The years between the brilliant W124 E-Class and the W219 CLS were arguably the worst for Mercedes-Benz. Plagued with electrical and mechanical issues, and sliding way down the order in reliability ratings, the Stuttgart brand seemed to get everything wrong over this decade. No wonder then that the cheap and tipsy W168 A-Class came out during this period. While this platform was evidently not one worth basing anything on, Mercedes-Benz decided to build a practical people mover on the same underpinnings.
And worse still, it decided to call it by a very marketing-unfriendly name. While every other automaker has traditionally tried to prevent their MPVs from being positioned as vans, someone at Mercedes thought it was a good idea to call the new vehicle Vaneo. So what was essentially just a larger, more utilitarian version of the A-Class saw itself competing with much larger, and cheaper minivans available. In fact, apart from the tristar badge, there was nothing about the Vaneo that was compelling enough for anyone to part with a substantial amount of money and pick it over other choices on the market.
Although five engine options were offered, they were all lackluster, with output of these four-pots ranging between 75 horsepower and 125 horsepower. And if the name Vaneo wasn’t awkward enough for buyers, one of the optional accessories packages on offer was called ‘Dog’, making you the mortified owner of a Vaneo Dog. Yes, it was meant to denote a pet-friendly layout in the cabin, but it goes to show how little effort was being made during that time even at the nomenclature level.
So not many were surprised when Mercedes announced that the Vaneo was to be discontinued in 2005, barely three years after its launch. Fewer still missed it.