by Gabe Beita Kiser
Smaller than a full-size van, but larger than its small van segment rivals, the Metris Cargo Van capitalizes on its unique appeal to remain eminently competitive in the cargo van market. It has a higher starting MSRP than most competitors at $30,700, but there is a Worker trim available designed to save you several thousand dollars without sacrificing utility. The traditional model is higher-scale than rivals like the Ford Transit Connect and Ram ProMaster City and comes with a stronger 208-horsepower turbo inline-four, while still delivering surprisingly good handling for its size. When it comes to weaving around congested city roads while moving a hefty load of goods, the Mercedes-Benz small cargo van should definitely have a place on your shortlist.
The Metris Cargo enters 2019 entirely unchanged from the previous year, which isn't too surprising considering how well it does the job for which it was designed.
While designed to be load-hauler, the Metris manages to retain a fair degree of its Mercedes style. Sleek curves give the van a streamlined appearance, while the broad automatic halogen headlights frame the modest black grille perfectly. The front and rear fascias are underlined by black bumpers, but body-colored bumpers are available. The 17-inch wheels rest within the unassuming wheel arches, with two available wheelbase sizes. The cargo area can be accessed by the large rear doors, with multiple configurations, or via the side door on the driver's side.
Larger than the average small van, the Merc Metris stands at 202.4 inches long with the regular 126-inch wheelbase, while the available 135-inch long-wheelbase stretches the body to 211.4 inches. Width and height are standard at 75.9 inches and 75.2 inches, respectively (width without mirrors). Understandably, these larger dimensions negatively impact on weight, with the cargo van tipping the scale at between 4,222 lbs to 4,277 lbs. This is a fair deal heavier than rivals like the compact Ford Transit Connect, which maxes out at only 3,732 lbs.
The only engine available to the van is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that develops 208 hp and 258 lb-ft for the rear wheels, a fair amount more than close competitors like the Transit Connect or Ram ProMaster. This gives the hefty Metris enough power to maneuver around town with remarkable agility for its size and weight, with a 0 to 60 mph 'sprint' time in the mid-eight second range. Merging onto the highway still requires a bit of patience, and passing should only be attempted when not laden with cargo - but both are possible with relative ease. A smooth-shifting seven-speed automatic transmission rows the gears for the van.
Regardless of whether you choose the heavier long-wheelbase model or not, the Mercedes cargo van has a max towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, besting most small van rivals by several thousand pounds.
While it's usually easy to say that a cargo van handles as you'd expect a large box on wheels to behave, that is not the case with the Metris, which exhibits surprising agility. It comes standard with crosswind assist, which helps it handle its large surface area while cruising down the highway at impressive speeds.
And it isn't just the van's acceleration that's sharp; the steering is light and responsive, allowing the larger small van to maneuver around town and even handle packed parking lots with relative ease. The advanced driver-assist features help here, too, even though they require additional packages. Ride comfort is good for the segment, and the small wheels allow for tires with excellent grip that absorb road abrasions with ease.
While you won't be taking corners at anything above a leisurely pace, especially with a laden cargo hold, the Mercedes Metris doesn't lurch. A smooth transmission, snappy steering, and powerful brakes make this van a pleasure to drive in a segment that doesn't usually put much thought into more than just utility.
Despite its workhorse nature, the Metris gets respectable mileage, although it still manages to cost more to run than most rivals due to relying on premium gasoline to fuel its turbocharged engine. Regardless of how the van is configured, you can expect to get around 21/24/22 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. This is not quite as good as the Ford Transit Connect cargo van, which gets an estimated 24/27/25 mpg - and it is also not quite as good as the Ram ProMaster City's 21/28/24 mpg. With an 18.5-gallon tank at its disposal, the Metris can cover up to 407 miles between refuelings.
Unlike the passenger variant, the Metris Cargo doesn't give much thought to its driver and/or single passenger. The seats are comfortable enough, though not overly plush on the standard models, with only minor manual adjustability. They can be upgraded to power-adjustable seats with lumbar support and even heating functions, but only on the Cargo trim. There is plenty of room for drivers of any height, although legroom could be a bit more generous. Visibility is as poor as you'd expect from a panel van, but the standard rearview camera helps somewhat. Blind-spot monitoring and parking sensors are also available. A low step-in height makes entering and exiting the van simple and safe.
Cargo capacity can vary depending on the body style you choose, either regular wheelbase or long wheelbase. While the width and height of the cargo area are standard at 50 inches and 55 inches respectively, the length is 111.5 inches with the regular wheelbase and 120.5 inches with the longer option. This opens up a total of 183 cubic feet, or 199 cubic feet, inside the van, while the roof is capable of supporting a 331-pound payload. As standard, the floor of cargo bay is lined with wood, and six D-rings come with even the unmodified van. The regular body can carry a total of 2,425 lbs while the slightly heavier long-body has a maximum payload capacity of 2,370 lbs. On top of all this, either model can tow 5,000 lbs.
Alternate storage in the front of the van is limited. There is a standard glove compartment, a pair of cupholders, and two storage bins within the dashboard. There is no center armrest or door pockets.
Features are extremely light on the cargo van, with the Worker Cargo getting only the bare minimum, with little opportunity to expand its offering. Standard features comprise air conditioning, manually adjustable front seats, a rearview camera, hill-start assist, and driver attention assist. Available features include cruise control, eight-way power heated front seats with lumbar, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, collision prevention, parking sensors, and automatic parking assist. The cargo area can also be upgraded with additional batteries and wiring for alternate uses, such as refrigerated cargo hauling.
Infotainment is more of an afterthought on the Metris. Standard across the range is a basic 5.8-inch infotainment interface; however, no advanced features are offered, with only AM/FM Radio, Bluetooth, and connections for a USB port and an auxiliary input. Smartphone integration isn't offered at any level, and only five speakers are present in the front of the cabin. Navigation can be optioned on separately.
While the van has not been rated for dependability by an independent body such as J.D. Power, it has been subject to a number of recalls. The most recent of these include recalls for an exposed backup battery opening, incorrectly mounted springs in the head restraints, faulty electric power steering, an incorrect operator's manual, and vehicles sold without passing final safety checks. Mercedes-Benz sells its cargo van with a 36,000-mile/36-month basic warranty.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the Metris Cargo Van, and only the most basic safety features come standard. These include ABS, EBD, traction and stability control, a rearview camera, driver attention assist, and six airbags: front, front side, and side curtain. Available advanced safety features include blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, collision prevention assist, and automatic parking assist.
The Mercedes-Benz Metris is definitely a good van, but that doesn't mean it's the best choice for everyone. Larger than traditional small vans like the Ford Transit Connect and Ram ProMaster City, the German van can handle bigger loads, and heavier ones too, thanks to its bullish engine. Unfortunately, this engine runs on premium gasoline, which increases the running cost of the van over its already high purchase price. Still, it gets competitive mileage that keeps it relevant in a market that is all about day-long driving over long distances.
Despite its high price, the Metris Cargo seems to be missing out on a lot of the more upscale tech and driver-assist features that rivals like the Ford Transit, but it manages to remain just as athletic as the smaller vans, if not more so. But, it does present buyers with a more premium interior that remains comfortable. A variety of packages are available to upgrade the available features too, to match what some competitors are offering, but this adds to an already high starting price tag. If you're going to be hauling large loads on a regular basis, but need a dextrous van for town deliveries, the Metris should definitely be on your shortlist. It does ask for a larger investment upfront, but it earns its keep with its reliability and high performance. Still, some cheaper, smaller vans might do the job better, depending on your specific needs.
Keeping true to the German manufacturer's reputation, the Metris will cost you a bit more than the average small cargo van. The standard model Metris Cargo will haul your goods for $30,700, several thousand dollars more than the Ford Transit or Ram ProMaster. However, Mercedes does offer a budget trim, the Worker Cargo, for those who are willing to accept the bare minimum to save a buck. This model is more in line with rivals at $26,570. These prices
exclude tax, registration, licensing, and a destination charge of $1,195.
The model you buy depends on where your priorities lie. If all you need is a reliable, powerful cargo hauler, without any special applications, then the economical Worker Cargo should fit the bill and save you some cash. But, if you want access to a few extra safety features or want to customize your cargo bay for more unusual payloads, then you will need to opt for the standard Metris Cargo, as it is the only trim level that allows for such customization.
The Transit Connect measures in on the smaller side compared to its bigger brother, the standard Transit, and is aimed more at those who want a well-equipped cargo van that specializes in handling smaller payloads with style and aplomb. The Connect gets access to more high-tech infotainment features and more standard safety elements. It's smaller size also allows it to access areas that might give the larger Metris some trouble. With a lower starting MSRP and cheaper running costs, thanks to using regular gasoline fuel, the Ford is a cheaper vehicle all-round. However, if you want to move larger amounts of cargo while not sacrificing on the agility of a small van, the Mercedes Metris is the better choice, with its larger cargo hold and stronger engine. Overall, for the small van market, the Ford Transit Connect may better suit your needs.
The ProMaster City isn't as far behind the Metris in terms of cargo capacity as other small vans, but it doesn't enjoy the same level of drivability. Unfortunately, the Ram van doesn't come with better tech or safety features, and the interior isn't as comfortable as that of the German van. The ProMaster City does get a relatively powerful engine, with better fuel economy than the Metris, and it uses regular gasoline, which reduces its lifetime costs. Still, with considerably less cargo capacity, unimpressive handling, and a weaker powertrain that struggles when the van is fully loaded, the money you save with the Ram cargo van might not be worth the hassle. The Mercedes seems like the better choice here.