Safer, more comfortable, better to drive... the new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is now at Orwell Truck & Van, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

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Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 CDI medium panel van

Price: 313 CDI, weekly tariff price £89 per week including £2,500 deposit contribution

Engine: 2,143cc, 129hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

MPG: Manual, 36.2 to 40.4

Payload: Medium wheelbase, high roof, 1,240kg

Cargo volume: Medium wheelbase, high roof, 10.5 cu m

Floor area: Medium wheelbase, 5.5 sq m

When you drive tens of thousands of miles a year in a big van you need something that makes life safer, more comfortable and both user and environmentally-friendly.

They’re things Mercedes-Benz has taken into account with its new Sprinter commercial range which is now available from Orwell Truck & Van.

Now in its third generation, and a class leader for almost 20 years, the hugely-popular previous model is a tough act to follow but Mercedes has pushed the boundaries on all fronts. The new design, driver comfort and radio system giving state-of-the-art infotainment are obvious but it has a host of hidden talents including new safety systems and class-leading economy.

The Sprinter shares technology and driving aids with the Mercedes car range and the over-riding impression of the Sprinter is it feels so car-like to drive you can forget this is a cavernous cargo-carrier.

The engines – 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel in 95, 129 and 163hp guises and 190hp 3.0-litre V6 – feature six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmissions.

I borrowed Orwell Truck & Van’s 129hp 313 CDI medium panel van demonstrator – the range also includes short, long and extra long versions – which pulls strongly and makes good progress. It also corners confidently with the 30mm lowered suspension, which helps economy and emissions, on 3.5-tonne gross vehicle weight versions, while the supple ride means you will feel comfortable all day.

One of my pet hates about unladen panel vans is the effect of crosswinds but the Sprinter is the first van with Crosswind Assist – standard on panel vans and Traveliner passenger versions – which links sensors to the Electronic Stability Program and braking systems to counter any tendency to drive to the side – it worked well crossing the Orwell Bridge in blustery conditions.

Vans spend as much time in the urban environment as on the open road and, despite its size, the Sprinter is highly manoeuvrable with light steering and a tight turning circle while large door mirrors, with a separate convex mirror showing the rear wheels, help place it when reversing – sensors are also on the lengthy options list to meet all needs.

The cabin is durable – the seat fabric is now harder wearing – and comfortable with a fascia that is easy on the eye and, more importantly, easy to find your way around with controls on the steering wheel for Bluetooth and the audio system. The audio system can stream music via Bluetooth, SD card or USB and can be pre-wired for £230 to take the optional Becker MapPilot portable sat-nav. Cruise control is standard.

There is also plenty of storage space on top of the dashboard, above the sunvisors, in the doors and under the double front seat cushion for all that ‘truck’ in the truck.

It also worth looking at the safety option packs which make driving much easier – £1,550 buys the driving assistance package which includes collision prevention, blind spot, lane departure and high-beam assist systems. It’s all about making driving safer and stress-free – and that sums up this new Sprinter.

Test-drive the new Sprinter at Orwell Truck & Van in Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester and Newmarket. Visit www.orwelltruckandvan.co.uk

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