Review: Mercedes-Benz Viano (2003 – 2015)

Rating:

Generous amounts of space for passengers in all three rows of seats and very comfortable seats, tight turning circle, upmarket image.

Engines are starting to feel dated and lack refinement you'd expect, ride is surprisingly bumpy, high number of recalls.

Recently Added To This Review

3 March 2011 New Mercedes-Benz Viano Avantgarde Edition 125

launched The new Mercedes-Benz Viano Avantgarde Edition 125 combines an unmistakeable exterior look with selected equipment and appointments and a dynamic drive system, making it the top model in its... Read more

1 March 2008 Viano X-CLUSIVE special model announced

The interior pampers passengers with an extremely high standard of comfort. Features include soft carpeting, six leather-upholstered individual seats, which can be arranged to face each other in the... Read more

12 April 2003 Viano launched

Replaces Vito based V-Class. Built in same plant at Vitoria Spain, the Viano comes in two lengths 4,748mm and 5,223mm with familiar 88bhp and 150bhp 2.2 CDI diesel or 190bhp or 218bhp petrol V6. ABS,... Read more

Mercedes-Benz Viano (2003 – 2015): At A Glance

In a world of multi-purpose vehicles and crossovers, the Mercedes-Benz Viano stands out as a vehicle that predates all of this. Launched in 2003, the Viano mixes van-sized proportions with the ability to carry up to eight passengers plus luggage, which means it straddles the passenger car and commercial categories in a way few others manage.

It helps the Viano has the Mercedes three-pointed star on its prow to add a sheen of premium quality and luxury. That goes some way to offsetting the Viano’s considerable list price and a range of options that can further hike the price.

Balancing the books is choice of two turbodiesel engines. Most frugal is the 2.1-litre unit with 163PS that offers up to 38.7mpg, while the 3.0 V6 diesel has 224PS, comes with an automatic gearbox as standard and delivers 32.8mpg. The V6 is also more refined than the four-cylinder 2.1-litre motor, but neither is especially quiet.

This won’t trouble those sitting in the rear of the Viano so much. As well as offering seats for up to eight, the Viano can be configured with conference seating and central table. However, these occupants will be aware of suspension that fails to deliver the comfort found in Merc’s saloon models.

What does a Mercedes-Benz Viano (2003 – 2015) cost?

Mercedes-Benz Viano (2003 – 2015): What's It Like Inside?

The high up driving position gives a fine view to the front and sides in the Viano and, unlike most vans, there is also superb over the shoulder views. This is because the Viano is fully glazed in its role as a people carrier, with the knock-on effect of making the driver’s life easier when parking or manoeuvering the Viano in tight spaces.

You will need all the help you can get when slotting the Viano into compact parking spots if you choose the longer wheelbase version that adds 230mm to the wheelbase and frees up more luggage space. A top-hinged tailgate gives access to the load compartment that offers 430 litres of space in the standard Long wheelbase model or 970 litres in the Extra-long version.

For the many Vianos used on the airport taxi and hotel shuttle trade, the Extra-long makes more sense thanks to its more generous luggage space.

Access to the rear passenger compartment is via sliding side doors on either side, whichever model of Viano you choose. This makes life very easy for those travelling in the middle of the three rows of seats, with a built-in step when the door is opened to further ease entry.

As standard, the Viano comes as a seven-seater, with three rows of two seats, but extra seats can be added to the middle and third rows. To get into the third row of seats, which can specified with up to three individual chairs, the outer middle row seats tip forward. There is still a bit of a tight gap to squeeze through for your feet, but Mercedes provides grab handles to help.

Once installed in either the middle or third row of seats, there is generous legroom for all and the seats are very comfortable, which is just as well given the Viano’s lacklustre ride quality. All of the rear seats can be slid back and forth to vary legroom to suit the passengers’ needs.

The seats also tip forwards, but if you want to make full use of the Viano’s large cargo compartment, the seats are very heavy to remove. This also poses the problem of where to store the seats when not in use, unlike some rivals such as the Chrysler Voyager where the seats fold flat into the floor.

Other seating configurations for the Viano can be ordered, including a conference set-up with four seats in the back and the middle row chairs facing rearwards. With a table in the middle of these four seats, it turns the Viano into a mobile office.

The rear passenger compartment can be further augmented with a sliding sunroof, individual air conditioning and curtains for greater privacy. In the front, there’s the driver’s pew and a single passenger seat.

The dash is typically Mercedes-Benz and offers clarity of information from the main dials. However, the centre console gives away the Viano’s age with its profusion of small buttons. On the up side, the gear lever is mounted high on the dash and is a mere wrist flick away from the steering wheel.

Mercedes-Benz has also clustered plenty of storage spaces around the driver and throughout the front cabin to keeps odds and ends safely in place. The Viano doesn't skimp on standard specification of either the Ambiente or Grand Edition models. All come with leather upholstery, air conditioning for the front cab, cruise control, Bluetooth connection, four front airbags and electric front windows. There are also electrically operated windows for the rear-most row of seats.

What's the Mercedes-Benz Viano (2003 – 2015) like to drive?

There is no getting away from the fact the Viano is a big vehicle. Compared to the majority of its MPV rivals, it is considerably longer and takes a little acclimatising to if you are not used to driving this size of machine.

For those coming from a van, the Viano’s length and width will pose no challenges, while the driving is typically raised and offers good forward vision. Thanks to the all-round glazing in the Viano, it also provides vision in all directions that most van drivers can only dream of.

There is a straight choice of engines in the Viano between the 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel and the 3.0 V6 diesel. With the 2.1-litre motor, you also have a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or a five-speed automatic transmission. If you’re after the best economy possible, the manual is the one to have thanks to its 38.7mpg combined consumption, which is decent for a minibus. Opt for the auto ’box and you’ll be looking at 34.9mpg average economy.

The V6 turbodiesel only comes with a five-speed automatic and gives 32.8mpg economy, which is again reasonable for the performance and power of this engine but still nothing to write home about. Use the full boot to stoke up the V6’s 224bhp and you’ll see 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds, though this will soon slow up with a full complement of passengers onboard.

While the V6 makes some stab at refinement and smoothness, it’s an engine that is beginning to show its age and can be noisy when asked to rev hard. In town, this is less of a problem and the V6 potters through traffic with some semblance of the hush you would expect of a Mercedes passenger vehicle.

Step into the 2.1-litre turbodiesel-powered Viano and that thin veneer of Mercedes luxury quickly disappears. Simply put, this engine is loud and uncouth. From the initial clatter and grumble when the four-cylinder engine starts from cold to when it’s warmed through and commanded to give its best, it is never anything less than noisy.

This is also regardless of whether you choose the manual or automatic gearboxes, which do at least offer easy and smooth gear shifts.

Further hampering the Viano’s credentials as a luxury people carrier is the woeful ride quality. When launched in 2003, the Viano was just about acceptable for comfort, but the game has moved on way beyond its abilities now, both in passenger car and van markets.

On any type of road, even particularly smooth ones, the Viano never feels like it has found its rhythm with the road. There is an unpleasant jitteriness to the ride that becomes jarring on longer trips. Add in steering that lacks the direct precision of a Ford Transit or Merc’s own Sprinter and the Viano feels its age. One plus is the steering gives a very tight turning circle, so at least city driving is alleviated to some extent.

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