Home » Here’s Mercedes-Benz’ Other Funny-Looking Doorstop-Shaped Car: The Vaneo

Here’s Mercedes-Benz’ Other Funny-Looking Doorstop-Shaped Car: The Vaneo

Vaneo Doorstop Top
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I think my current strange fascination with extremely wedgy, one-box vehicles comes from earlier this week when I wrote about the two times Porsche shoved an engine from the 911 into a van, and one of those vans chosen for such an experiment was the Volkswagen Sharan, which is a one-box van with an extremely wedge-shaped front end, where the line from the hood to the A-pillar is just about an unbroken line forming a pretty dramatic angle. Overall, these sorts of cars never really caught on, which I think is sort of a shame, because they’re striking-looking and tend to have excellent internal volume. They have had some success, which may be why these doorstop/wedge of cheese-shaped machines keep popping up. I learned of one of these today that I hadn’t previously known about, and it seems like the big brother to one I did. It’s the Mercedes-Benz Vaneo.

Before we get to the Vaneo specifically, let’s talk just a bit more about this category of vehicle, which I think we can comfortably call the Doorstop. It’s an interesting category, because it’s one of the few fundamental vehicle design layouts that has been used for everything from vans to microcars; it can scale unusually well, perhaps because it’s already so peculiar-looking, it doesn’t really suffer from being scaled up or down.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Examples of Doorstops range from big, American-scale minivans like the Oldsmobile Silhouette to city cars like the Renault Twingo or Mercedes-Benz A-Class, and down to microcars and quadracycles like the Lieger JS4 or the Dutch Canta microcar. Hell, I bet if you really felt inclusive, we could count bullet trains like the Japanese Shinkansen as the most extreme expression of this design concept.

Doorstops

I think the reason I was unaware of the Vaneo is that every time I may have seen a picture of one, perhaps fleetingly, I think I thought it was just an A-Class:

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A Vaneo

It’s very much not, though, despite how similar the front end looks. It does use the same basic platform as the A-Class, and was built contemporarily (2001 to 2005) but it has a sliding door and a longer wheelbase and is about two feet longer than the diminutive A-class. The drivetrains were similar as well, 1.6- to 1.9-liter inline-fours driving the front wheels and making between 81 and 123 horsepower.

I’ve always liked the weird little A-Class, and this just seems like that concept more fully realized. It’s small on the outside and roomy on the inside, tall in an almost Japanese Kei-class sort of way.

Vaneo Cargo

Look at that! You can shove trees and dogs and ladders in there! And there’s a cooler, and look at the slide-out floor! That’s really clever!

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Here, let’s see one of these in action, set to music:

That’s a soothing commercial, isn’t it?

Dangerbread

I also like how the brochure shows what looks to be a loaf of bread trapped under a net, for your safety. That’s probably German wildes Brot, or “feral bread,” a form of wild, untamed bread sold to daring and bold sandwich-crafters with a taste for danger.

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Also interesting is how Mercedes compensated for the very short hood, safety-wise, where it appears the whole drivetrain, already canted significantly, was designed to drop down to the ground below the front seat passengers in event of a collision:

Crashvane

Why am I so taken by this minivan? It wasn’t really a success at all, it’s not that unusual, but it just seems like such an honest and clever solution to the basic haul-people-and-their-crap problem that I find myself quietly impressed. Plus, look, you could get it with upholstery that looks a bit like movie theater or casino carpet:

Seats

And look how flexible that interior is! Wow!

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Here in America, Mercedes-Benz is primarily known as a luxury brand, and still carries a lot of cachet. And yet, somehow, they’re among the only premium brands that sells in America with a brand identity flexible enough to include vans like the Sprinter and the Metris, now darling of the US Postal Service. Why is this? You suggest a Bentley or a Maserati minivan or mail-hauling van to people and they look at you like you just had a dozen salamanders crawl out of your mouth. But a Mercedes-Benz van? Well, somehow that’s okay.

I guess it’s one of the great mysteries of life, like wondering if and when the next attempt to sell a Doorstop-shaped vehicle will come. I hope we don’t have to wait too long.

 

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Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
17 days ago

The Vaneo is cool, and I like it more than I should, but it was shitty even by Mercedes standards of the time.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
18 days ago

This is basically the perfect form factor. I love my van, but I’d be way happier with something that performed the same basic functions but wasn’t so damn enormous. I miss small vans.

The versatility of this van looks to be amazing. I would love a pull out cargo platform like that.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
18 days ago

On the Twingo (which I love!) and the Ligier, the headlights don’t follow the curve of the hood/windscreen. And can I then get my new VW Eurovan submitted to the canon as well? 😉
https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/vinnytsia-ukraine-january-18-2023-260nw-2264603713.jpg

The Clutch Rider
The Clutch Rider
18 days ago

didn’t they make a Vito too that looked like a bigger Vaneo?

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
18 days ago

The Honda Fit probably should be included in any list of doorstops.

Strangek
Strangek
19 days ago

Meh. I’m a Stow-n-Go man.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
19 days ago

Wasn’t the Vaneo just M-B’s way of trying to recoup the ridiculously expensive ‘sandwich platform’ A-Class project? And when it failed miserably for the same reasons as the A-Class (stupid expensive, unreliable, didn’t do anything its competitors didn’t do better), Mercedes just said ‘fuck it’ and rebadged a Renault for its next compact van.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
19 days ago

*fick das

Lardo
Lardo
18 days ago

like a tahoe to suburban. same platform, same engines, longer wheel base.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
17 days ago
Reply to  Lardo

Yeah I guess my point was the Vaneo wasn’t M-B trying to revolutionize small vans, it was them realizing A-Classes weren’t selling and they had to amortize the R&D costs of the FWD platform somehow.

Martin Dollinger
Martin Dollinger
19 days ago

I‘m a bit surprised the remarkable taillights were not mentioned – with over three feet of height they should be some of the tallest on any vehicle 🙂

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
18 days ago

Both Rivian (with their Amazon delivery vans) and Cadillac (with the Escalade) have joined the conversation . . .

CarlosMachina
CarlosMachina
18 days ago

I agree. Those are remarkable taillights, and Jason’s failure to address them is concerning.

Ross Teigen
Ross Teigen
19 days ago

Jason-
Long time reader since the old site, and EVERY day I look to see when you are finally going to address the question that ALL your readers need answered: What vehicle has the longest oil dipstick? Sure, you can dwell all you want on taillight trivia, but when it comes to deep dive reportage on important issues, I’m calling you OUT!

A concerned reader
( OK, Ross)

Amberturnsignalsarebetter
Amberturnsignalsarebetter
18 days ago
Reply to  Ross Teigen

its not the length of your dipstick that matters, it’s the bore of your piston.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
18 days ago

It’s hip to be square.

CarlosMachina
CarlosMachina
18 days ago

Piston stroke length is just as important as piston girth.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
18 days ago
Reply to  Ross Teigen

THAT’S a good and nerdy question!

Saw one of Diesel Creek’s Youtube videos, where it was so long, he could pull it from the driver’s seat, but that was on some kind of crane or construction equipment, so doesn’t really count.

(And I’m also kina childish, so of course I thought something with “There Once Was a Man from Nantucket..“, when I wrote the sentence above 😀 )

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
19 days ago

Hmm. Do you think if the Chinese make a wedge-shaped vehicle they can use it to prop open the door to the US car market?

Vc-10
Vc-10
19 days ago

My favourite thing about the Vaneo is that it came in a trim/option pack called ‘Family Dog’.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
19 days ago

Reminds me of the Previa I had. Versatile with variable seats and all. Just a smidge smaller. Nice!

Twobox Designgineer
Twobox Designgineer
19 days ago

I like this. The seating flexibility is great, and it has me the right size and space for me. I would buy something like this. I sometimes am moving “stuff”. And I have a large dog, and that requires space in back and a roof that does not slant downwards over the cargo area.
A minivan is overkill size-wise for me, and harder to find a long parking spot for. I ended up buying a JL Wrangler once I learned they have a slightly more efficient engine now, but I bought it mainly for the back boxiness and the bonus fact that I no longer have to shovel out of or into snowy parking spaces.
But there’s a Mazda MPV in my neighborhood, and I’ve always been interested in the Honda Element. I would like an updated version of either of those. A friend had an Element and loved it.
I’d consider an ID.Buzz if they brought the short wheelbase version to the US, and especially if it had a smaller battery with a range extender engine.
The Toyota TJ concept was interesting, too.

Ottomottopean
Ottomottopean
19 days ago

Vaneo sounds like how the rednecks I went to high school with would try and make the word Van into the Spanish word for Van.

Lori Hille
Lori Hille
19 days ago

The first car I thought of when I read the headline? Triumph TR7. It wasn’t exactly a doorstop, but it was the shape of things to come…

https://youtu.be/Jk1QaAH-r_o?si=uMjkqaW4G5xivCA7

https://youtu.be/-ULnObVcuWs?si=lxi2_E_6Vl6nOIbd

Last edited 19 days ago by Lori Hille
Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
19 days ago
Reply to  Lori Hille

Or the Lancia Stratos Zero. Now that’s a doorstop.

Admittedly, it’s got about the worst A pillars imaginable.

Last edited 19 days ago by Hugh Crawford
Lori Hille
Lori Hille
19 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Indeed!

Here’s ADO 21, a wedge shaped mid engine concept car from MG:

https://www.aronline.co.uk/concepts-and-prototypes/mg-ado21/

Mollusk
Mollusk
19 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

Not to mention that you have to be a gymnast to get into it.

Larry B
Larry B
19 days ago
Reply to  Lori Hille

I submit for your consideration the Nissan Axxess also too as well.

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