Mercedes-Benz eVito review

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Mercedes brings us an all-electric Vito. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

The third generation version of the mid-sized Mercedes Vito van has been revitalised by the introduction of this all-electric eVito model. It goes only 92 miles between charges but that might be fine for some urban operators, who'll like the high quality, strong residuals and impressive standards of safety and media connectivity.

Background

We expected the eVito to set a fresh standard for all-electric vans and had good reason to do so, having quite recently reviewed the EQV, the all-electric version of that V-Class MPV we mentioned earlier, whose design this Mercedes van shares. The EQV has a 100kWh battery that develops a 201hp total output and can offer a claimed driving range of up to 213 miles between charges - the kind of thing that's currently unknown amongst all-electric LCVs.

That's a pricey confection though, pricier than Mercedes thinks operators will be prepared to stomach, so the eVito instead gets a battery less than half the size of its People Carrying counterpart - 41kWh - linked to an electric motor with a far more modest 116PS output.

Driving Experience

You'd expect an all-electric Vito to be uber-refined, which of course it is. But you might also expect it to go further on a single charge than it actually does. The inevitable result of using a relatively small 41kWh battery is quite a limited 92 mile driving range, though this could fractionally rise to 103 miles in exclusive town use. That's not only rather limited compared to this model's Mercedes EQV People carrier cousin; more to the point, it's rather limited compared to direct EV mid-sized van segment rivals. To give you some class perspective, comparable 50 kWh all-electric versions of the Vauxhall Vivaro, the Citroen Dispatch and the Peugeot Expert manage around 143 miles on a single charge.

Those who take the plunge into eVito ownershp will quickly need to assume mastery over the various provided drive settings if they're to maximise the range possible. There are three eVito drive programs - 'C', 'E' and 'E+' - which alter the drive system to cut power use (the top speed is limited to 75mph anyway) while optimising ancillaries to boost efficiency. At the same time, you'll be using the provided steering wheel paddles to cycle through four brake recuperation levels, which are badged 'D-', 'D', 'D+' and 'D++'. With 'D-', you get so much braking resistance when you come off the throttle that you hardly ever have to use your keft foot. At the other extreme, in 'D++', the eVito will coast with virtually no off-throttle resistance at all.

Design and Build

There's very little to differentiate an eVito from a diesel-engined one, unless you spot the charging flap or the special badging.as with an ordinary model, the wide door opening and well placed step mean that getting in is a simple enough manoeuvre and once seated aloft, you'll find a cab that's immaculately constructed and typically functional. The smarter black 'Caluma' seat fabric looks nice; and the brand has standardised an 8-way-adjustable 'Comfort'-spec driver's seat. Plus there are smart 'turbine'-style air vents and a large 7.0-inch cetre-dash infotainment screen including 'Apple CarPlay' / 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. You get the usual two-person passenger bench seat but there are no fold-down tables or pop-out clip boards of the kind competitors offer. Still, the instruments you view through the classy three-spoke steering wheel are clear and concise and build quality is class-leading.

On top of the dash, there are cupholders to the far left and the far right and in between lie three large open stowage areas, each partly covered at the top to prevent windscreen reflection. Open cubbies flank the ventilation controls on the centre console, with a further open stowage area beneath the gearstick. The door pockets are spacious and versatile too, with a small shelf halfway up for little items and a bigger one further down that can take larger things like drink bottles of up to 1.5-litres in size.

Market and Model

The eVito is offered only with this model line's two longer body lengths (L2 and L3), but uses the same main trim level - 'Progressive'. Prices start from around £41,000. Almost all eVitos will be sold on finance and at the time of this test in Spring 2021, the base variant was costing operators £549 a month including a Service Care agreement, with a £3,219 finance customer advance rental.

Standard equipment includes front fog lights, twin sliding side doors, heated powered mirrors, Hill start assist to stop you from drifting backwards on uphill junctions, plus a full steel bulkhead, along with a tough composite wood/resin non-slip floor in the loadbay and a proper full-sized spare wheel to go with the standard 16-inch steel rims. All eVito buyers also get a 'SPEEDTRONIC' variable speed limiter with cruise control and heat insulating glass. There's also an 8-way-adjustable 'Comfort'-spec driver's seat and a 7.0-inch central infotainment screen, complete with a DAB tuner, Bluetooth and 'Apple CarPlay' / 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring and a useful feature that direct rivals will make you pay more for - a rear view camera. All eVito buyers get a trip computer, a locking glovebox and a reach and rake-adjustable multi-function steering wheel. The three-person front bench comes as standard, but you can replace that layout with two individual seats if you really want to.

Practicalities and Costs

The all-electric eVito gets a 3.2-tonne Gross Vehicle Weight as standard and delivers payload capacities of between 890 and 905kgs, depending on body length. It comes in two forms; an L2 variant which gets 6.0m3 of load volume and 2,831mm of length. Or an extra long L3 version, which gives you a spacious 6.6m3 and 3,061mm of loadbay length.

This eVito model's 92 mile range reading is a combined figure. It would rise to 95 miles in rural driving or 103 miles in urban use, but fall to 85 miles on the motorway. All these eVito mileage stats are based on use of the eVito's balanced drive mode 'E'. There's also a range extending 'E+' drive mode, which is supposed to help facilitate a longer range when combined with an anticipatory driving style. To achieve the quoted results, you'll also need to make proactive use of the various provided brake regeneration modes, principally the two most severe ones 'D' and 'D-'. From a charging point, to replenish the 41kWh battery (only 35kWh of which is actually usable), Mercedes quotes a six hour charging time, based on three-phase charging.

You'll also want to know that there's an unlimited mileage three year warranty with 12 years of anti-perforation cover. Plus you get the unique Mercedes-Benz MobiloVan UK package with offers 24hour roadside assistance cover for up to 30 years, providing you get your vehicle regularly serviced one of Mercedes' franchised dealers.

Summary

In many ways, we like the eVito; it's well made, the media and safety systems are impressive and the carriage capacities remain pretty unaffected by the battery installation. It's hard to ignore that relatively restricted 92 mile driving range though. If all your business does is low mileage urban deliveries, that may not matter - which is certainly what Mercedes is gambling on with this variant.

Given that the brand already has the battery technology to do much better though, you can expect to see things change quite quickly and if we were choosing, we'd probably hold off until that happens. Those who do take the plunge though may find lots here to like.

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