Mercedes-Benz V Class Estate 1996 - 2002

Mercedes-Benz V Class Estate 1996 - 2002

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • Good quality interior materials
  • Almost as comfortable as a sedan
  • Plenty of space and very practical


  • Expensive to buy and run
  • Badly optimised petrol versions
  • It still handles like a panel van


If you've ever seen a Mercedes Vito van and thought to yourself "gosh, with a couple of windows on either side and a few extra seats stuck in, that'd be a beauty!" then you're in luck, because that basically describes the V-class MPV. In terms of comfort the V-class certainly isn't bad, and there's ample space for all passengers (there are two rows of three seats in the back). As you would expect from Mercedes, it's got all the electric features you can think of putting in a people carrier, as well as fold-down tables, coat hangers and air suspension in the rear. While the V-class is comfortable, it's about as wieldy as an elephant on rollerblades, skidding across ice, and it certainly won't turn on a penny. In other words, it's not the most pleasant of cars to drive.

Exterior and Interior

It's a good-looking people carrier. Although it was born a panel van, the transition to a luxury MPV has been made flawlessly. From the outside it probably looks as good as an ex-panel van could look. The interior is excellent with good quality materials used. It is made using soft materials to make it look like a Mercedes executive sedan rather than a converted van. Two front air bags are included in the basic trim. Higher specification trims also add side-impact airbags and additional safety features can be ordered as extra equipment.

Performance and Economy

Car critics pretty much agree that you would do well to stay away from petrol versions, and opt for a diesel instead. That said there are two petrol versions for you to consider if you should wish to do so. Firstly, there's a 143bhp 2.8-litre option, which is cheaper, but as you might expect it doesn't offer enough clout when you take the V-class' considerable weight into account, nor does it offer very good fuel economy (24mpg). The second petrol option is a 174bhp V6, 2.8-litre, which does much better in terms of performance, but the fuel economy is terrible at 21mpg. Due to the atrocious performance of their petrol engines, Mercedes rather wisely decided to bring out a diesel option as well, which goes under the name of CDI 220. The 2.2-litre diesel engine offers similar performance to the 2.3-litre petrol, as you might expect, but at a fairly respectable 35mpg the fuel economy which is considerably better. Whichever engine option you go for, be prepared for a rather noisy ride.

Like to Drive

You don't normally drive a van for fun. We're not saying that you shouldn't, however, the Mercedes V-Class is a bulky car and although it received an advanced set of suspension, it will never behave like a sedan.

Faults and Repairs

There's no getting around the fact that the V-class MPV is an expensive car to buy, and Mercedes have never been known for their cheap repairs. It's worth keeping in mind that different dealers will often offer different rates for used cars, and as such it's often worthwhile to shop around for a bit before making a purchase. Earlier models suffered a lot of recalls, which had a rather negative impact on their second hand value and the sales of later models. However, the introduction of the TD engine led to a notable increase in interest. As mentioned previously, the V-class offers a nice range of electric toys as standard. While intended to make your life easier (and they do) they've always been prone to failing at the worst of times. So, if you're on the used car market for one, always make sure to check that the electrics are working properly, because getting them fixed can be a costly experience. Another common issue arises from the sliding doors, which have been known to hop off their runners.