Tested: 2011 Mercedes-Benz Vito Shuttle 116CDi Crewbus

The optional giant

Do you own a hotel or executive airport shuttle company? Perhaps you multiplied yourself half a dozen times or coach a soccer team? Should any (or all) of these apply to you, the Mercedes Vito Shuttle should be right up your alley.

Its full name is actually Mercedes-Benz Vito Shuttle 116 CDi Crewbus, although I can’t seem to confirm the correct order of its multi-barrel name. What I can confirm is that the Vito slots in between the bigger Sprinter and smaller (more luxurious) Viano.

The Vito can be had in three body types (panel van, half-panel and crew bus) with two engine and two gearbox combinations. The 116CDi Shuttle represents the fanciest and most passenger-orientated version but has inferior power outputs to the beefy 122CDi.

Still, the 2.2-litre in-line four-cylinder turbodiesel motor chucks out 120kW (163hp) or 360Nm through a six-speed manual gearbox (five-speed auto optional) to the rear wheels. Average consumption from the 72L tank is claimed 7.2L/100km (we got low nines) and CO2 output of 190g/km.

In order to accommodate half a soccer team, a 3.2m wheelbase houses the 5m body and makes the most of all available space. Even the standard roof (high roof optional) allows 1.34m of movement before hitting the padded roof liner whose opposite surface can house optional roof racks with up to 150kg of cargo.

Getting in and out of the giant bus happens via huge front doors or enormous rear sliding doors; on either side. Electric sliding mechanisms are optional, as is a clever rail system for infinite seating configurations, as well as a fourth row of chairs to up the occupancy number to 11.

A bog-standard Vito Shuttle will take eight people in comfort – two up front followed by two rows of three seats each. All passengers enjoy comfort seats with armrests and full ventilation access. The cabin features hard plastics, tasteful cloth and carpets brought together in acceptable build quality.

The dashboard offers easy ventilation controls and a radio/CD/mp3/Aux/Bluetooth sound system as well as plenty of storage space. The gear lever is dash mounted and the adjustable multi-function steering wheel resides over clean instrumentation minus a temp gauge but with an LCD trip computer.

Luggage, leg and head room seem infinite and the Vito Shuttle is surprisingly easy to drive due to its light steering and clutch, highly responsive controls and 11.8m turning radius. You also get power steering, remote central locking, front electric windows, ESP stability control with multiple braking and traction assistants.

Driver and passenger rely on an airbag each, more are optional, and the Merc van also provides daytime running lights, trailer stability for 750kg unbraked or 2,000kg braked towing, cruise control, alloy wheels and lots of colour coding over lesser models.

A welcome addition to this mass transport tool is Mercedes’ BlueEfficiency program with selectable ECO mode. This uses a start/stop system, shift indicator, low resistance tyres, eco power steering pump, battery and fuel pump management to curb excess thirst and achieve the sub-10L/100km average figure.

Not bad for a 2-ton bread box. Just like the EU5-emissions compliant motor which shines through eager response and linear power delivery. First gear is a bit on the short side but will aid slow movements in heavy traffic and parking lots, or easily haul the fully-laden Vito up a steep boutique hotel driveway.

The 4,250rpm redline isn’t clearly visible during the day and the 116CDi will gladly get there in most gears – you may change the six manual gears at 3,000 to 3,500rpm though and the oil burner happily picks up the pace from as little as 1,500rpm.

With a relatively long wheelbase and considerably hefty body, the Vito Shuttle’s road manners are planted and sure-footed. The aforementioned light controls and peppy engine disguise any lethargy well, ride comfort is excellent, body roll is surprisingly little and the journey only gets bouncy occasionally.

Despite lacking a full set of passengers, I took some friends out for a scenic 360km journey in the Vito to test its shuttle credentials. The length and bulk can’t be denied but, as mentioned, the bus does well to hide it and is exceptionally manoeuvrable.

High-speed stability is great, overtaking isn’t a major problem, the sound system is adequate, the seats initially feel hard but are super comfy and the air-con works flawlessly. The Vito is just a people mover but a very good one at that, setting the bar quite high for its competitors.

At N$496,800 the 116CDi Shuttle doesn’t offer much value for money; its options list is too long and too spicy, and you’d probably get better value elsewhere. Should you splash out on one of these though, you’ll be guaranteed incredible amount of space, economy, versatility and ease of use.

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