Thursday, June 27, 2013

Used Car Review - Mercedes Benz MB100 (1996-2003)

Planning to put up a school bus business? Myk Belmonte offers you one prospective vehicle especially if you are cash strapped.

1996-2003 Mercedes Benz MB100

SsangYong and Daimler Benz entered to an agreement of which the two will share technologies for their Musso (which means rhinoceros in Korean and not some wrong translation) SUV without the Korean brand spending too much for development and at the same time Mercedes Benz would have an Sport Ute in their line up. The Korean brand was the benefactor of this partnership with them selling the Istana (a rebadged MB100, which is our topic for this article), and utilizing Benz engines, transmissions, and chassis in the Korando, Rexton, Chairman H, and Kyron.

The MB100 featured here is totally unrelated from the vehicle that the Vito replaced. This is a van that has a different body styling and SsangYong had a licensed version called the Istana. Available in most markets in 1995, while they use virtually the same, only the names are different in most markets. 2003 was the last year one can buy this brand new either in standard or long wheel base versions.

Commercial Motors Corporation brought this van in the Philippines in 1996 and became an instant hit among the rich and ambulance operators due to the spacious cabin it had. The badge reads Mercedes without swallowing their pride and having the fear of being kidnapped. The full size van market declined one by one and the MB100 was a victim of it, discontinued from the line-up seven years later. You get the option of a gasoline and diesel engines but the latter sold more.

Value and Costs
Planning to put up a school bus business or be the service provider in your neighborhood (or carpool in other words)? The MB100 is one great prospect as prices can range between P200,000-P370,000. There are a couple of SsangYong Istanas plying the streets but there are only a few of them.

Parts are easy to procure, but that's if you purchase the diesel model. Since this uses a basic diesel engine (read: non CRDi) it can take dirty fuels and fixed by a roadside mechanic. Common problems include overheating, but this can be remedied since the engine can be accessed in the front hood ala Toyota Hiace.

Exterior and Interior
Since this is a van, let's not delve on the exterior more other than saying it has the engine upfront and two door handles come standard in the sole sliding door.

We'll review the interior more since you will be spending your time inside it the most. For the driver, you are greeted with a high seating position but before grabbing that throne, an experience of driving the MB100 isn't complete without grabbing the handle positioned in the A pillar. This is not an accessory, this is needed due to the high location of the seat. The gauges and the steering wheel contrast each other, the former has a car like gauge position but the tiller would remind you that you are driving a Ceres/Partas bus. Other positives inside include the humane position of the controls and the excellent visibility. If you are the passenger, you have oodles of space thanks to the front wheel drive layout but headroom is poor due to the lengthy dual florescent lamps and air conditioning vents placed above.

Two engines can be placed in your MB100 and first we do have the OM602 2,874cc diesel which possess 105hp at 4,000rpm and 185Nm at 2,400rpm. The rare one is the M111 2,199cc which has 130hp and 182Nm at 4,000rpm. Let us not bother with the gasoline engine especially that in most cases, the diesel is more suitable in these types of vehicles. You get tons of torque but there are some quirks: as you increase the revs noise is becoming louder by the minute (or in this case, rpm), 3,000rpm and above for the inclines or when the car in full load will result to a warp zone that you'll only feel it. Oftentimes, the engine struggles when climbing so choose the gear wisely.

Driving Impressions
Switching lanes is easy courtesy of the light (but dull) power steering and the clutch is perfect to manipulate. But since this is a van, you wont (and should not) expect driving thrills. The lack of power is due to the front wheel drive layout, with most rivals going for the rear wheel drive due to its capacity on hauling heavy load. The trade off for a roomy cabin and power is somewhat debatable. Oh, don't keep your speeds above 110kph as the car can get unstable and it is prone to crosswinds.

When it comes to kids, they can be picky on what to ride. The MB100 offers oodles of space for less cash but at the expense of power. But remember, you don't need to speed up since their parents trust you the lives of their children. 

The Good: 
  • Cavernous cabin
  • Maintaining one is easy
  • Engine is from Mercedes
The Bad: 
  • Lacks punch due to FWD layout
  • Cumbersome steering
  • A Benz badge stuck in a different body
The Pick: MB100D

Engine: 2,199cc M111 I4 gasoline and 2,874cc OM602 I4 diesel
Power: 130hp (2.2 gasoline), 105hp @ 4,000rpm (2.9 diesel)
Torque: 182Nm @ 4,000rpm (2.2 gasoline), 185Nm @ 2,400rpm (2.9 diesel)
Fuel Consumption: 7-11km/L (city), 9-12km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Suspension: Front independent double wishbone, rear rigid axle with leaf springs

Price (New): P800,000-P975,000
Price (Now): P200,000-P370,000
Rivals: Toyota Hiace, Nissan Urvan, Hyundai Starex, Hyundai H100/Grace, Mitsubishi L300 Versa Van, Kia Pregio
On Sale: 1996-2003

VGT Korean Auto Parts - 0922 266-1106

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