Mercedes-Benz eVito minibus
The Mercedes-Benz eVito minibus offers good zero-emission transport, but comes at a price, says John Kendall
Mercedes-Benz eVito minibus
The Mercedes-Benz eVito minibus offers good zero emission transport, but comes at a price, says John Kendall
You may recall that we recently tested an eVito L2 van and it’s easy to think that the minibus variant of it is simply the van, converted with seats, trim and the usual minibus necessities. That is not quite the case with the eVito minibus, though. Mercedes-Benz has taken advantage of the lighter payload of the minibus to provide greater battery capacity, boosting it from the 66kWh of the van to 100kWh, extending the range to up to 221 miles (WLTP combined). That’s a useful stretch from the 162 miles of the van and potentially makes the eVito minibus a useful all-distance passenger vehicle.
With a growing number of clean air zones (CAZ) around the country – as well as the London ULEZ – the market for electric minibuses that serve the executive passenger and private hire sectors in cities is certain to grow. At the moment, the eVito minibus has comparatively few rivals. The VW ID. Buzz carries a similar price, with a similar electric driving range, but is notably smaller. Ford does not currently have an electric Tourneo Custom, but that will likely change as the new Transit and Tourneo Custom ranges emerge in the coming months.
From Stellantis, Citroën offers the closest rival with the ë-Spacetourer electric, with a choice of body lengths and electric driving range of up to 204 miles. The Peugeot e-Traveller range is more restricted and there are no minibus variants of the Vauxhall Vivaro or Fiat Scudo, with or without electric power. Renault does produce the Trafic Passenger minibus variant, but this is not yet available with electric power. The Toyota Proace Verso provides a minibus variant of the model but also not with electric power. So, the closest rival is the Citroën.
With sliding side doors each side as standard – and folding and tumbling outer seats, – access to the back row, often something of an issue with minibuses, is not bad. The seats were all mounted on rails running the length of the back of the vehicle and this would enable the seat spacing to be fine-tuned to regular passengers, or permit seats to be removed when not needed, to liberate more luggage space. Even with the back seats in their rearmost position, luggage space is fairly generous anyway. Passengers should be able to travel in comfort in all positions.
The driving experience is fairly similar to the van but with better all-round visibility. It’s a similar experience to driving a diesel automatic but without the accompanying engine noise (and with the same column-mounted gear selector). As with many Mercedes-Benz models, eVito comes with a foot pedal parking brake, released by pulling a dash-mounted release lever, located beneath the rotary light switch to the right of the steering column. This setup does not always result in a smooth pull-away as you would get with a conventional handbrake, which allows for progressive release.
Considering that the eVito is a conversion of a vehicle that was not originally designed to be equipped with an electric drivetrain, the switch works well. There is the respectable range that we have already mentioned, while noise is notably subdued. Ride quality is the important factor for passengers and Mercedes-Benz has done well here with a good compromise between ride and handling. It is an expensive vehicle but, with a working life that could span future tighter restrictions to CAZ regulations, it may prove to be cost-effective.
Which model is right for you?
Our test vehicle was offered in Tourer PRO trim, the lesser of the two options. Even so it includes an 8m charging cable, double passenger front seat, air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, twin sliding doors, DAB radio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control and speed limiter. Sliding side doors are fitted each side, while all second-row seats are individual, with the back row made up of one single and one double seat.
The more expensive Premium brings in more equipment, but the additional £6,000 doesn’t seem to add that much kit.