It's big, very big, but Mercedes-Benz takes luxury up a few notches with this multi-purpose vehicle. Janine-Lee Gordon tests the Viano MPV for what it is.
What's it about?
The Vito has been around for quite some time now. It was launched in South Africa in 2002, and since then, it's been a great favourite in the small business and delivery market.
But it was fairly basic transport, hence the Viano, a luxury van for carrying people in style.
And as far as style is concerned the Viano offers something new and stands out from its competition, with definitive lines and curves emphasising the contours which rise up from front to rear.
It also has the required macho image, with alloy 6.5Jx17 wheels with 225/60 R 17 tyres, the wheel arches emphasising the powerful styling of the wide-set chassis.
From the very moment you open the door to step in, quality shouts out at you - there are high-quality materials everywhere.
There's soft leather in every little nook you would expect, while soft carpeting and exit lights for the driver and front passenger further enhance the sense of luxury.
Ergonomics are a pleasure. Everything is within easy reach with a short, dash-mounted gearshift making gear changing a relief. It also allows easy access across the cab or into the load compartment at the rear.
The instrument panel has three analogue displays - speedometer, rev counter and fuel gauge - a multifunction display and a crazy total of 24 indicator lights.
I have to emphasise the comfort of the Viano as a people carrier. I loaded some of my teenage cousins and their friends and gave them a lift to a party. They did not mind rocking up in a funky MPV at all.
I also went clubbing with some of my girlfriends one night and they enjoyed it immensely. So much so, they found it rather comfortable to fall asleep in (I wasn't driving by then) when we finally left the next morning.
Driving my dad and his two older sisters to church was most enjoyable, they found it accessible enough for their age despite the high step, and loved the spaciousness.
Passenger-car driver assistance and safety systems such as ESP, ABS, ASR, BAS and electronic brake force distribution (EBV) are all fitted as standard.
The Viano comes standard with a four-cylinder in-line diesel engine with second-generation CDI technology. The engine kicks out 110 kW and 330 Nm of torque from 1 800 r/min to 2 400 r/min.
These figures are attributed to the use of a turbo-charger with a variable nozzle turbine (VNT). Top speed is claimed at 174Km/h.
The CDI engine demonstrates outstanding performance combined with carefully spaced transmission and final-drive ratios for responsive driving.
It's smooth driving all the way with the Viano. It has rear-wheel drive and fully independent suspension which combines good handling with a comfortable ride. The weight distribution on the front and rear axles is 50:50 ensuring a well-balanced drive.
The Viano is fitted with a five-speed automatic transmission, with gear ratios matched to the performance characteristics of the diesel engines.
The power-assisted steering is precise and makes parking or tight turning a breeze.
Both the driver's and front-passenger seats are adjustable for height, backrest angle, as well as seat cushion angle.
There are numerous configurations for the seating which include a face-to-face position which makes for awesome entertainment when on the long road. You can create a sort of "lounge" space and the kids can play board games easily.
Other likes:The sliding automatic doors on both sides of the van just add to the element of class.
What is any people-lugger without a good sound system?
The COMAND navigation system
Leather multi-function steering wheel
Tinted glass all round
The seats are a huge schlepp to move. Although there are various seating configurations - it takes a lot of work. You have to physically remove the seats from the van and place them in the seating arrangement you desire. It's as though you're doing some kind of puzzle trying to fit the pieces together.
The automatic doors are 'cool', though it they take a little too long to open and close - the timing on there could have been adjusted.
The versatility offered and seating for up to seven people places the Mercedes-Benz Viano in a passenger car range of its own.
Despite the fact that it's huge - and I'm not the tallest of people - the Viano handles as easy as an entry level small car. To put it simply - it's a Vito with all the extra trimmings you can think of.
So if you have the garage space, it's a great mode of transport for the long road or just for general use for a large family. And being a Mercedes - you can only get good service, as well as a good resale value.