It’s van time, friends.
Mercedes’ little Metris holds a special place in the hearts of many Roadshow editors. We had one in our long-term fleet for a year — which we inexplicably/lovingly named the Wu-Tang Van — and it was a trusty companion for a year’s worth of video production work.
The Metris hasn’t changed all that much since we said goodbye to the Wu-Tang Van, but I think it’s important that we revisit our old long-termers from time to time, just to make sure we aren’t just looking back at them with rose-colored glasses. After a few days of hauling things and running errands around Los Angeles, I’m reminded of all the reasons why we liked our long-term Metris as a work vehicle. But I’m reminded of its tech-related weaknesses, too.
LikePowerful 2.0-liter engineMore cargo and payload than other small vansComfortable seatsLots of driver-assistance features
Don’t LikeMore expensive than other small vansNo adaptive cruise controlLaughably old infotainment tech
You better work
The Metris is compact as vans go, but it’s not exactly small. It’s available with 126-inch and 135-inch wheelbases, the longer of which is what I’ve got here. Stem to stern, this Metris measures 211.4 inches, which is about 5 inches longer than an S-Class sedan. It’s slightly wider than an S-Class and obviously taller, too, so diminutive as it might be compared with something like a Sprinter, the Metris is hardly tiny.
But at the same time, the Metris is easy to maneuver. Its turning circle is about 2 feet smaller than that of an S-Class, so you can easily whip it around tight city streets and it’s a cinch to park in crowded lots. The high seating position gives you a great view down the short hood, and the low beltline means side visibility is ample, too. Be sure to order your Metris with rear windows for the best experience.
You can buy the Metris with side windows and a few rows of seats, but this one’s the Cargo Van spec, so there’s nothing behind the front chairs. It’s a blank canvas for worker bees: Mount shelves or storage compartments, tie things down to various parts of the body. Like the back page of a standardized test, this space is intentionally left blank so you can make the Metris your own.
There’s 199 cubic feet of space in the longer-wheelbase Metris, and with a payload capacity of 2,370 pounds, there isn’t much this van can’t haul. Even the shorter Metris is pretty stout: 183 cubic feet and 2,425 pounds of payload. Both vans can even tow 5,000 pounds. The Ford Transit Connect is the Metris’ closest competitor, but even the short-wheelbase Mercedes bests the long-wheelbase TC in all the aforementioned areas. The Mercedes is more expensive, yes, but you get what you pay for.
Loading the Metris is a breeze thanks to the low floor and 270-degree swing-out rear doors. You can get the Metris with a huge hatchback, if you prefer, but I think most commercial buyers will appreciate the double-door versatility. Two things to note, though: You can’t open the right door all the way if you have the side sliding door open. You also don’t get a driver’s-side sliding door standard, so make sure to add that on if you want access to the cargo hold from both sides.
No matter the configuration, Mercedes offers the Metris with a 2.0-liter turbo I4 engine, producing 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That’s plenty of power — way more than Ford offers in the Transit Connect, I should add — and the Metris is surprisingly sprightly around town, especially unloaded. The van uses rear-wheel drive, and I’ll admit it’s pretty easy to get the back end to step out around a corner if you goose the throttle, not that I’d ever do such a thing.
Generally speaking, the Metris drives… like a van. The steering is light, the brakes are fine. The suspension is nicely tuned to keep the Metris comfortable when you’re driving around with nothing in the back, so it’s not crashy like a Transit Connect or, worse, a Ram ProMaster City.
More importantly, the engine’s torque comes on strong at 1,250 rpm, meaning the seven-speed automatic transmission doesn’t have to rev too high to keep the Metris humming around town. That helps with overall fuel efficiency, too; the EPA says the 2020 Metris should return 21 miles per gallon in the city, 24 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. The Transit Connect is a bit more efficient, but remember, it’s also smaller.
Cloth seat design? Rad. Tiny infotainment screen and old tech? Not rad.
Good tech, bad tech
The Metris has a pretty good roster of driver-assistance tech. You get a trailer brake controller, load-adaptive stability control, hill-start assist and a rearview camera standard. (I mention the rearview camera because, while this feature is federally mandated for all passenger cars, commercial vehicles are exempt.) Blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist and active parking assist are all available. Only thing missing is adaptive cruise control, really.
Unfortunately, the Metris’ cabin tech is pretty bad. There’s a tiny, 5.8-inch screen running a stripped-down version of Mercedes’ decade-old COMAND system, with only a rudimentary navigation interface built in. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto? Nope. Wi-Fi? Nah.
This infotainment issue is particularly offensive considering Mercedes-Benz offers some of the best multimedia tech in the world with its new MBUX interface. The Sprinter van gets this robust tech suite, and it’s a damn shame the Metris doesn’t offer something better. The new V-Class sold in Europe looks to have a big tech upgrade, so I’m hopeful this’ll trickle over to the US in the form of an updated Metris.
There’s 199 cubic feet of space back here. Bring everything!
Mercedes quality, Mercedes pricing
The 2020 Metris starts at $28,375 for a base Worker Cargo Van, including $1,195 for delivery, and stretches as high as $36,775 for the Passenger Van. In the case of this Metris Cargo Van, it starts at $32,585 including destination, and adding things like 17-inch wheels, tinted rear windows, heated seats and roof rails brings the final price to a cool $39,000. Mercedes-Benz has plenty of upfitting partners that can help you make your work van the precise tool for the job, and if you’re all about play instead of work, the new Metris Weekender looks like a nice companion for camping trips.
Commercial buyers on a budget will likely want to take a look at the Ford Transit Connect or Ram ProMaster City, as both are less expensive. But remember, they’re smaller and slower and can’t haul as much, and there’s something to be said for your workers showing up to job sites in a Mercedes-Benz instead of a Ford or Ram. The added cost of the Metris is largely worth it compared with other small vans, and as we noted in our long-term wrap-up, this Mercedes is one infotainment upgrade from being a perfect work van.