Mercedes-BenzVans offers a 5-year /120 000 km service plan for all derivatives of the newVito. It is also available on Mercedes-Benz Financial Services’industry-leading leasing agreement Agility, and is offered with CharterWay, the manufacturer’s range of maintenance plans.