Every now and again, a vehicle comes along that catches me completely off-guard with its driveability and appeal. It doesn’t always make sense and there’s no rhyme or reason to it, but I’ve slid behind the wheel of cars that, on the face of it, are just humble A to B transport, not designed to titillate or excite, but just built to be driven.
Examples that come to mind are – oh – the Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Vanagon, Mazda5, and Chev Orlando, just to name a few….like I said, no rhyme or reason.
To that list I can now add the Mercedes Metris, a square box, no frills, purpose-built hauler that is definitely NOT aimed at boy/girl racers, or status-conscious boomers, and goes about its business efficiently and without any fanfare.
A few details. The Metris is available as either an eight-passenger or cargo van, and is powered by a turbocharged four cylinder that puts out some 208 horsepower and is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. According to Mercedes, this engine has 25,000 kilometer service intervals. Despite the vehicle’s relatively hefty weight – 4222 lb. – it moves the Metris along at a lively pace and is reasonably good on fuel: 10.2 L/100 km, combined rating. Alas, it prefers premium.
My tester, the cargo version, will give you 186 cubic feet (5266 litres) of cargo space, and will carry up to a ton of stuff….including the obligatory 4×8 sheet of plywood. It has a roof height of almost 54 inches….so it’s not quite a walk-in van, but there’s oodles of space back there, and a pair of side-opening back doors and a single sliding side door give you easy access. Were you in the market for a DIY camper van, for example, this would be an excellent place to start.
With the cargo version, a stoutly built bulkhead separates the driver from the back area, and this model seats just two. Bonus: the bucket seats have armrests, which, if you look at the cars mentioned above, is apparently a “must-have” for me.
So why do I like this one? It’s just a delivery van, right?
First and foremost, it’s got an excellent driving position, with good peripheral visibility. Mercedes clearly understands that owner/operators of the Metris will be spending a lot of time behind the wheel and have made it as easy to get along with as possible.
That extends to the switchgear and controls; one of the reasons I find the Metris appealing is because it provides a welcome break away from the incomprehensible dog’s breakfast of controls and extras manufacturers seem compelled to fit into their models these days: I understand this vehicle and don’t have to fight with it when I want to perform simple, basic tasks such as changing radio stations, increasing fan speed, or adjusting HVAC settings. I’m less than crazy about Mercedes “toilet handle” gearshift lever, but it’s something I could live with.
The Metris is also remarkably nimble and maneuverable in city traffic. Backing it up is a bit of a task, and side visibility is virtually nonexistent with the cargo model, but it’s probably the most manageable delivery van I’ve ever driven….much moreso than its bigger brother, the Sprinter, for example.
As far as price goes, it’s a little on the steep side. Before options, taxes, and extras (of which there are many), the cargo version will set you back almost thirty-four large, so it’s not cheap. Add another $5000 for the passenger model.
And don’t expect luxury on wheels; this is not a mini-van or upscale SUV. It is a working truck, purpose-built, and designed to get on with things. You want luxury and modcons? Buy a Mercedes.
AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.0 litre turbocharged four cylinder
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Drive: Front-wheel drive
Horsepower: 208 hp
Torque: 258 ft. lb.
Price: $33,900 (base)
Fuel Economy: 10.8 L /100 km (city) & 9.5 (hwy.) Premium fuel.
Alternatives: Ford Transit, Nissan NV200, Ram ProMaster City, Chev City Express
Manufacturer’s Site: Mercedes-Benz
Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist Of The Year twice and is past president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).