DaimlerChrysler SA’s commercial vehicle division has launched the Vito 112 CDi range in panel van, five-seater crew cab and eight-seater crew bus variants.

DaimlerChrysler SA’s (DCSA) commercial vehicle division has launched the Vito range in panel van, five-seater crew cab and eight-seater crew bus variants on the South African market.

The Vito was originally launched in 1995 and is currently sold in 100 countries around the globe. The vehicle - in its three different configurations - is a significant addition to the DCSA stable because it overlaps the commercial and private markets.

“The introduction of the Vito 112 CDi crew cab and crew bus will satisfy customers who wish to keep their options open, whether for work, sport or recreation,” said Gert Grobler, product manager for Light Commercial Vehicles of the Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicle division.

Besides the panel van, with its driver plus two seating configuration, sliding doors on either side and rear hatch, Mercedes-Benz is offering crew cab and crew bus variants of the Vito.

Of the three Vito variants, the 8-seater crew bus will probably generate the most interest on the South African market… Some say that the bus was introduced to fill a gap in the market left by the now-discontinued Volkswagen Microbus.

It is important to note that the three Vitos are essentially the same vehicle and will obligate the commercial vehicle division of DaimlerChrysler to not only specialise in the distribution of vans, but deal with an entirely new type of customer - the family man.

The Vito is powered by a 2,2-litre four-valves-per-cylinder common rail diesel engine fitted with an intercooled turbocharger. The torquey engine, dubbed OM611, delivers a maximum output of 90 kW and 300 N.m of torque. Top speed is limited to 125 km/h.

DaimlerChrysler claims that the Vito offers the best power to weight ratio in its segment and that the CDi engine will return a consumption figure of between 7,7 to 11 litres per 100 km (depending on driving conditions).

Honest Africa of the people transport division of Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicles said the 8-seater crew bus was expected to take the market by storm because DaimlerChrysler had already had strong interest from rental companies, tour operators, hotel groups, private individuals and companies that required courtesy vehicles.

The crew bus has an adjustable driver’s seat, front passenger seat, and two rows of three seats - each with its own three-point safety belt system. The crew bus offers good all-round visibility by virtue of its large rear window and tinted, mechanically-opening side windows. Luggage space is in excess of 1 000 dm3.

Driving the vehicle in the Magaliesberg region earlier this week, CARtoday.com found the five-speed transmission easy to operate thanks to the slick, short-throw action of the joystick-style dash-mounted gear selector. The power-assisted steering is light and the crew bus has a smaller-than-expected turning circle.

The Vito crew bus is fitted with ABS and ASR (acceleration skid control) as standard and although the brakes offer strong stopping power, the feel of the pedal is far less sensitive than one would find on most cars and thus took some getting used to.

The crew bus also features an electronic immobiliser, dash-mounted door-locking function, radio and CD system and individual air-conditioning controls for front and rear sections of the passenger compartment.

Both crew bus and crew cab are fitted with sliding doors on each side, although on the crew bus the rear row of seats are accessible only from the right side. Both the rear and middle row of seats can be removed, creating a 3,67 m2 load area.

The crew cab is fitted with one additional row of seats in the rear and two single front seats. It offers a load area of 2,07 m2 and the distance from the rear seats to the rear door is 1 446 mm. These seats are removed through a “twist lock” mechanism, making the crew-cab very versatile. Single seats can be removed to allow the accommodation of long objects such as ladders and poles.

The crew cab has one pair of clear and one pair of blanked-out side windows, and offers a more commercial specification than the crew bus. DaimlerChrysler will target the crew cab, which can be used for both commercial purposes and general transport, at rental companies, Telkom/Post Office, express cargo, wholesale retail, general distribution, hotels and caterering, traffic departments, motor racing support, small businesses, electricians and emergency standby.

The only drawback of the crew cab, Grobler said at the launch, was that the South African Revenue Services at this stage classified it as a passenger vehicle and would not allow a person who used the vehicle for business purposes to claim back the tax.

Prices for the Vito 112 CDi:

Panel Van R207 600

Crew Cab R227 600

Crew Bus R290 000