Used Mercedes-Benz V-Class MPV 1996 - 2004 review

Category: MPV

Prestige badge, yes. Prestige car, no. The Mercedes V-Class isn't pleasant or rewarding

Mercedes-Benz V-Class MPV (96 - 04)
  • Mercedes-Benz V-Class MPV (96 - 04)
  • Mercedes-Benz V-Class MPV (96 - 04)
Used Mercedes-Benz V-Class MPV 1996 - 2004 review
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Steve Huntingford
Published01 January 2006

What's the used Mercedes V-Class estate like?

The phrase 'van with windows' to describe people carriers has never been more accurate than when applied to the Mercedes V-Class.

Despite its appeal to the chauffeur-driven industry for groups of travelling executives, this is a Mercedes Vito van with extra glass in the body, six captain's chairs in three rows of two, and lots of luxury kit added. That includes electric everything, plus air suspension at the rear.


Prestige badge, yes. Prestige car, no. The Mercedes V-Class isn't pleasant or rewarding

  • There's vast space, luxury fittings and proven reliable mechanicals
  • It's expensive to run, poor to drive and noisy

MPVs aren't meant to be hurled around, but the sheer size and weight of the V-Class makes it unwieldy, even at low speed. The huge turning circle is a pain, too.

To its credit, the cabin doesn't feel too van-like from behind the wheel: there's decent visibility and a good driving position. All models come with air-conditioning, and there's a host of options including folding tables and chromed coathangers.

Ownership cost

What used Mercedes V-Class estate will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Mercedes V-Class estate?

By MPV standards, the V-Class is not cheap to buy or run. And, how much it costs depends on the age of vehicle and where you buy it from.

The V-Class lost more than half its value after three years, although the turbodiesel fared better than the other two. So, if you buy one now, it will be a lot of car - size-wise at least - for the money. The problem is it's just not a very good one.

We'd steer clear of the franchised showrooms because they will be pricey. Instead, find sellers who specialise in executive or ex-fleet vehicles, and consider auction houses, as well.

You can also expect high, and probably quite regular, maintenance bills. The V-Class is way below average for reliability in the respected Warranty Direct index.

Our recommendations

Which used Mercedes V-Class estate should I buy?

There's only really one answer to this question - avoid the petrols and go for the diesel.

The 2.3-litre 143bhp petrol engine from the old E-Class struggles and wheezes to shift the V-Class's considerable bulk and only gives 24mpg fuel economy. The 2.8-litre V6 with 174bhp offers a more powerful alternative, but returns an appalling 21mpg. So, pretty much by default, that only leaves the 2.2-litre diesel, badged 220 CDI, giving a half-decent 35mpg.

However, you've still got to floor the throttle to get anywhere, and the same is true in the 2.3. Driving any V-Class isn't a peaceful experience, and you really notice the coarseness of the 2.2 and 2.3 if you have the four-speed automatic gearbox, which was an option on those two models and standard on the V6.

Trend is the basic trim, while Fashion gets a special velour upholstery and Ambient adds leather, cruise control and wooden inserts on the door and dashboard.

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