Not many of us think about commercial vans. Yet all of us have ridden in one or may even eventually have cause to own one. These are the workhorses of the delivery world and Mercedes has long been a part of that. The Metris is its current offering, and the Passenger variant is made specifically for shuttling people.

In the current market, most availability in North America is limited to compact-sized "city" vans and full-sized box-style vans. The Mercedes-Benz Metris fits somewhere in between, in a mid-sized category. The new market for commercial delivery and passenger vans is less bulky and more refined, with most designs coming from a European inspiration. The Metris itself is based heavily on the Spanish-made Mercedes-Benz Vito, and replaces the Sprinter that was shared with Dodge and Freightliner.

The 2017 Metris has two basic configurations in four models: the Cargo models for cargo hauling and the Passenger models for hauling people. The Mercedes-Benz Metris Passenger and Worker Passenger are essentially the same, with the former having more upgrade options and packages available and the latter having fewer in trade for its better price point. We drove the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Metris Passenger with no additions except power sliding doors (both right and left). These would otherwise be manual.

This basic van had a price tag of US$35,415 with delivery, which is roughly on par with the segment for a larger van. For comparison, a much smaller but otherwise comparable Ford Transit Connect Wagon would run about $27,000 and a similarly-equipped and larger Ram ProMaster van would be priced at about $40,000. Yet the Mercedes is highly compelling thanks to its unusual list of standard features and its strong performance as a people-hauler, specifically.

The Metris is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission powering the rear wheels. That little engine outputs a respectable 208 horsepower (155 kW) and 258 pound-feet (350 Nm) of torque. For hauling people and their luggage, this is a solid setup. Mercedes definitely knows how to turbo things right and that shows in the Metris. On paper, the van sounds underpowered and we had little hope for its performance, but in the real world, the Metris has solid power delivery across the speedometer. It's peppy in the city and ready for the pass on the freeway. Surprisingly so. Very different from the sluggish V6 powering the Ram ProMaster we drove a couple of years ago.

With this, though, fuel economy remains very good. The US Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Metris at 21 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway (11.2 and 9.8 l/100km). Our average was 23 mpg (10.2 l/100km) overall with about 25 mpg (9.4 l/100km) as our average at highway speeds. These were with varied passenger loads ranging from a single driver to five and six total passengers.

The Metris Passenger is designed to carry up to eight people plus their luggage, gear, tools, or whatever else comes along. The interior is fairly plain, by consumer standards, but very workable and well laid out for hands-on use. Our Passenger model included the base infotainment system – a 5.8-inch monochrome and largely useless screen with few options outside of Bluetooth connections and radio tuning – a USB plug next to the driver, and seating for seven.

Upgrades can be had to the infotainment, number of USB ports, and to add another seat. Other upgrades can also include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, multi-function controls on the steering wheel, a better driver information display, and various safety systems such as blind-spot monitoring.

For those working with the Metris, the dashboard has large cubby-slots ahead of the driver and front passenger that are large enough for a thick clipboard (or clipboard box) to slide in securely, a center cubby for gloves, glasses, etc., and plenty of space on the floor for a central bin or crate for more gear. Cargo space behind the third row is a cavernous 38 cubic feet. Seating can be easily removed or tilted forward to add even more with the total cargo, with the second and third rows removed, totalling 186 cubic feet.

The side sliding doors can be opened individually and, with the power door option, by pressing a button on the center console to open each individually from the driver's seat. The rear doors are a double swing-out design on 180-degree hinges on the Passenger model. The Cargo models have double hinges that allow a full 270 degrees of swing.

With the 2017 Metris Passenger, of course, the seating arrangements are where the money's at. The benches are comfortable and offer good support and an excellent ride height for those sitting in them. They are more comfortable than most airport shuttles we've ridden in and have their seatbelts integral to their design, so when the bench is removed, it's all self-contained.

The benches can be arranged in two rows of three-seat benches or a rear row of three seats and a second row with two, leaving an easier entry/egress space at the right-hand (curb-side) side door. Our Metris was configured with the latter. The benches are fully modular, so they can be moved or swapped at will. Disconnection from the van's floor requires the pushing of a lever, either by hand or with a foot, to disengage the rear locks and another lever for the front locks. Disconnecting only one or the other allows the bench to be tilted forward or back to add floor space. Removing the benches is fairly easy with two people and they easily slide out the side doors or come out the rear of the van.

Integrated into the Metris' flooring and lower walls are built-in D-hooks for cargo securement and the like. Ours also included the standard rubber floors, which are easy to clean with broom or mop.

For hauling people, it's hard to imagine a better-designed commercial van than the Mercedes-Benz Metris Passenger. We would have liked to have had niceties like cruise control and multi-zone heating, perhaps, but the Metris suits its purpose very well. It's more fuel and space efficient than are larger commercial vans and not nearly as cramped as the smaller city vans available.

Product Page: Mercedes-Benz Metris

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