There aren’t many brands that have the same reputation as the three pointed star manufacturer. Even since its inception Mercedes offered premium products and during its long history it managed to conquer our hearts with its faultless technology and the high quality of its products.

Mercedes’s lineup includes all types of cars, vans and even trucks and all of them received the strong DNA of German quality.

One of the most famous vans build by Mercedes is the Vito which now leads the way in its segment. While the new generation impressed everybody with its unique and modern design the old model was treated with the same appreciation and represented a strong base for the creation of the present generation.

The old model was sold between 1996 - 2003 and featured a smart and practical design combined with class leading features such as standard ABS brakes and traction control systems.

  • 1996 - 2003 Mercedes Benz Vito
  • Year:
    1996- 2003
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    122 @ 3800
  • Torque @ RPM:
    221 @ 1800
  • Top Speed:
    120 mph


1996 - 2003 Mercedes Benz Vito Exterior
- image 461852

The old generation Mercedes Vito looked pretty similar with the Volkswagen Transporter featuring a robust and bulky design.

The black radiator grille bared the company logo in its center and was flanked by two headlamps that had a pretty modern design and offered a proper road visibility during night trips.

Judging by late 90s standards, the overall design looked pretty good and despite the rugged appearance, the old Mercedes Vito’s exterior style was ahead of its rivals. The black plastic bumper was also pretty well designed with a clean surface and integrated air intakes.

Until, the launch of the new Citan, the Vito was the smallest commercial vehicle built by Mercedes and offered a maximum load volume of 4.8 cubic meters and a payload capacity of 1055 kg. The load length was 2300 mm with a maximum width of 1620 and a height of 1370 mm. You can access the load area fairly easy by means of side sliding doors and two generous rear doors.


1996 - 2003 Mercedes Benz Vito Interior
- image 461859

You can hop inside without too much fuss as the vehicle has a pretty low ground clearance. As it was expected, the cabin offers acres of space and there is plenty of leg and head room for up to three passengers on the first row of seats.

Naturally the overall design isn’t as high class as the new model, but it’s fairly practical. Almost where ever you’ll look you find a cubby hole or a small storage place where you can safely keep your things.

The plastics were selected for their durability over luxury, but at their time were the best in the segment. Not to mention about the build quality that was nothing short of excellent and the famous German quality can be seen even in the smallest details such as the knobs and switches.

We also like the ergonomic steering wheel which despite of its age offered a confident grab and had an attractive design.

As most German vehicles, the seats are more on the hard class but this feature makes them better suited for longer journeys when won’t leave you with cramped backs. There are also enough adjustments to help you find your favorite driving position and we also like the dash mounted gear knob that lefts the floor clean permitting you to move without restriction through the cab.

Needless to say that the all around visibility it’s part of the first class and you have a commanding view of the road.

Engines and performance

1996 - 2003 Mercedes Benz Vito Exterior
- image 461861

After 1999 the Mercedes Benz Vito was fitted with upgraded diesel engines with a capacity of 2.1 liters. There were three outputs available namely 82 hp/147lb-ft, 102/184lb-ft and 122bhp/221lb-ft. Besides the diesel units there was also available a petrol engine which developed a maximum power of 129 hp offering the possibility to be converted to run on LPG.

The diesel units were a unrefined and didn’t offer the smooth performances expected from Mercedes. The entry level units were also pretty sluggish and find it hard to carry bigger loads. The 122 hp model however, was a good performer and was able to stack up against its rivals with dignity.

The petrol engine was at par with its competitors and offered decent performances being able to keep it up with the city traffic without too much drama.

Mercedes Benz Vito Engines Specifications

Engine hp@rpm lb-ft@rpm
2.1 diesel 82@3800 147@1500-2400
2.1 diesel 122@3800 221@1800-2500
2.1 diesel 102@3800 184@1500-2500
2.0 petrol 129@5100 137 @ 3600-4500

Ride and handling

1996 - 2003 Mercedes Benz Vito Exterior
- image 461863

The vehicle rides on front independed McPherson struts and rear wishbones. The Mercedes Vito offers a pretty good ride being able to deal well with the difficult roads. The handling is also pretty good with a limited body roll and good overall road manners.

We also like the capable power steering as it’s pretty predictable and lets you know exactly what the wheels are planning. Thanks to the relatively compact exterior dimension the Vito it’s a joy to be driven around town and can deal with congested traffic situations.

The brakes are among the best in this class and they are also offered with standard ABS and traction control.


1996 - 2003 Mercedes Benz Vito Exterior
- image 461864

The old Mercedes Vito was by far the best commercial vehicle in its class and thanks to its faultless mechanics and the strong build quality it managed to always stay in front of the pack.

The vehicle was also fairly practical offering a proper load volume and a spacious cabin. The interior was nothing short of excellent with good materials and a strong build quality.

The engines however weren’t as refined as expected and their performances didn’t manage to stand out from the crowd. On the other hand the ride and handling were class leading and the Vito had the best road manners in its class.

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