“It’s a Mercedes-Benz” I told the seven eager rugby players, all curious as to what we’d be carpooling in to the tournament. Their eyes widened.

“Awesome!”, “Sweet!”, “Baller!”, “Wait, we won’t all fit!”

The great challenge of filling a van with eight rugby players is our kit bags. The great joy of a repurposed city-cargo van being used as a passenger vehicle is that it makes a joke of that “challenge”.

Sure we will. Our gear will too.

I’ll admit I was trolling. The looks on their faces when I rocked up in a van were priceless, but to be honest, this one still looked tough as hell. One of my teammates said it looked like we were the evil villains at the top of some global crime ring. Another said all the other teams would be intimidated into submission – they weren’t.

In Europe, vans like this are not uncommon, especially in the corporate airport shuttle world. Now North Americans can experience it.

First off (and much to the chagrin of my teammates), this is not a luxury car. The seats are cloth, and plain, yet somehow offer excellent support and comfort over a two-hour journey.

The van is serene inside, wind noise and road noise was noticeably muted. To the point a guessing game broke out among the passengers, “What speed are we doing?” – it was the speed limit, of course.

The great challenge of filling a van with eight rugby players is our kit bags. The great joy of a repurposed city-cargo van being used as a passenger vehicle is that it makes a joke of that “challenge”. We even had room for a few (sealed) cartons of beer.

Access to the third row is an issue. For some reason only one seat actually moves up and out of the way to allow access and it’s on the passenger side.

The 208 hp/258 Ib-ft 2.0L turbo-four was stout enough to propel the 2,200 kg Metris about when empty, and remained unflustered even when fully laden with rugby players and kit. This is particularly impressive when you consider the max payload for the passenger van is 850 kg. The Buccaneers like kegs and cake in equal measures, so it’s fair to say we gave that limit a tickle.

The most impressive part of the engine’s performance was its quietness. Both sound deadening and smoothness have been employed in equal measures here, and the result is a properly luxurious ride from what is essentially a commercial van.

Fuel economy, fully laden, was an impressive 11.1 L/100 km – I’ve had worse trips in run-of-the-mill sedans.

Results from the Canadian Truck King Challenge

The ride comfort was good, too with solid steering feel at all speeds and no busyness on the highway, even in strong winds. This is thanks in large part to the $940 luxury interior package which upgrades the suspension for delicate human sensibilities and adds a few creature comforts. You have to select this package if you want the $1,660 Driver Assistance Package, which adds lane-keep assist, blind-spot assist, power heated mirrors and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with chrome trim. You need this if you want the multifunction steering wheel, upgraded instrument cluster, etc.

There are storage options abound, including neat little phone crevices complete with a USB port and a dashtop clipboard bin for the shuttle driver on the go to keep their paperwork. The cupholders may be a culture shock for North American consumers, however. Up front there are two solid units; elsewhere clip-in units of questionable stoutness are employed.

At the $37,900 base price the Metris Passenger Van really does make solid sense, especially if you have a shuttle business, or are a low-budget not-for-profit/sports team/church group shuttling people about on a regular basis. The options turn it into a more “driver friendly” vehicle, but add up quickly and one wonders if they really are needed. With the possible exception of fuel-saving stop-start (useful only in stop-and-go city driving) and rear-view camera ($290 and $730), I would be happy to leave the rest behind.

I lie. I need the $630 heated front seat too since I would be the driver.

The point is, re-purposed commercial vans with big passenger capacity can be extremely useful. This one offers surprising sound-deadening, solid ride comfort and bulk space with a smattering of convenience features you might splurge on if you get a particularly good government grant.

If you are suitably ambitious the seats can be removed to open up a generous cargo space, easily enough to do a weekend apartment move. However, get a friend to help as they don’t fold. They’re heavy, awkward and you need to store them somewhere until you’re ready to put them back in.

The lack of folding seats impacts the rig’s usefulness for, say, a family with a self-employed labourer. My Dad was a courier, we used our Hi-Ace as our main family driver for our six-member family, his work rig and a campervan on some road trips. The Metris can do all three, and there are some in Europe that have been given the Westfalia treatment and turned into deluxe Metris campervans, but it doesn’t do them all at the same time.

Still, forego the options and the Metris is a solid option as an affordable people and/or cargo mover with solid capability.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; * years/* km corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km roadside assistance

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