Photo by Tudor Van Hampton / ENR
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris straddles the compact and full-size van segments.
Photo by Tudor Van Hampton / ENR
The interior is nice but not luxurious.

Seeing a new opportunity for a rolling workshop that is smaller than a full-size van but larger than a compact one, Mercedes-Benz has introduced a midsize van that also will be the least expensive vehicle available in the U.S. with a three-pointed star on the front grille.

"We are more or less reinventing the [van] segment," said Bernhard Glaser, vice president and managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans USA, at this month's Work Truck Show in Indianapolis. With the introduction of the Sprinter in 2001, the German company was the first automaker to bring a European-style cargo van to the U.S. Last year, the nameplate had record sales under increasing competition from Ford, Ram and Nissan. According to Glaser, more than 25,700 Sprinters were shipped domestically last year, an 18% rise over sales in 2013.

Being first to the party has had other benefits. Mercedes currently enjoys the highest residual value in the commercial van segment, with 51% of original equipment cost retained after three years, according to appraisal firm ALG. However, that longevity comes at a price, with average Sprinters listing for $46,261 new.

With the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris, the company hopes to cut into a slice of the market needing full-size capability in a tighter and less-expensive package. Equipped with a four-cylinder gasoline engine—it cranks out 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque—mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission, Metris zooms ahead with max cargo capacity of 2,502 lb—more than 600 lb over what Ram offers in its ProMaster City, which this year replaced the Ram C/V Tradesman. Metris also tows nearly 5,000 lb.

Keeping true to Mercedes' premium image, Metris can be had with a range of such efficiency and safety features as auto engine start/stop, active parking assist, lane keeping assist, blind spot assist, collision mitigation and a rearview camera. Standard features include six airbags on cargo versions and eight airbags on passenger versions, attention assist, crosswind assist and load-adaptive electronic stability program. Interior quality is nice but not luxury: The steering wheel has a sporty, leathery feel, but the cloth seats are contractor grade.

Built in Spain on the same chassis as the international Vito van, Metris goes on sale this October at 200 Mercedes-Benz dealerships. Prices will start at $28,950 for cargo vans and $32,500 for passenger vans, not including standard delivery fees of $995. That makes the Metris the least expensive Mercedes available in the U.S. and a viable competitor against other small commercial vans.