They say small businesses are the backbone of the economy and indeed they are. Not only do they consume the goods produced by large industry but large industry is almost always born out of them. Small businesses offer the entrepreneur who starts them a new source of income and also offer job opportunities. These jobs are instrumental in supporting family members of those employed by small businesses. Small businesses often face a number of obstacles. One of those challenges is the lack of readily available advice when it comes to commercial vehicle solutions.
Buying a car is a big deal in general. The stakes are higher when the vehicle is sourced for business purposes. A wrong vehicle can make or break a small business. Before we get there, and although a largely subjective consideration and too broad for the purpose of this piece, a vehicle that’s unaffordable for a small business can also be problematic for that business’ bottom line. It is in this context that we took the decision to review light commercial vehicles in order assist small businesses when making this tough yet necessary decision. Interestingly, there are also commercial vehicles that can assist an entrepreneur strike the balance between their family and business needs thus saving them money. Think Mercedes Benz Mixto or VW Transporter Crew Bus or even a double cab bakkie.
First up in our review of light commercial vehicles is the Mercedes Benz Vito 114 CDI Panel Van. Let’s face it, some really small of small businesses will not be able to afford this one at the onset but it’s a popular and reliable commercial vehicle. From the outside, the Vito Panel Van looks like its other Vito siblings and is perhaps distinguishable by the large black front bumper. In the front cabin the Vito Panel Van seats three, including the driver. The Vito Panel Van is surprisingly an easy six forward manual drive. The Vito Panel Van has a clever function that helps you avoid having the engine cut off. If anticipating that the engine is about to cut off, you are able to push the gear lever to neutral and then slide it back into gear. That avoids the engine cutting off. This is a useful feature when you are navigating busy streets to deliver or collect goods. The last thing you want over and above the stress of the job is to have the engine cut off and expose you to confrontations with angry city drivers. Still on the engine, the Vito Panel Van has an easy to use stop start function. Apply the brakes and push the car to manual and you are saving fuel.
The most challenging part is adjusting to driving a car without a rear-view mirror (new found respect for commercial vehicle drivers). Perhaps the Vito Panel Van could benefit from parking sensors or a reverse camera as standard features. This would be of tremendous benefit to an owner driver who is going to be doing most of the driving herself.
The overall quality of the dash is surprisingly good for a work truck. The quality leaves you thinking you’ve scored something that will serve your business venture for a long time. There is also adequate space upfront in the Vito Panel Van for its three passengers (including the driver). Our Vito Panel Van had Bluetooth connectivity which is useful when using the navigator on my cell phone as the voice commands were audible through the sound system.
The Vito Panel Van’s biggest trait isn’t its cabin comfort however but it’s the sheer large size of its load compartment. The things is huge and can transport up to 1064 kg in goods. In our test we partnered with a small business that asked us collect and deliver six pallets for it. The Vito Panel Van gobbled up the load as if it was nothing, and with ample load space to spare. The double-wing rear doors make loading and unloading easier
In terms of the drive. The Vito Panel Van is surprisingly comfortable for a work vehicle. The 2.2 engine sufficiently carries the body of the car. We never carried really heavy loads but we felt that the engine had more than enough capacity to move the vehicle along swiftly if it was carrying much heavier loads.
This is the pricelist for the Mercedes-Benz Vito Panel Van range:
111 CDI Panel Van – R433,542
114 CDI Panel Van – R476,634
116 CDI Panel Van – R515,736
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