If you're Renault, Fiat or Citroen then it's quite easy to get away with the cheap-as-chips van conversion ruse and pass the resulting monstrosity off as a sort of pseudo-MPV, or lifestyle vehicle for surfers who want something they can abuse. No-one expects too much of their main range in the first place, so these cheeky square things have a sort of alternative charm about them. Their shortcomings are turned into a virtue, if you will.
It's entirely different, however, if you're Mercedes and you're not long out of a sustained drop in quality that threatened to harm your entire reputation you'd spend more than a hundred years building up. It might not be a good idea to knock a couple of windows into a van, drill some chairs to the floor and call it an alternative MPV, or any sort of lifestyle vehicle even if that includes delivering vegetables.
You can see that the Viano might appeal to a certain kind of high-class taxi driver, but even then the Hyundai i800 is a safer bet for much less cash and looks a lot better than the Mercedes too. The styling department back at Stuttgart hasn't been able to extract any cheeky charm here; it does still look just like a van with windows.
That's not to say the Viano isn't a practical vehicle - there is room for six inside with a minimally versatile seating arrangement possible (the seats can't be removed but they can be turned around) and plenty of space for luggage too, which we can chalk up as a positive because many rivals invade the boot space to squeeze the extra people in. The quality of materials inside is outrageously poor, however. You'll have to check twice that you're not in a Chinese knock-off.
The Viano is miserable to drive, too. The handling isn't anything to write home about and the harsh ride and tremulous body roll conspire to leave you feeling somewhat queasy. There's no satisfaction to be had from sitting in the driver's seat and the engines frustrate as well. The entry-level 2.0-litre diesel dithers over its performance, but thankfully Mercedes has seen fit to ditch the utterly pointless 3.5-litre petrol it offered at launch.
The range begins at £28,000 and escalates from there, which is frankly cheeky of Mercedes. When there are capable rivals out there we'd suggest steering clear of the Viano.