“What’s going on?” asked my neighbour. “Why have you got a Mercedes van, are you moving?”
“Ah,” I replied, "from the outside it may look like a standard Mercedes-Benz Vito 119CDI Tourer SELECT Long, but let me show you inside, it has some great features that make it…” He shuffled away, visibly uneased by my invitation to explore the innards of a van with darkened windows. It isn’t like I’d written ‘Free sweets’ with an arrow pointing at the door or anything.
Seeing as my neighbour wasn't interested let me tell you what makes this particular Vito interesting. With a bunk conversion and a few other bits and bobs ticked on the options list (around £12k worth!) this Vito has ended up being a rather cool day van.
Ok, I may have said ‘a few options’, but there are quite a few, like the…
- Panoramic sliding roof: £2,200
- Auxiliary hot-air heater: £1,818
- LED Intelligent Light System: £1,425
- Parking package: £950
- Light-alloy wheels 8.0Jx19, 16-spoke design: £810
- Active Safety Package: £765
- THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control: £660
- Table package: £547
- Electrical operation of sliding door, right: £460
- Electrical operation of sliding door, left: £460
- Roof rails: £360
- Mirror package, Vito: £322
- Electr. rear vent window in pass. comp.: £300
- Parameterizable special module: £265
- High-comfort swivelling driver's seat: £260
- High-comfort swivelling co-driver's seat: £260
Our first epic jaunt was to… the Trafford Centre in Manchester. I know, not very exciting, but it proved that, at just under 17 feet long, it was capable of manoeuvring around a densely populated car park with total ease. The Vito’s height also made it better to spot empty sparking spots, which was handy.
The rest of the week was more adventurous with trips to Southport, Windermere and Wales where we’d park up, cook meals on stoves, eat and then chill out. After a week with the Vito, I now understand why a lot of my retired friends buy camper vans, and vanish for weeks on end!
Once you've parked up, turning the Vito into a day-van is easy enough, you simply swivel both front seats to face the rear, which is done in less than 10 seconds. If you haven’t already got the centre table raised then press down on its edge and it raises by itself, you then open up each side thus creating a good sized table.
The rear bunk conversion is neat too, you simply lower the backs of the rear seats which lay flat and are on the same level as the rear parcel shelf and therefore creates a rather comfy sleeping platform, as modelled by Muddy Madam below...
Access to both sides is excellent and the electric sliding doors are quite fun, but I think I'd prefer leaving them manual as you have a bit more control. At the rear you have the huge lift-up tailgate that can also double as a rain shelter - for a small party.
The auxiliary hot-air heater and LED Intelligent Light System were brilliant during cold, dark evenings, either on the beach or on the shoreline of Lake Windermere, it actually made it quite cosy.
Over the years we’ve been used to pulling over on a variety of beaches, green lanes and making camp, the sense of freedom is great, but with the Vito it’s much more pleasant, and discreet, even though it’s a big blue van!
During our week together the Vito not only sped along quite nicely, but at no point did it feel like a huge van, in fact it was an absolute pleasure to drive. Whether that was on twisty Welsh and Cumbrian roads or motorways, the 190bhp from the 2,143cc diesel lump was always lively and was achieving around 45mpg, which I didn’t think was too bad, in fact it was a rather capable cruiser.
I thought the Vito looked great resplendent in the blue wrap and alloy wheels, but I was genuinely surprised by the amount of admiring glances it received. The ferry that crosses Windermere it almost lurched to one side as other motorhome owners surrounded us!
The base vehicle, at £32.950 isn’t cheap, and ticking the £11,862 worth of extras you’re looking at almost £45k, and that’s treading into the V-Class Marco Polo territory which starts at nearly £50k, but that’s a proper camper.
It’s worth pointing out here that at Mercedes-Benz there are two divisions, the car side of things and the commercial. Our Vito here is based on the commercial vehicle, hence the plastic and workman-like dash layout, and the Marco Polo with the car-like interior is sold by the car division.
As regular readers will be aware, I’ve driven a lot of vehicles over the years, and only a few have made an impact on me, like the Jaguar F-Type to the FIAT Panda 4x4, but the Vito is the only vehicle that may have changed my outlook on life. Muddy Madam and I loved the freedom it offered, to the point at which I’ve began searching the classifieds for 4x4 camper vans. Have I turned a certain age, or have I just begun appreciating the simple things in life more, who knows? What I do know is the Mercedes Benz Day Van is more than a jazzed up Vito, it’s a way to a more chilled and free life…