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Mercedes-Benz created the V-Class MPV by thoroughly reworking its ageing Viano, which was starting to look a little long in the tooth alongside the newer Ford Tourneo Connect and Volkswagen T6 Caravelle, not to mention the left-wing choice - the Hyundai i800.

The latest Mercedes materials, technology and infotainment are present and correct on the V-Class, while the exterior styling has been updated to incorporate the firm's two-blade grille incorporating the three-pointed star.

The 2.1-litre diesel engine in the V-Class has been carried over from the previous model, but it was revised for 2015, with the entry-level 220 CDI version producing 160bhp and 280lb ft of torque. The 250 d, tested here, produces 187bhp and 324lb ft. The CDI 220 emits 163g/km and is claimed to average 49.6mpg, while the 250 d emits 166g/km of CO2 and returns 44.8mpg combined respectively.

Our V-Class test car was specified with seven individual seats in a two/two/three configuration, but a 'Long' model - 24.5cm longer - and the  'Extra Long' model - 47.5cm longer - with the latter fitted with eight individual seats as standard, are both also available. For 2017, Mercedes has expanded the V-Class range by offering a direct competitor to the Volkswagen California, in the shape of the Marco Polo.

In terms of perceived quality, the V-Class is a far more luxurious place to spend time than either the Ford, Hyundai or the VW. There are two trim levels to choose from, with the Sport equipping the V-Class with, sat nav, parking sensors, reversing camera, automated power tailgate, leather upholstery with heated front seats, LED headlights and 17in alloys. The flagship AMG Line trim gets 19in alloy wheel, carbonfibre interior trim and an aggressive AMG bodykit. 

As for the camper Marco Polo, it is available in two trim levels also. The entry-level Sport model comes with all the equipment that a standard V-Class benefits from plus the addition of two seater luxury sofa bed, three-zone climate control, pop-up roof with a double bed, yacht wood flooring, swivelling front seats, and a kitchenette - complete with refrigeration box, a gas hob, sink and multiple cupboard space. Upgrade to the AMG Line version and find all the AMG-styled appendage found on an equivalent V-Class plus added chrome, and sports suspension.

But while the switchgear and the S-Class-derived metallic infotainment scroller feel impressive to touch, other areas bend and squeak, while our test car exhibited continuous rattles from the parcel shelf assembly, detracting from the generally high-end feel.

The driver's high seating position is excellent, though, offering very good forward visibility, even if the thick A-pillars obscure the side view somewhat. The rear view is obscured by the third row of seats, but standard parking sensors and rear-view camera make light work of tight parking situations. 

Sport trim features a 7.0in colour infotainment system as standard, and it benefits from bright, modern graphics that are easy to follow and three-layer menus that are simple enough to navigate. 

The front seats have a good range of adjustability, as do those of the middle row, which get a reclining backrest, two armrests and a folding picnic table. Each can be slid forward and back, as well as tilted forward to allow easier access to the third row, which can also be slid back and forth. 

With the middle row sensibly positioned, three adults will have enough head and leg room in the third row, even if shoulder room is a little tight. None of the seven seats provide brilliant comfort, though, feeling quite flat on the base and not providing much in the way of lateral support.

With all seven seats in their normal positions, boot space is tight, but this can be improved by pushing the rear two rows forward, at the expense of legroom. Of course, all five rear seats can be removed entirely, but they're heavy, cumbersome things to lift out and store.

Aside from some cold-start grumble, the V-Class's four-cylinder diesel is impressively refined, staying both quiet and largely vibration-free when pushed. That said, it rarely needs to be stretched, such is its low-down pull.

The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox works well, too, changing gears without fuss and rarely dropping too many gears when asked for short burst of acceleration.

The steering is consistently weighted and precise enough but, as we've become used to with these MPVs, filters out any sense of the wheels on the road. Unfortunately, the V-Class's ride gives more sense of that, bouncing over speed bumps and becoming noticeably unsettled across stretches of broken road - even on the smallest-possible 17in alloy wheels.

If you need to move seven people, van-based MPVs such as this provide decent space, but it makes far more financial sense to look at a Seat Alhambra or Ford Galaxy instead. These smaller, cleaner and more frugal MPVs are far better to drive, too.

On the other hand, should you need one, while the V-Class looks expensive next to the equivalent Tourneo Connect or T6 Caravelle, it's the one to buy. Its superior interior quality, better economy and far longer standard kit list go some way to justifying its higher price. 

That 'some way' counts for more with the VW T6, which is a relatively insignificant £3000 less expensive with far less standard equipment. At £10,000 less, the Tourneo Custom may be less desirable and wanting for kit, but it is every bit as practical.

As for those after a camper, then the Mercedes may appear to be the more luxury option, but it is £13,000 more expensive than the equivalent entry-level Volkswagen California, which means you would have to justify very hard spending that excess.

 

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