It is amazing how people you haven’t heard from for ages are suddenly on the phone when they hear there is a van on the drive.
Call one: “I have got a pile of planks that I want to get to my friend in Weymouth.”
Call two: “Any chance of picking up a sofa and dropping it round to my house?”
I really did not need to ask how long the planks were, or how large the sofa was, because the capable, long wheelbase Vito is a load-swallower par excellence.
And with two sliding side doors and split rear doors it is also mightily accessible, whatever you are trying to pack on board.
The versatility of the vehicle is more than matched by the upmarket feel which you might expect from a vehicle carrying the three-pointed star on its grille. The cockpit has a high-quality look and the test car came complete with a three-spoke, leather-trimmed steering wheel and plenty of technology to make even long-distance travel as relaxed as possible.
Using the steering wheel buttons you can operate the radio, navigation system, telephone and the read-out from the trip computer in the instrument cluster, a real help as it means you do not have to take your hands off the wheel to control the various systems.
Another nice safety touch is the Attention Assist system which constantly monitors the driver and if it decides you need to take a break it both flashes up a warning – a graphic of a steaming hot cup of coffee – and also jingles out an entertaining alert that sounds for all the world like someone tapping the edge of glass with a spoon. It is impossible to ignore.
Tyre pressure monitoring is also standard and, uniquely in this class of van, a crosswind assist system is fitted as standard that virtually eliminates the effects of gusts acting on the vehicle.
Inside the cabin, storage space is plentiful with three large, open areas at the top of the instrument panel useful for holding papers, clipboards, tablets and other items that need to be kept near to hand yet tidy. Small items such as pens, coins or car park tickets can be placed in open stowage in the centre console to the left and right of the button panel. A 12-volt socket is installed underneath the centre console.
Built at the Vitoria plant in Spain’s Basque country – the oldest van plant in Europe – the mid-size Vito covers a wide range with panel van, Crew and Tourer versions and, for the first time in the segment, offers a choice of front and rear-wheel drive. When unladen or carrying only a light load, front-wheel drive offers better traction and is a less expensive option. Rear-wheel drive is a better solution when regularly handling heavy weights and high towing capacities.
The Vito panel van is the only model in its class available in three lengths and with three different drive systems. With up to 1,369 kg of cargo capacity, it has the highest payload in its class. Meanwhile the Vito Crew featuring a crewcab combines the advantages of a panel van with those of a crewbus. The test model was powered by the 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine, linked to a six-speed manual gearbox, that delivers 88 horsepower and day-to-day real-world fuel consumption in the mid-40s. The larger 2.1-litre engine is available in power output levels up to 190 horsepower, with the option of a seven-speed automatic transmission.
With the choice of two turbodiesel engines in five power ratings, the variety of models means the Vito will cope with everything businesses can throw at it.
So forget Internet dating and lonely hearts websites, if you want to make new friends, go buy a van.

: Mercedes-Benz Vito 109 CDi Long 
Price: £23,463
Length: 514cm/202.3in
Width: 192.8cm/75.9in
Load length: 283.1cm/111.5in
Load width: 168.5cm/66.3in
Load volume: 6,300 litres/222 cu ft
Payload: 852kg
Fuel tank capacity: 12.5 gallons/57 litres
Warranty: Three years/100,000 miles