Review of: 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van RWD 126"
2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris: Not too big, not too small, just right!
By Jil McIntosh
Jun. 22, 2016
Back in 1994, Mercedes-Benz introduced us to a whole new style of work van, the Sprinter. Sold as a Dodge, which the company owned at the time, it was the first tall, narrow, European-style van on our shores, and proved so popular that now you can choose from several of them.
But while you have your pick of big ones, and of compact Euro-vans like Ford’s Transit Connect and Ram’s ProMaster City, there’s a third category that no one’s touched until now. That’s midsize, which Mercedes-Benz opens up with its Metris.
It’s new to us for 2016, although it’s long been sold in Europe as the Vito. It’s available as a seven- or eight-passenger van, which the company expects to be a hit as a hotel and airport shuttle, but I had the cargo version, which starts at $33,900. My tester was further kitted with a few options, including extra windows, lighting package, partition with window, heated power mirrors and an upfitting connector for aftermarket upgrades, bringing it to $36,820 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + Well-matched engine/transmission
- + Turning circle
- + Practicality
- - Premium fuel recommended
- - Small side mirrors
- - No cutting-edge technology
As bricks-on-wheels go, the Metris is a handsome one. Unlike the larger Sprinter, it comes only in one length and one roof height, but at a height of 189 cm—a hair over six feet—it can fit into parking garages and underground entrances where its big brother can’t always go.
The two rear doors open straight out and will stay open, held by a centre hinge pin. But if you pull the pin out, you can wrap the doors right around, where they stay in place thanks to magnets on the van’s sides. Pulling them back resets the pin, and the doors close without any fuss. Passenger vans can be optioned with a minivan-style rear hatch.
The fuel door also has a clever arrangement, as it has a lip that tucks inside the driver’s door opening. With the driver’s door closed and locked, the fuel door can’t be opened by anyone who wants to mess with the filler.
The van’s major issue is its mirrors, which I find far too small for a commercial vehicle. Taller, rectangular mirrors, such as found on the Sprinter, would be a far better option, especially for drivers who may have to back up under canopies or other overhead obstacles that they won’t be able to easily see in the Metris’ SUV-style mirrors.
The cargo van comes with two seats, and as you’d expect, everything is plastic or tight-weave upholstery for easy cleaning. The centre stack is unmistakably Mercedes-Benz, with its large keypads and non-touch screen. Its functions are accessed here by a small joystick and its surrounding buttons alongside, rather than the console-mounted dial found on the company’s cars. A bundled package of rearview camera and navigation is available but wasn’t fitted to my tester.
I especially like the climate controls, which are far simpler and easier to use than the Sprinter’s oddly-marked dials. Temperature and fan speed are adjusted with a twist of the wrist, while the mode settings are handled by buttons.
European buyers prefer their Metris models with manual transmissions, but our versions are strictly automatic. In keeping with another North American tradition, Mercedes-Benz uses a column shifter so that it can plant an enormous cupholder tray where the stick shift would normally go. As expected on a work van, there’s a ton of front-seat storage space, including a floor-mounted cubby, large door pockets, and bins in the top of the dash.
The cargo area can be ordered with washable liner panels but mine had bare walls, the inner structure dotted with mounting points for upfitters to mount custom installations such as shelves or bins. My truck’s lighting package, a $550 option, included an LED ceiling lamp, as well as lights over the doors, illuminated vanity mirrors, and footwell lighting. The cargo partition with window, a $390 add-on, wraps around the bottoms of the seats to provide a little extra cargo length when hauling lumber or other flat items on the floor.
The total cargo area length is 283 centimetres, while you get 127 cm between the wheel wells—50 inches—enough for a standard-size pallet to fit. The Metris cargo van has a payload of 1,135 kg (2,502 lbs.) and a towing capacity of 2,250 kg (4,960 lbs.).
Don’t expect to go into the infotainment system and tell all your Facebook friends what you’re hauling in the back. The Metris is pretty basic, offering an AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, iPod interface and SD slot. The speakers themselves aren’t bad, but your music echoes off hard plastic and metal walls. Options are limited to a rearview camera and navigation system.
While Europe gets a diesel version—and it’s possible that we might too, some day, but it’ll be a while if it does happen at all—our Metris is powered exclusively by a turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine, spinning out 208 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque to the rear wheels. It’s hooked to a seven-speed automatic transmission that can be dialed into comfort, eco, or manual modes, that last one using wheel-mounted paddles for sequential gear shifts. If desired, you can option the engine with a start/stop function.
It’s a gutsy little powerplant, and while I drove my tester empty most of the time, I have piloted these with a load in the back and still found the power to be sufficient. It will run on 87-octane fuel, but the company recommends premium 91-octane grade for full power and better fuel efficiency. In a week of hauling sailboat fuel, I averaged 9.9 L/100 km, against published figures of 10.8 L/100 km in the city and 9.5 on the highway.
As work vans go, this one handles really well, with responsive steering and an impressively tight turning diameter of 11.8 metres that got me around snug spaces where I expected to have to make a three-point turn. It doesn’t feel much different than piloting a minivan or SUV, and I mean that as a compliment. Despite its height, it feels well-planted and corners smoothly without feeling tippy.
The stability control program includes standard crosswind assist, which reacts to the sideways push when gusts of wind meet what amounts to a rolling billboard on the highway, and helps to straighten it out. It’s intended to reduce the driver’s need to fight the wheel, which in turn reduces fatigue.
Since it stands alone in its class—its competitors are either larger or smaller—it’s tough to compare the Metris’ price with them. Going by seat-of-the-pants, though, the base price of just under $33,900 feels like a deal for it, if you look at its convenient size, its fit-and-finish, and options that don’t seem excessively expensive.
The higher price of its premium-fuel recommendation could be a downside for operators if they don’t want to downgrade to 87-octane. On the plus side, though, the recommended maintenance interval is 25,000 km, which reduces down time as well as direct cost.
Mercedes-Benz transformed the van market in Canada when it introduced the Sprinter. It’s now losing market share to Ford, which has an equally-good product in its full-size Transit but a larger dealer network to sell and service it. By hopping over the equally popular compact-van segment with one that fits in the middle, Mercedes-Benz can reach fleets that don’t need big vans, but haul too much for small ones. Exactly how many of those are actually out there remains to be seen, but this “right-sized” Metris should prove to be a great vehicle for them.