Buying a used...Mercedes-Benz Vito

Date: Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The 2003 vintage Merc Vito was solidly constructed and well-finished. Steve Banner reveals what you should keep an eye out for before buying one, and what sort of price you should pay
Replaced in 2010 by a revised model with new and more powerful Euro5 engines, the Mercedes-Benz Vito that made its UK debut in 2003 covered a much wider sector of the marketplace than its one-wheelbase, one-roof height predecessor.
It was on offer with a standard roof, a somewhat ungainly looking high roof, two different wheelbases and three different lengths. Van load volumes ranged from 4.7-6.5m³ while payload capacities ran from 863-1100kg. You could have it as a Traveliner minibus too, or as a Dualiner with rear seats and a load bay at the rear.
Whereas the pre-2003 Vito was front-wheel drive, its successor had driven rear wheels. ABS was standard, not to mention Electronic Stability Programme – a level of built-in safety that some manufacturers have yet to emulate still – although the bad news was that Mercedes saw fit to equip it with an awkward-to-use foot-operated parking brake: the only van on sale in the UK to feature such a set-up.
In this incarnation the Vito was powered by a 2.1-litre diesel generating 88hp (109CDI),
109hp (111CDI) or 150hp (115CDI). A six-speed manual gearbox was standard and an automatic box was offered as an option. In 2007 the 109CDI was upped to 95hp while the 111CDI was upped to 116hp.
A model that should certainly not be forgotten is the 204hp (120CDI) 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Offering stupendous performance, it is well worth tracking down.

On the road

So how does the solidly constructed and nicely finished Vito behave on the road? In a road test of a 109CDI Compact published in 2005, we applauded its handling, its manoeuvrability and the quality of its gear change, but couldn’t take to the foot-operated parking brake and suggested that anybody who had to tackle a lot of high-speed motorway work might be better-advised to opt for the more powerful 111CDI.
“Don’t veto Vito, but make sure you check out Volkswagen’s Transporter before you make your final decision,” we concluded, a conclusion that we would stand by today.
If you’re contemplating acquiring a used Vito then you will probably be looking at a 2.1-litre manual, and the first thing to do is to see how easily it starts. If the engine turns over but will not fire then it could be that the injectors are sticking open, according to Used Van Expert. If it does fire up but seems reluctant to do so, let it idle for a few minutes then sniff. If you can smell diesel or oil fumes around the engine bay, or in the cab when you turn the ventilation system’s booster fan to its maximum position, then the injector seals are failing and carbon is building up above the injectors. Such problems justify telling the vendor to knock £600 off the asking price.

When you start the engine, make sure the glow plug light comes on with the ignition and goes out again after about five seconds. If it stays illuminated then the plugs need replacing
and the asking price needs cutting by £400.
During your test drive swing the steering wheel from lock to lock and listen out for a squeaking or groaning noise. At the same time see if the steering appears to be snatching when the wheel is turned. If any of these symptoms manifest themselves, it is likely that a front suspension strut, top mount or steering rack bush needs replacing. Ask the vendor to have it inspected to find out which it is, and reduce the price in line with the likely repair bill.
If you take the van over any speed bumps or rough, pot-holed road surfaces and hear a knocking from the suspension, that suggests that an anti-roll bar link will have to be changed. Negotiate a £200 discount, advises Used Van Expert.
Once you have finished your test drive, lock and unlock the van using the key fob and check that the central locking works on all the doors. If it does not, then either one or more of the doors needs adjusting or the control unit needs replacing.

Prices at auction

How much will you have to pay for your Vito? A 109CDI Long with a standard roof, 2008 on a 58-plate with 68,000 miles recorded was recently sold by auctioneer Manheim for £5675. Manheim also disposed of a 2009 vintage 59-plate 111CDI standard roof Compact that had done 36,000 miles for £8100, while a 2005 111CDI Compact with a standard roof went for £4000. It had covered 46,000 miles – not a lot given its age – and was on a 05-plate.
A 111CDI Long with a high roof, 2005 on an 05-plate, which had clocked up 101,000 miles was sold by Manheim for £3700. A 115CDI Extra Long with a standard roof that dated back to 2008 and was 08-registered went for £7000 with 85,000 miles to its name.
Watch out for some of the high-specification go-faster Vitos that Mercedes has produced over the years: the V6 Sport-X Blue is an example. They could
be worth snapping up assuming that they haven’t been given too much of a hammering by their previous owners.

Visit www.UsedVanExpert.co.uk for further advice and information.

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