When introducing Mercedes-Benz’s changes coming to the Metris commercial van for 2021, we did so by reminding everyone it “still exists.” For most people, the Mercedes-Benz Metris has lived quietly at the fringes of the current Mercedes lineup since arriving in the U.S. for 2016. Why? Because it’s often tucked into the shadow of the larger Sprinter—the van most often seen painted a grayish-blue color with Amazon markings on the side. We happen to like the smaller Metris van, too, and we recently spent a week in one ahead of its light freshening for next year.
Lest you think this review out of date, the majority of the 2021 Metris’s upgrades have to do with its infotainment screen. The 2020 model uses a previous-generation Mercedes non-touch display measuring a tiny 5.8 inches diagonally. Users must manipulate small, fiddly buttons to operate the setup, including a small set of directional arrows, to access and make adjustments in various submenus. Those using the system for the first time might be confused, but for the most part, once we had set up a few radio presets and paired our phone, subsequent use didn’t require nearly as much tedium. This one glaring Metris flaw is going to be solved next year in the form of a new-generation 7.0-inch touchscreen teamed with a higher-resolution backup camera.
Beyond the screen, Mercedes will ever so slightly tweak the Metris’s grille design, spruce up the seat upholstery and some dashboard trim, and swap the ’20 Metris’s seven-speed automatic transmission for a nine-speed for 2021. The rest, including the mechanicals and the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, is shared with the van you see here. Buyers now, as they can next year, face the choice of cargo or passenger variants of the Metris, both of which are available in basic “Worker” trim or a slightly richer spec. Our bright red Cargo test unit was the latter.
Those looking for an offbeat minivan alternative would be wise to check out the Metris Passenger van, which can be had in five-, seven-, and eight-seat configurations. Cargo models like the one we drove are strict two-seaters. Unlike the larger Sprinter van, the Metris can’t be configured in a “crew” arrangement with a second row of seats ahead of an empty cargo area. It can, however, be optioned with either swing-out barn-style rear doors or a liftgate. Our test model had the swing-out doors but only a single sliding rear side door on the passenger side; customers can opt for a driver’s-side sliding door, and can specify glass in these sliding panels to improve blind-spot visibility.
Whether you’re looking to use the Metris Cargo as a starting point for your dream camper-van build (Mercedes has you covered with the Weekender should you want a factory, pre-built option) or for work, it’s a comfortable and wieldy thing for urban motoring. The steering feels quick for a van, and the turning circle and narrow body help the Metris maneuver into perpendicular parking spots and through tight city streets with ease. You sit up high in the Benz, too, higher than in regular minivans, which affords you a commanding view forward. As someone who once drove box trucks, I’m growing accustomed to using properly adjusted side mirrors to check blind spots and to help when backing up, but newcomers to cargo van life will want to spring for the available blind-spot monitoring system to compensate for the lack of rear visibility on the Cargo model.
The Metris’s turbo engine looks weak on paper—its 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque trail the output of some compact SUVs—yet it moves the van with ease. We found no issues with the seven-speed automatic Mercedes will replace next year with a nine-speed; it shifts quickly and keeps the torquey-feeling four-cylinder in the meat of its powerband. The engine itself is fairly quiet, too, and it is easily drowned out at speed by the sounds bouncing around the untrimmed, bare-metal cargo area behind the seats. You can still have a conversation with your passenger at speed in the Metris Cargo, but raised voices help. Fill the van with stuff—provided it doesn’t make more noise by banging into the metal bodywork—and you’d surely snuff out the whooshing road noise and concussive sound of big bumps reverberating in the rear. These are not unique issues; most cargo vans suffer from an empty-tin-can aural sensation when unloaded.
Where the Mercedes Metris sets itself apart, certainly among other small cargo vans such as the Ram ProMaster City and Ford Transit Connect, is its general sense of refinement beyond the noise. The suspension rides decently even without cargo weighing down the heavy-duty rear springs, and it never crashes or rattles over bumps. Highway trips are easier because of sharp steering with a clear on-center detent that translates to few adjustments to maintain the straight ahead. Sure, high winds can nudge the boxy Metris around somewhat, but it’s never a handful.
The basics are good. So, whether you option the Metris up to the mid-$40,000 range or grab one near its $28,375 base price, you can look forward to mature on-road behavior and slick controls. The Metris we drove rang in at $39,001 with some minor extras. We think that’s a bit much for midsize cargo van (the larger Sprinter starts out a few thousand dollars more), but if you drive all day for work, plan on camper-vanning your Metris, or simply desire a nicer van that fits places a Sprinter can’t, it’s worth it. And for 2021, you can have all of that and a decent infotainment system, along with newly available adaptive cruise control. Yes, the Metris still exists, and we’re happy it does.
|2020 Mercedes-Benz Metris Specifications|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD, 2-8 pass, 2–4-door van|
|ENGINE||2.0L/208-hp/258-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,200-4,900 lb (mfr)|
|L x W x H||202.4–211.4 x 75.9 x 74.4–75.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.5-8.6 sec (MT est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON||19–21/23–24/21–22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||160–177/140–147 kWh/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.87–0.94 lb/mile|
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