An alternative London taxi based on a Mercedes-Benz Vito Traveliner minibus has been launched.

The new taxi conversion complies with the London Conditions of Fitness regulations applied to taxis by Transport for London's Public Carriage Office.

Two of the main requirements of these regulations are wheelchair accessibility and a 25-feet turning circle to enable U-turns to be made.

The automaker launched the new vehicle in partnership with taxi retailer KPM-UK. It has a steering rear axle to meet the requirements of the 25 feet turning circle.

The base vehicle is built at the Mercedes-Benz van plant in Vitoria, northern Spain, and adapted for use as a London cab in the Coventry factory of engineering specialist One80.

Steve Bridge, Mercedes-Benz UK's van sales and marketing director, said: "The Vito Taxi is a truly ground-breaking vehicle, offering London's cab drivers a genuine alternative for the first time in many years to the ubiquitous LTI [TX4 cab]."

The Vito is already in service as a taxi in European cities but the adaptations carried out to the new model tailor it specifically for work on London's streets, where the strict vehicle specification is laid down by the Public Carriage Office.

The cockpit and cab, which are separated by an attack-resistant panel, have separate heating and air-conditioning controls.

The Vito can seat six in the passenger compartment - three facing forwards and three on fold-down, rear-facing seats. Access is via sliding doors on both sides which can be opened electrically. Both doors are also fitted with driver-operated electric steps, and a lightweight wheelchair ramp is carried in the boot. All seats have full three-point safety belts; the cockpit is also equipped with a driver's airbag.

Other standard safety features include adaptive ESP stability control system and a rear-steer axle mated to a low speed manoeuvrability system.

Power comes from a Mercedes-Benz 2.2-litre common-rail diesel engine coupled to a fully automatic five-speed gearbox with Tiptronic mode.

LTI said it would continue to develop its well-established TX4 model, the iconic London taxi, and would have prototype electric versions on the road by the end of this year and production vehicles on sale by the end of 2009.

In a consortium with Intelligent Energy and Lotus Engineering, LTI is also developing a fleet of hydrogen fuel cell powered taxis in time for the London Olympics in 2012.