Both the Volkswagen Transporter and Mercedes-Benz Vito are among the best premium medium panel vans; both are stylish, capable, practical and good to drive, and both were given a mid-decade facelift. The Mercedes-Benz Vito and Volkswagen Transporter are very closely matched; so how do you know which to pick?
The latest Transporter feels spacious, with a high seating position and low dashboard providing good visibility. There's plenty of storage space, including (if the previous owner opted for the front passenger bench seat) an under-seat compartment which is useful for tools. The driver’s seat is height, lumbar, reach and rake adjustable and the steering column adjusts for height and rake too. Likewise, the Vito has a solid, good-quality cabin with an easy-to-use dashboard, and plenty of adjustment for both the driver's seat and the steering wheel so it's easy to get comfortable. Both models have an infotainment system with a radio, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and USB, and steering-wheel-mounted controls so it's easy to use while driving.
The Transporter comes in a choice of two wheelbases and three roof heights – though like the Vito, even at its tallest it's less than two metres high, which is useful if you need to park in a multi-storey car park. The standard Transporter seats two or three people but there's also a six-seater Kombi, which is still capable of carrying huge loads, as you can remove the second row of seats.
The Vito also comes in three lengths and a variety of seating configurations, including a crew van that seats up to six, and a Tourer which seats up to nine. There's also a six-seater taxi version with electric sliding doors on both sides, an electrically operated step, leather-finish seats, air conditioning, electric mirrors and park assist. There's an Urban version designed for city driving, and both vans have a style-conscious option: the alloy-wheeled Sport for the Vito, and the Transporter Sportline or Edition.
The Transporter offers between 5.8 and 9.3 cubic metres of load space – enough for up to three Euro pallets – and carries a payload of up to 1,301kg. It can tow up to 2,500kg and carry loads up to 2.98m long behind the full steel bulkhead. There's one sliding door, a step and either back doors or a tailgate (and possibly a second sliding door on the other side), depending on what the previous owner has chosen.
The Vito has a slightly higher payload – up to 1,344kg – but less load volume, although up to 6.6 cubic metres is hardly to be sniffed at. Load rings to affix your cargo are standard on both the Vito and the Transporter.
Reviewing the Vito 119 Sport Crew in August 2018, the Guardian noted its capacity to transport five people and their luggage with ease and its versatility, saying: “It can be fitted with a ski and snowboard rack, a tailgate-mounted bike rack and a huge coolbox. It's quiet, comfortable and dependable.”
The Transporter's four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel engine is available in four power outputs ranging from 83bhp to 201bhp, and162lb ft to 331lb ft of torque. Start-stop technology, regenerative braking, which reuses the energy used when you brake, and tyres designed to lose less energy as they roll, are all standard energy-saving measures. The Vito offers a choice of a 1.6-litre diesel engine with 87bhp or 112bhp, and a 2.1-litre diesel with 134bhp, 161bhp or 187bhp.
Both the Vito and the Transporter perform and handle excellently, and are quiet and refined, with responsive steering and little body roll. The quieter, less bumpy Vito possibly has the edge for comfort, though the Transporter pulls better.
Fuel economy is up to 47.1mpg in both unless you opt for the Transporter's BlueMotion engine, which delivers up to 51.4mpg.
Both vans are absolutely rammed with safety features. A system which alerts you if it senses you’re getting tired; hill start assist, which helps stop you rolling backwards during a hill start; ABS with electronic stability programme (designed to prevent the vehicle swerving in difficult conditions); driver and front passenger airbags and three-point seatbelts for all seats are standard on both.
The Transporter also features emergency braking, which warns you if you're too close to the vehicle in front and brakes if you don’t react; automatic braking after a crash to help prevent a second impact; brake assist, which helps you brake harder in an emergency; traction control; seatbelt pretensioners; and height-adjustable head restraints. On the Vito, tyre pressure monitoring, crosswind assist, which stabilises the van in crosswinds, and crumple zones are standard, and the Tourer has six airbags.
In Fleet News' FN50 van reliability survey in 2017, the Vito was ranked sixth – one place higher than the previous year – while the Transporter was third, down one place from 2016. This made it the most reliable medium-sized van, according to the survey, for the fourth year running.
If you're going to go back to very early incarnations of the Vito, they can have an issue with rust; this shouldn't be a problem from 2004 onwards, thanks to galvanising and 12-year anti-corrosion warranties.
Recommended service intervals for the Vito are every two years or 24,000 miles; Volkswagen recommends different service frequencies depending on how you drive your van, but no less than every two years or 20,000 miles.
They're both excellent, highly practical, spacious and enjoyable vans from reliable brands; you'll be making a great choice with both of them. Especially if you buy from Carwise Group – all our pre-owned cars and vans are thoroughly vetted by our in-house technicians before they go on sale to make sure they're in good condition.