What Car? says...
If you were paying attention during school history lessons, you might well know where the Mercedes V-Class Marco Polo campervan gets its name.
And while we doubt many Marco Polo buyers will follow explorer Marco Polo's epic expeditions, it's apt that it name checks him, because it's designed to cover great distances without the need to book a hotel room or Airbnb.
The Marco Polo camper shares an engine and suspension with the Mercedes Vito van and the V-Class MPV, but adds almost everything you need for a few days away, including two double beds and a kitchen.
Read on to find out how the Mercedes Marco Polo performs as a camping vehicle. We'll start with driving characteristics, but also cover key requirements for a good home from home, including what it's like to sleep in.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Mercedes Marco Polo comes in one spec – V300d AMG Line, which gets you a 234bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine and a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
We’re familiar with the engine from driving the Mercedes V-Class and the Marco Polo has an official 0-62mph time of 8.6 seconds, which is pretty rapid for a big, heavy camper van.
The Marco Polo's dimensions reflect the fact that it's based on the Mercedes Vito medium van, which is 5.1 metres long. It takes a bit of getting used to if you usually drive a car or SUV, but is manageable.
The Ford Transit Custom Nugget and the VW California are broadly similar in size, while the Grand California is 6 or 6.8 metres long, depending on which version you're driving.
The Marco Polo has the quietest engine of any camper we’ve tested, and it’s smoother than the ones in the Nugget and California. Similarly, it generates far less wind whistle, and road noise is perfectly tolerable.
Just make sure you fold the canvas sides of the pop-up roof away properly when you lower it – if you don’t you’ll hear plenty of creaking above you. As for the automatic gearbox, it’s smoother and less hesitant than the ones in the Nugget and California, and would be perfectly acceptable in an MPV or SUV.
While you’ll find comfier examples of those car types, you won’t find a camper that rides better than the Marco Polo. Compared with the wallowy yet fidgety Nugget or the stiff California, the Marco Polo is a relaxed motorway cruiser that absorbs the worst of most bumps.
It does start to feel a little floaty over particularly undulating roads, while the nastiest potholes and ridges generate a bit of a thump and thud. Still, we’d be perfectly happy to cover long distances in one.
The soft set-up means it doesn’t feel as agile and leans over more than a California. Even so, there’s lots of grip, the steering is precise enough and it certainly feels more stable than the Nugget. Besides, who’s really going to throw a fully loaded camper around on their favourite B-road?
Strengths Brisk acceleration; quiet engine; smooth auto gearbox
Weaknesses Some float on undulating roads; less agile than a VW California
The interior layout, fit and finish
If you’re looking at camper vans you can buy direct from the dealer, there’s none plusher than the Mercedes V-Class Marco Polo. Unlike key rivals, it has plenty of soft-touch plastic and switches that feel as though they came out of a car rather than a van.
Helping matters are the standard leather seats, wood or carbon-fibre effect trim, and even a "yacht" flooring in the back that does a good impression of wood. With standard ambient lighting, it really does feel like you’re glamping.
The Marco Polo knocks the Ford Transit Custom Nugget into a cocked hat for quality and beats even the classy VW California comfortably.
When you're driving the Marco Polo, you sit quite high up with an excellent view ahead. Large side windows and door mirrors mean you can easily see what’s coming up alongside. The view behind isn’t as clear – the rear seat headrests and cupboards in the back block much of the rear window.
Fortunately, all Marco Polos come with parking sensors (front and rear) plus a reversing camera. To help at night, bright LED headlights are standard.
The driver’s seat, with its folding armrest for your left elbow, feels comfortable to sit on but doesn’t provide much side support when cornering. Nevertheless, the seat and the steering wheel both offer plenty of adjustment, so it shouldn’t take you long to find a comfortable position.
It’s certainly more pleasant and less van-like than the Nugget and California, although you can’t get all-digital dials as you can in the California. Still, the Mercedes analogue dials are clear and the colour digital display between them shows all the information you’re likely to need.
You’ll easily find your way around the simple physical controls for all the major functions, while infotainment is taken care of by a 10.3in screen that’s mounted usefully high on the dashboard. You can operate it as a normal touchscreen, using touchpads below it and on the steering wheel, or by voice.
The graphics are sharp but the menus do take a little getting used to and some of the icons are small. Sat-nav comes as standard but, disappointingly, smartphone mirroring is an optional extra. There's also the option of a punchy Burmester stereo.
Strengths Better quality feel than rival campers; good view from the driving seat
Weaknesses No digital driver display; smartphone mirroring costs extra
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Access to the front seats of the Mercedes V-Class Marco Polo is easy thanks to large, wide-opening doors. The rear seats are even easier to get to thanks to the vast sliding door on the driver’s side.
Usefully, the Marco Polo’s sliding door and heavy tailgate are power operated as standard. You can't get a powered tailgate on the VW California or the Ford Transit Custom Nugget, but the California is available with a powered sliding door. If you want a campervan with twin sliding doors, you’ll need to look at the Nugget.
Storage up front in the Marco Polo isn’t bad, with decent door pockets and a reasonable glove box, but the cupholders are mounted rather low down in what should be a pretty generous cubby.
Unfortunately, the control panel for the roof, fridge and electrics takes up quite a bit of the cubby. If you like plenty of places to stash your odds and ends, you'll probably prefer the Nugget's interior.
As with the Nugget and California, both front seats in the Marco Polo rotate through 180 degrees to face the back. There’s no handbrake to get in the way of this process, but you do have to open the door to spin the seat.
In the rear, you’ll find a lounge area consisting of a two-seater bench that slides back and forth on runners and folds flat to become a double bed. Compared with the cumbersome benches in the California and the Nugget, sliding it requires precious little muscle power and it reclines electrically.
The bench – which has lots of head and leg room – also has pneumatic bolsters that you can pump up for additional side support or deflate in bed mode. Even so, we’d recommend a mattress topper (the California’s lower bed is flatter and therefore comfier).
A second bed reveals itself when you raise the electrically powered roof. It’s bigger and more comfortable than the lower one, although as with the California, you’ll need to clamber on to one of the front seats then pull yourself up there.
The Nugget makes access slightly easier by providing a ladder. If you’re not using the bed, you can clip it to the underside of the raised roof, effectively raising the ceiling and giving you far more head room below.
That makes cooking in the standard kitchen a little easier, whether you’re nosing about in the fridge, making a cup of tea on the gas hob or washing up in the sink. Water is supplied by a fresh water tank and drains into a waste water tank, while a 230-volt hook-up is standard.
The Marco Polo's internal electrical socket is a Euro plug, so you need an adapter (unlike in the three-pin equipped Nugget and California), and no toilet is available. If you want one of those, you’ll need a long-wheelbase Nugget or the huge VW Grand California.
Overall, there’s a decent amount of storage inside, with a couple of big cupboards in the back, a couple more underneath the kitchen unit, a big drawer under the rear seats and an overhead locker in the back, too.
There’s not quite as much storage space as you’d find in a California, though, and the Marco Polo’s boot isn’t as big. That’s because a removable table and two folding chairs are stored in a sling rather than cleverly hidden in the tailgate and sliding door like the California's. You can push the seat bench forwards for more space behind it.
Other options include a side awning to protect you from the sun and rain when you’re parked up. It’s handy on a calm day, but it doesn’t take much of a breeze to get it flapping.
Strengths Easy access; powered sliding door and tailgate
Weaknesses Rivals have more interior storage; no toilet option
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
You’d be forgiven for wincing when you find out how much the Mercedes V-Class Marco Polo costs – it doesn’t come cheap.
That’s not helped by the fact that the Horizon version, which didn't include a kitchen, is no longer available, so there’s no rival in the line-up to the entry-level VW California trim, called Beach.
Still, once you factor in all the camping gear you get, it’s actually pretty good value if you can find a good deal. It's certainly worth checking the best prices using our New Car Deals pages.
As with other similar campers, the CO2 emissions are on the high side, putting it it the top benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bracket, but economy should be reasonable for such a big vehicle (low 30s mpg is realistic). The California TDI 150 is likely to be more frugal, though.
The Marco Polo comes with plenty of camping, practicality and visibility aids, plus three-zone climate control, heated windscreen washers, tinted rear windows and electric windows. And being an AMG Line, you also get 19in wheels, sports suspension and racier styling inside and out.
Euro NCAP hasn’t crash-tested any campervans, but they have tried the vans they’re based on. Happily, the Mercedes V-Class got a five-star rating and proved better at protecting occupants than the Ford Transit Custom, another five-star van. The VW Transporter could only manage four stars.
We don’t have any reliability data for the Marco Polo, but Mercedes came a disappointing 24th out of 32 manufacturers in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey. For comparison, Ford came 17th and VW came 22nd.
Strengths Decent economy for a big vehicle; lots of standard kit
Weaknesses High entry-level price; Mercedes' so-so reliability record
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|RRP price range
|£71,605 - £90,825
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|34.9 - 39.2
|Available doors options
|NaN year / No mileage cap
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£5,179 / £6,601
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£10,358 / £13,202