For years the iconic London black cab has been the sole vehicle of choice for ferrying passengers around the crowded city streets of Old Blighty. That may all soon change. No less than 120 Mercedes Benz Vito vans are now being pressed into taxi service in London, with another 500 to join the fleet before the end of this year.
The life of a London cab is certainly not an easy one (like the 'policeman's lot'). Not only do they need to be economical, reliable and comfortable, but they also have to meet special requirements for use in London?s maze-like narrow streets, particularly a tight turning circle.
To qualify for use as a London cab a vehicle must have a turning circle of no more than 7.62 metres kerb to kerb and 8.535 metres between parallel walls. To reduce the Vito?s 11.8 metre turning circle, a special rear wheel steering system has been developed by supplier One80.
The Vito is now the only vehicle able to compete with the black cab otherwise known as the TX4. London firm LTI has been building the venerable black cabs since 1948. Now it has a competitor, and a German one to boot ("Good lord man, this will never do!")
For its part, the short wheelbase Vito offers compact exterior dimensions while allowing a large passenger compartment and wheelchair access.
With over 21,000 Black Cabs in service in London it may be a while before anyone catches sight of the Vito fleet, but with a promising beginning as the first viable alternative to the TX4, the Vito is sure to find favour with drivers and passengers alike.