The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Mercedes Viano is one of the plushest people carriers around, with an upmarket image, lots of space and versatile seating. The V6 versions don’t hang around either.
Reasons to buy:
- Lots of room
- Choice of wheelbase lengths
- Choppy ride
How good does it look?
It’s predominantly a van with windows, and doesn’t try hard to hide its Mercedes Vito van roots. In Ambiente trim, with meaty alloy wheels and colour-coded bumpers, it looks neat and is the upmarket choice amongst people carriers, when you need to impress those you are carrying.
What's the interior like?
By van standards, the interior of the Viano is quite plush, with solid, sturdy materials used throughout. The ventilation and major controls are mounted high up on the dashboard, though the screen for the sat-nav unit is set hopelessly low. On manual gearbox models, the gear lever is mounted high up on the dash, and despite looking like a strange place at first, it is a surprisingly natural location for it to be. The wood trim of Ambiente models, and aluminium applique on Trend versions lifts the cabin considerably and breaks up the sea of black plastic. The instrument cluster is easy to read, and all the major controls logically placed.
How practical is it?
The Viano has seating for seven, with the option to seat either six or eight passengers. There’s a choice of regular, long or extra long wheelbases, with each option adding extra versatility to the seating and the amount of luggage space. And as all the rear seats are mounted on rails, you can vary the amount of room, dependent on the passengers and luggage that is being carried. A word of warning though, the seats are heavy and cumbersome to move, and lack the innovations found in some of the Viano’s rivals. The seats are like armchairs when the individual rear seats are specified, and it is therefore one of the classiest ways to travel – it’s unsurprising that so many celebrities use them to tour in. For those who need to haul a caravan, the Viano can tow up to 2,500kg.
What's it like to drive?
The Viano is a pretty big vehicle, especially in long and extra long-wheelbase guises, and its sheer size is felt when you try to hussle it along fast, where it pitches and wallows, especially if equipped with the standard suspension. There’s plenty of lean because of the tall body, and that doesn’t inspire confidence. The Viano is more at home on a motorway, where it’ll cruise nicely with very little engine noise, and only road roar to spoil the peace and quiet. It’s essential that parking sensors are specified as an optional extra, as otherwise the Viano will be an absolute nightmare to park and manoeuvre.
How powerful is it?
There’s a choice of three diesel engines – a pair of 2.2-litre units or a silky 3-litre V6. The entry-level 2.2-litre produces 134bhp, has a top speed of 108mph and can accelerate to 62mph in 14.1 seconds, while the 161bhp version of the same engine accelerates in 12.1 seconds and has a top speed of 117mph. The flagship engine, the 221bhp V6 powerplant can hit 125mph and can complete the zero to 62mph dash in 9.1 seconds – pretty sprightly for such a hefty vehicle.
How much will it cost me?
Due to the sheer bulk of the Viano, running costs aren’t going to be low. Entry-level models are powered by a 2-litre turbodiesel engine that emits 192g/km of CO2 and achieves 38.7mpg on the combined cycle in manual guise, or 216g/km and 34.5mpg respectively when mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Next up is the 2.2-litre CDI which returns identical figures, followed by the flagship 3-litre V6 diesel powerplant that delivers 32.8mpg on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions of 226g/km. Insurance costs are competitive and residual values relatively good compared to rivals like the Ford Galaxy and Volkswagen Sharan.
How reliable is it?
All of the cabin fittings feel solid and built to last, and that is hardly surprising considering its van roots. The mechanicals are well proven too, so shouldn’t prove to be any trouble. Mercedes-Benz always seems to do relatively well in reliability and customer satisfaction surveys, and the Viano should put in a solid effort in this area.
How safe is it?
When the Viano was crash tested by EuroNCAP in 2008, it scored a four-star rating. Safety equipment on the entry-level Trend versions is mediocre to say the least, with just two airbags as standard – one for the driver and passenger. Plusher models get an extra pair, but still you must pay extra for curtain airbags. All models come equipped with electronic stability programme, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, in addition to Isofix child safety seat fasteners on the middle row of seats.
How much equipment do I get?
Despite its humble van roots, the Viano is relatively well kitted out, though when you take into account the list prices, equipment on the entry models is miserly. There’s a choice of two trim levels, with Trend versions coming equipped with electric and heated mirrors, front fog lights, roof rails, air-con, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, electric windows and remote central locking. Ambiente models are more luxurious with 16-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, rear air suspension, leather steering wheel and gearknob, leather upholstery and wood trim. Popular options include a panoramic sunroof, electrically sliding side doors, parking sensors and privacy glass.
It’s the ultimate celebrity people carrier, with acres of space, an upmarket image and a price tag to match. It feels plush inside too, providing you go for Ambiente specification.