2019 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van Review - Real Van Living

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2019 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van

2.0-liter turbocharged I4 (208 hp @ 5000 rpm, 258lb/ft. @ 1250 rpm)
Seven-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive
21 city / 24 highway / 22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
21.3 (observed mileage, MPG)
11.5 city / 9.8 highway / 10.7 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $32,395 US / $39,100 CAN
As Tested: $39,001 US / $46,359 CAN
Prices include $1195 destination charge in the United States. Canadian pricing without destination/delivery charges, as these are dealer defined and, as such, vary.

Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who spend the majority of their days in a van of some sort. I’m not talking about the beautiful people on social media hashtagging their rebranding of the Seventies-era shaggin’ wagon as “vanlife.” I’m talking about tradespeople, for whom a van is as important a tool as a hammer or pipe wrench.

For most of my working life, I’ve worked alongside these van drivers — I’ve been selling various products to these workers for the better part of two decades. I’ve noticed over the years that the variety of vans has expanded recently. Where the parking lot of whatever supply house was once filled with cookie cutter vans from the Detroit Three — occasionally dotted with repurposed minivans — these days any variety of tall, Euro-styled boxes-on-wheels might greet me.

The Sprinter was the leader of this new vanguard, with workers praising improved driving dynamics and improved space efficiency. Now a smaller model comes, the Mercedes-Benz Metris, to deliver much of those improvements in a more city-friendly package. Can this sturdier (not-so)minivan replace the stalwarts?

I’d love to tell you that I loaded up the van with every tool I own, twenty sheets of OSB, and set off on some grand building adventure. I can’t say that. The unpredictability of press fleet schedules doesn’t generally allow me to plan major home center runs far in advance — with my luck, I’d have scheduled my weekend to build a deck, and ended up with a Miata. The most I hauled in this two-seat cargo van was a week’s worth of groceries and two pails of cat litter.

[Get Mercedes-Benz Metris pricing here!]

A glamorous life indeed.

Not that the Metris couldn’t handle more. This long-wheelbase (135 inches) cargo van can handle 114.5 inches behind the front seats, and a maximum of 66.3 inches side to side. Yes, that OSB or sheetrock can fit just fine — there’s 50 inches between the rear wheel arches. For those of you planning on literally living in this thing, rather than working out of it — yes, that means a dorm-sized twin extra-long mattress can fit between the wheels, or with a small platform built to raise the bed over the wheels, a queen-sized mattress would fit with inches to spare.

It can haul: 2,370 pounds of maximum payload in the cargo area, or five thousand pounds towed. That’s pretty impressive for a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing only 208 horsepower. The seven-speed automatic transmission shifts a bit lazily — this isn’t a speedy van. One could likely make shifts a bit more quickly with the wheel-mounted paddles, but it simply feels absurd to be tapping paddles on a cargo van.

Driving the Metris cargo van is an interesting experience, as it’s been stripped of all non-essentials like sound insulation that one expects in a typical motor vehicle. You hear everything going on outside, especially to the rear of the van. You’ll quickly become familiar with the volume knob on the AM/FM radio. Every bit of the driver’s compartment feels ready to take the beatings of indifferent journeyman workers, save the surprisingly-plush leather steering wheel. I suppose that economies of scale work everywhere — ordering extra wheels from the supplier for the A-class might be cheaper than specifying a hard-plastic tiller just for the smaller van market.

I’m grateful for one standard safety feature on the Metris: crosswind assist works with the stability control to stabilize the van at highway speeds from winds that would try to topple you over. The stability control is also adaptive to the load in the cargo area, as there can be a huge difference in the weight distribution between a loaded and unladen Metris.

Styling isn’t a huge concern on a cargo van used for work, but I’d argue that this Metris is a rather handsome box. The 17-inch alloy wheels are an extra-cost option, but they look quite fetching. In a work environment, however, I’d rather have the standard steel wheels that any tire shop can easily bend back into shape should a pothole appear.

Whether the Mercedes-Benz Metris will get workers out of their bigger vans is hard to say. For many, there’s no replacement for cargo displacement. But for the many drivers repurposing old minivans for work, this is a no-brainer. It’s easy to maneuver, easy to park, and — as there are no glass side windows — easy to keep precious tools and other cargo secure.

Or easy to get dressed in private for an Instagram photoshoot at the campsite. Who am I to judge?

[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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2 of 48 comments
  • La834 La834 on Jan 30, 2020

    This reminds me a bit of the old Astro and Aerostar vans - RWD and a bit taller than typical minivans, but about the same length and width

  • MyerShift MyerShift on May 23, 2021

    AH, the best and most glorious vehicle to wear a three pointed star! Feel and see the luxury and fine engineering of Mercedes-Benz prominently on display. Don't forget, you can get the Mercedes-Benz Coroll... er, A-Class and CLA too. All the FWD applianceship, none of the reliability and practicality.

  • Canam23 I believe the Chinese are entirely capable of building good cars, BYD has shown that they are very forward thinking and their battery technology is very good, BUT, I won't buy one because I don't believe in close to slave labor conditions, their animosity to the west, the lack of safety conditions for their workers and also the tremendous amount of pollution their factories produce. It's not an equal playing field and when I buy a car I want it made with as little pollution as possible in decent working conditions and paying a livable wage. I find it curious that people are taking swipes at the UAW in this thread because you can clearly see what horrific labor conditions exist in China, no union to protect them. I also don't own an iphone, I prefer my phones made where there aren't nets around to catch possible suicide jumpers. I am currently living in France, Citroen makes their top model in China, but you see very few. BYD has yet to make an impression here and the French government has recently imposed huge tariffs on Chinese autos. Currently the ones I see the most are the new MG's, mostly electric cars that remind me of early Korean cars, but they are progressing. In fact, the French buy very little Chinese goods, they are very protective of their industries.
  • Jerry Haan I have these same lights, and the light output, color, and coverage is amazing!Be aware, these lights interfere with AM and FM radio reception with the stereoreceiver I have in my garage. When the lights are on, I all the AM stations havelots of static, and there are only a couple of FM stations that are clear. When Iturn the lights off, all the radio stations work fine. I have tried magnetic cores on the power cords of the lights, that did not makeany change. The next thing I am going to try is mounting an antenna in my atticto get them away from the lights. I contacted the company for support, they never responded.
  • Lou_BC Are Hot Wheels cars made in China?
  • DS No for 2 reasons. 1-Every new car pipelines data back to the manufacturer; I don't like it with domestic, Japanese and Euro companies and won't put up with it going to Chinese companies that are part financed by their government. 2-People have already mentioned Vinfast, but there's also the case of Hyundai. Their cars were absolutely miserable for years before they learned enough about the US market
  • Theflyersfan Well, if you're on a Samsung phone, (noticing all of the shipping boxes are half Vietnamese), you're using a Vietnam-built phone. Apple? Most of ours in the warehouse say China, but they are trying to spread out to other countries because putting all eggs in the Chinese basket right now is not wise. I'm asking Apple users here (the point of above) - if you're OK using an expensive iPhone, where is your Made in China line in the sand? Can't stress this enough - not being confrontational. I am curious, that's all. Is it because Apple is California-based that manufacturing location doesn't matter, vs a company in a Beijing skyscraper? We have all weekend to hopefully have a civil discussion about how much is too much when it comes to supporting companies being HQ-ed in adversarial countries. I, for one, can't pull the trigger on a Chinese car. All kinds of reasons - political, human rights, war mongering and land grabbing - my morality is ruling my decisions with them.