OCCUPATIONAL health and safety has gone above and beyond in many workplaces.
But what about those who spend their working lives on the road? Many are getting around is sub-standard vehicles, where often the lower transportation costs gain priority.
Mercedes-Benz is aiming to offer both safety and affordability with its new Vito van and Valente people-mover range.
Laying claim to offering the safest vans on the road, the three-pointed star says it won't engage in a "race to the bottom" when it comes to safety but this new range provides price points and servicing plans aimed at attracting new customers to the marque.
A front-wheel drive van derivative starts from $36,990 drive-away.
Much of the latest technology available on passenger cars is flowing into the van genre, as has already been done with the Sprinter range. But there is a catch. Most of the high-end safety features are optional extras which cost at least $1700.
Styling cues are dictated by the price point.
Base model panel vans and crew cabs are typically basic, with an array of plastic materials, which you expect within the utilitarian class.
Even the variants which tick the optional $900 satellite navigation box make do with a system which appears old-school on the 14.7cm colour screen.
There is little chance of getting lost among the operations as there are limited buttons and dials.
The seat trim feels hardwearing and those vehicles with the second or third rows can accommodate adults in each pew.
On the road
The entry-level models won't throw you into the head-rest, and it goes without saying that the larger capacity donk is the more rewarding.
Particularly impressive was the 140kW version which displayed some nimble performance.
Across the range there is an accomplished ride, with both the vans and people-movers displaying car-like adeptness.
What do you get?
Standard equipment includes is an Audio 15 stereo system with full Bluetooth compatibility, colour 14.3cm screen, three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, air con, along with safety features including cross-wind assist and a system which analyses the driver's inputs and tells them when to take a break to avoid drowsy driving.
The Driving Assistance Package has blind spot warning which lights up when a vehicle sits outside your side mirror line of vision, collision prevention assist that can help avoid or lessen the impact of a crash, lane keep assist which sends vibrations through the wheel if you get too close to the lines and a leather-trimmed steering wheel for $1600. Delete the collision prevention function and you can get the rest for $1300.
Vitos and Valentes can be optioned with automatic parking and a reversing camera as part of a $1700 package. Add sat nav to that group for a total cost of $2400 in the Technology Package.
A standalone reversing camera costs $900 installed, as does sat nav. Automatic parking is $1230.
Mercedes knew it had to offer more than efficiency and an attractive retail price with this range.
Among the deals available are finance with an agreed value program, along with servicing packages which start from $10 a week. Some package deals mean buyers can get into the vehicles for just above $100 a week.
There are no concerns with fuel consumption, the entire range should achieve about six litres for every 100km.
When it comes to the people-mover and crew cabs, the rear pews sit within tracks. While there is ample head, leg and knee room, flexibility of the seats is limited.
Getting into the third row requires one seat to fold and roll. The levers can be cumbersome and can need some elbow grease to get them into place.
The seats can actually be removed to make for a pseudo van arrangements, but it takes a reasonable amount of effort to shift them and their removal requires the effort of two adults.
The Vito and Valente aren't designed for good looks. They are created to do a good job, and while the people-mover has a more graceful appearance, those wanting to haul the family with more style should dig deeper into their pockets for the V250.
Making the additional safety features available is to be applauded. But the big question remains how many buyers will part with extra coin?
In the case of panel vans and crew cabs, the safety of the "mobile office" should be front of mind for those making buying decisions.
Model: Mercedes-Benz Vito and Valente.
Details: Front- or rear-wheel drive panel van and crew cab, and rear-wheel drive seven, eight or nine-seat people-mover.
Engines: Front-wheel drive models are motivated by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder generating 84kW/270Nm, while rear-wheel drive models are powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder in three levels of tune: 114 BlueTEC with 100kW/330Nm, 116 BlueTEC with 120kW/380Nm, and 119 BlueTEC 140kW/440Nm.
Consumption: 6/0-6.4 litres/100km (combined average, depending on engine and body style).
Bottom line plus on-roads: Vito - 111CDI SWB Van (m) $37,140, 114BlueTEC SWB Van (m) $41,940, 116BlueTEC SWB Van (a) $47,340, 119BlueTEC SWB Van (a) $50,400, 111CDI LWB Van (m) $40,440, 114BlueTEC LWB Van (m) $45,240, 116BlueTEC LWB Van (a) $50,640, 119BlueTEC LWB Van (a) $53,700, 114BlueTEC Crew Cab (a) $51,390, 119BlueTEC Crew Cab (a) $57,190. Valente - BlueTEC (a) $56,380.
What matters most
What we liked: Fuel economy, gear shifter stalk on the column in automatic models, accomplished ride.
What we'd like to see: Rear parking sens ors and camera standard, easier seat movement functions for crew cab and people-mover.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is at 25,000km or annually. Pre-paid service plans available.
Driving experience 15/20
Features and equipment 15/20
Functionality and comfort 15/20
Value for money 16/20
Style and design 15/20
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