The Magazine for LCV Fleet Operators
Stellantis launches wide range of compact e-vans, with many badges, says George Barrow. Sharing goes electric: Stellantis news

A great deal has been made of badge-sharing in the past, with many lazy attempts at marketing the same vans with different badges on the front, but new automotive superpower Stellantis has become quite adept at the formula of late. Its Citroën, Peugeot and Vauxhall vans not only share amongst themselves but also with Toyota, as is the case with the latest small electric city vans, the Citroën e-Berlingo, Peugeot e-Partner, Toyota Proace City Electric and Vauxhall Combo-e. 

The quartet are electrified versions of the small vans launched in 2018 which tried to differentiate themselves as best as they could from one another with more vocational focused trim packages for the Vauxhall Combo, overall value from the Citroën Berlingo and a smarter interior on the Peugeot Partner. They were joined by a more business focused Toyota Proace City in 2020. 

For their latest release though, there’s less differentiation between the brands, with the Partner’s I-Cockpit still the only notable variance. Nevertheless, the switch to electric has enlivened the small vans further still.

With the EMP2 platform, the basis for many a capable Citroën or Peugeot car, used for the front half of the van and the running gear from the group’s medium-sized vans (Citroën e-Dispatch, Peugeot e-Expert, Toyota Proace Electric and Vauxhall Vivaro-e) driveline, the small model has immediately addressed what was probably the largest criticism of the mid-sized van – power. 

Driver appeal

The 100kW motor (136hp) was sufficient, but underwhelming in the bigger vans, but here it makes the smaller vans really fly off the line and if you need hard proof of that, 0-62mph is said to take just 11.7 seconds. The low-slung weight of the batteries aids the handling further and there’s even more grip and feedback as you turn into a corner. Electrifying these small vans has certainly upped their driver appeal, which is impressive as the diesel vans were solid all-rounders to begin with.

Of course, adding batteries and motors has altered the usability of the van, but rather than take the largest 75kWh battery from the medium-sized models, they use the smaller 50kWh pack, which is also found in the passenger versions of the van-derived Citroën e-SpaceTourer, Peugeot Traveller and Vauxhall Vivaro Life. 

That means a claimed range of 171 miles and a respectable maximum payload of 800kg. Load volume remains unchanged from the diesel variants, with 3.3m3 for standard wheelbase models and 3.9m3 for long-wheelbase options. With a fold-flat passenger seat and load-through bulkhead the usable space increases to 3.8m3 and 4.4m3 for the standard and long vans, respectively.

Aside from the weight, an additional benefit of the smaller battery is its faster charge times with the small electric vans capable of taking a 100kW charge from a rapid charging station, giving you up to 80% of battery capacity in just 30 minutes. For more conventional charging a 7.4kW wallbox charger will see the entire battery charged up in 7.5 hours, while an 11kW three-phase supply will take around 5 hours.

Like the medium vans, these small models get two levels of regenerative braking, with the standard level of braking allowing a reasonable amount of coasting, while the enhanced braking mode button on the dash gives a strong amount of retardation that allows you to really maximise the amount of energy you’re putting back in the battery. 

Driving modes

Three different driving modes also feature and, like the larger van, they limit the amount of power and torque from the motor. Power mode provides the full 136hp with 260Nm of torque, while Eco gives just 60% of power (80hp) and 190Nm of torque. Normal mode is the middle ground with 107hp (80% power) and 210Nm of torque. With so much power, Normal really is plenty, with Power mode best reserved for heavy loads and towing, while Eco suits drivers looking to eke out extra mileage and extend the range, with the help of all the important consumption information available through the new digital instrument panel. 

The cluster ahead of the driver has a power meter with consumption indicator, along with a battery charge level gauge, but even more information can be gathered through the 8” touchscreen display, where flow diagrams of charging and regeneration can be seen along with statistics and charging schedules. The latter can also be controlled through new mobile apps designed for delayed charging and pre-conditioning of the cabin with air conditioning. 

Specifications

Specification between the four brands varies depending on which model you opt for, but it’s best to think of the Toyota as the more premium model in terms of the equipment they get, while the Peugeot and Citroën can cater for the middle ground, and the entry-level Vauxhall Combo-e Dynamic is the most austere model (although not on price) that becomes better equipped when specified in the Sportive trim level.

All vans get air conditioning and rear parking sensors, as well as DAB radio with Bluetooth as standard. The 8” touchscreen is an option for the Vauxhall, along with Apple Car-Play and Android Auto, but the cabin of even the basic vans feels well-appointed and built to a high quality. It’s a comfortable cabin to be in, with good quality plastics that have been well-styled to give some variety and interest. But it’s the driver focused nature of the interior that appeals the most, with a comfortable driving position and good forward visibility. Criticisms familiar to the diesel engine models remain, with a degree of wind noise around the A-pillars made even more noticeable now that there’s no combustion engine to mask the sound. While we’re looking in that direction the wing mirrors really do need to be bigger, however rearward visibility can be improved with the surround view package, that gives a live rearview mirror-like camera view, as well as a side view in the area of your side blindspot, to a screen in the cab.

Costs

With prices starting at around £25,000 after government grants and before VAT, the electric models are close to £10,000 more expensive than their diesel equivalents and even more so when wearing a Toyota badge at just over £30,000. 

But if the success of the Vauxhall Vivaro-e is a benchmark for electric van adoption rates, they will likely be a popular choice in the years to come and are vans that despite the fast-pace of change seem to have future-proofed themselves well by sticking to the basics of driver appeal and solid functionality.