Big jobs aren’t the exclusive property of big trucks. In fact, as I needed to make a move from suburbia to the city, I learned that the traditional, large truck just wouldn’t be the most convenient or practical choice.
Engine: 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder
Power: 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch automatic
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 21 city, 24 highway, 22 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 10.8 city, 9.5 highway, 10.2 combined
Price (USD): Starts at $29,875 including destination
Price (CAD): Starts at $33,900 not including delivery charges
If I had to do it all again, I’d use something like the Mercedes-Benz Metris, a multipurpose van that is large enough to be extremely practical, while being small enough be easy to drive and park in a tight city. Piloting a cargo variant of the Metris for a move downtown taught me that size isn’t everything when it comes to utility vehicles.
The second model offered in Mercedes’ van lineup, the Metris is easily described as being the little sibling of the Sprinter. The Sprinter is like a heavy duty truck, while the Metris is about the size of a Toyota Tacoma. Actually, the Metris is a bit shorter than the Taco, making it a far more accommodating ride around town. In terms of height, the cargo Metris measures in at 75.2 inches tall without the roof rails. Translating to six-feet and about three inches, this van should make it through most parking structures without scraping the roof. The width of the Metris including mirrors is 88.3 inches, which is surprisingly wide — more than 10 inches wider than a small pickup.
Small Truck Charm
The Metris is far less intimidating than the Sprinter and any other big truck. Maybe it’s the small 17-inch steel wheels with big squishy, meaty tires. Or perhaps it’s the blue-collar getup of the white body and unpainted front and rear bumpers that have a simple charm.
The small, boxy shape has a friendly feel to it, and climbing into it is easy, rather than cumbersome. Inside, you’re greeted with a somewhat familiar Mercedes layout. The steering wheel and gauge cluster feel plucked right out of the brand’s affordable CLA or GLA vehicles. Similarly, the truck uses the same fragile-feeling column-mounted shifter for gear selection in place of where the wiper stalk is normally found on most cars. The central console is basic and is unfortunately laden with dummy buttons. There are a few cubby holes surrounding the main display and the materials around the cabin are hard and uncomfortable, if not rugged. Sadly, the cloth seats are basic and don’t offer much support and long trips in the car left me a bit numb.
Loading the van up is a breeze. The sliding door on the passenger side isn’t too heavy and satisfyingly locks into place. The rear doors swing open and can be unhinged and locked to the side of the van with magnets, so there’s no awkward navigating around the doors. This feature was easy to use and very useful. Putting the doors in place, I loaded up the small van with mattresses, futons, box springs and whatever big awkward items you can imagine when moving someone. The van swallowed it up so effortlessly that I didn’t need my 1989 Tetris Gamer’s Guide to stack up and match up items perfectly.
Total cargo volume is rated at a whopping 186 cubic feet, and if you were worried about how much weight you can throw around in the cargo area, the Metris Cargo is rated for around 2,500 pounds. If you want to tow with the little van, it’s good to pull 5,000 lbs.
The floor of the Metris was generously covered with mats, and even a few tie-down hooks for strapping down items. Notably, sound deadening material was limited inside the van, meaning that items rattling and squeaking around sounded far more annoying in the echoey cavern of the van.
On the Road
Driving the van around wasn’t a mental chore like it is in bigger trucks. Steering was well weighted and communicative, and the throttle was surprisingly responsive. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides the grunt for the Metris, with 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to help push things along. On paper, it seems a bit low for a work truck, but in practice, the turbocharged engine had plenty of grunt to get the van going. The transmission is not perfect, but the fuel economy is hard to argue with, as the van earns around 24 mpg during our testing, more than the 22 mpg the vehicle is rated for, but potential buyers should be warned, as the Metris prefers premium fuel. Although regular fuel is OK, you’ll suffer from worse performance and fuel economy. A start/stop system is another aide to help the van stay economical, but buyers should know that unlike the Sprinter, the Metris isn’t available with all-wheel drive. This is, however, helpful in terms of fuel usage as the rear-wheel drive setup is fairly fuel efficient.
Piloting the van was relatively stress free, too, although the mirrors do seem a bit small. While side-swiping other cars was never a worry, excessive shoulder checks were needed. To help out, Mercedes offers a number of driver assistance systems, including a parking assistant, blind spot alert, lane departure warning and forward collision system. Another optional extra that may be a bigger deal for buyers looking at the passenger model include a power sliding door and seating for eight.
The Verdict: 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van Review
Functionally, the cargo van was perfect for what we needed it for. Starting at $29,875 including destination, the Metris is much more expensive than other small cargo vans on the market, including the Ford Transit Connect, Chevrolet City Express and the Ram Promaster City, but it’s also bigger than those vans, too. A major issue with the Ford Transit Connect and Promaster City in my situation would be the ability to move furniture. The Metris, which is slightly larger than those two, managed the task very well, without being too big to pilot in the city. Moving is stressful enough, let alone doing it in a high-density city environment. The Metris proved to be right sized for such a place.