The needs of a modern van fleet are many and varied, so it stands to reason that when buying commercial vehicles, the chosen ones should adapt to as many uses as possible.
In the case of the van on test here, the Mercedes-Benz Vito 113 Shuttle, we can't think of a more adaptable or upmarket vehicle to choose.
If the requirement is, say, to pick up seven high-powered business clients from the airport and ferry them in comfort to a hotel, this van fits the bill nicely. It's smart and roomy and has that all-important three-pointed star on the front. If later in the day a consignment of boxes needs to be taken up the motorway, the seats can be removed and said boxes stored in the cargo area.
Vehicles like this are becoming more and more available nowadays and it's easy to see why fleets choose them as in some instances it can mean buying one vehicle instead of two.
The front end price of £25,550 including VAT, means you get an awful lot of metal for the money. In long wheelbase format it measures a tad over five metres in length yet has a turning circle of just 11 metres, making it relatively easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces. Reversing sensors would have been a boon here but they are £453 on the options list and we didn't get them.
With seating for eight and still 0.43 cubic metres of space in the rear for luggage with all the seats in place, this vehicle just happened to turn up the week when we had to take a party of seven on a long trip and even with a load of luggage between them, including a wheelchair and a folded baby buggy plus overnight bags for all, everyone commented on how much legroom there was and how comfortable and supportive the seats were.
With darkened glass screens we could for all the world have been film stars travelling to Cannes.
There are carpets throughout and wall paneling too, which meant that all the occupants could converse in normal tones, even at motorway speeds, and there are some nice touches in the cab such as a 12v power take-off in the rear so that passengers can plug all their technology gizmos in.
General fit and finish is typically Mercedes-Benz. Everything is chunky and has a quality feel and the doors are tough and side slide doors shut with a very upmarket kind of thwunk. Our test model had the addition of deep black paintwork which is a £458 option and it certainly set off this van's looks to a tee.
The seats feel rather hard at first but after a hundred miles or so it soon becomes clear that they are incredibly supportive, with plenty of padding in the lumbar area.
Under the bonnet is a 2.2-litre turbodiesel powerplant offering 136bhp, which was plenty to row this van along nicely even fully laden and with stop-start as standard we were amazed at how frugal this engine was with all that weight on board. Official combined fuel economy figure is 38.7 mpg and we reckoned we were getting at least that figure on our long journey.
The only problem we had with this vehicle was when we tried, just for experimental purposes, to remove some of the rear seats.
Without the aid of a herd of lowland gorillas, or maybe Geoff Capes, you might as well not bother. They weigh a ton and once out it's the devil's own job to get them back in again. If you are on your own, forget it.