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Toyota Proace Electric van review

Introduction

You might think that Toyota is famed for its electric cars, but its first pure-electric model won’t arrive until next year. The commercial arm has got a head start though, with the Proace Electric van and now this, the compact Proace City Electric van.

The City tag in the name suggests the target market; the urban van drivers doing multi-drop deliveries. Think anything from a Hermes driver to a florist.

With no diesel power to fall back on, does the Proace City’s electric drive offer enough range and flexibility for business use?

Select's rating score* - 3.9 / 5

At a Glance

Squint, and you’ll see that the Proace City looks an awful lot like the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo Cargo. There's a good reason for that; in all but minor places, it is the same vehicle, even built in the same factory.

So, while it’s new, it’s also something that’s existed for a little while under a different name. Toyota’s smart though, and isn’t trying to pitch the Proace City to every van driver. Instead, it’s limiting the range to the most popular models, so there’s just one trim level to choose - the Icon specification that usually sits in the middle of a model range.

There’s also just one roof height and two body lengths. With just one electric motor and battery option, that leaves you with a total of just two models to choose from. But they’re good ones…


Key Features

The vans the Proace City shares so much with have been around for three years, so they’re a known quantity. That’s allowed Toyota to pick the best bits and ensure its new van stars off from a strong base.

A market-leading electric drivetrain with a 50kW battery pack creates a stress-free driving experience, while the boxy dimensions create a payload area that’s a match for the best in class.

Toyota’s impressive 10-year warranty won’t impact too many lessees, but the extra year or two of cover it’ll provide on a longer lease term will offer some security.

But, ultimately, it’s numbers that make commercial vehicles compelling. The Proace City Electric works there too, as it’s only marginally more expensive than the cheapest comparable electric van while offering the best-in-class driving dynamics, load capacity, payload and warranty.


Performance & Drive

Electric power means that the Proace City van is easy, and even relaxing, to drive. That it’s built around the same van as the well-respected Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall versions ensure that the driving dynamics are top-notch.

Engaging might be going a little too far, but there’s a sharpness and agility that is pleasantly surprising.

Under the bonnet is a 136hp electric motor driving the front wheels. As there’s no gearbox, it’s smooth, quiet and powerful enough to keep you moving. Three driving modes adjust how much power you get, with the default ‘normal’ limiting you to 110hp and 210Nm of torque, balancing power with economy and range. An ‘eco’ mode reduces power to just 82hp with 180Nm of torque available. It also reduces the performance of the air conditioning and heating systems, saving more energy, but it’s a frustrating thing to drive in those circumstances. Save that for when you need to eke out every mile from the battery.


Power unlocked everything, with all 136hp and 260Nm providing enough oomph to make swift progress or pull a heavy load. The 0-62mph sprint takes 11.2 seconds in this mode, but only when running empty.

It’s quiet (obviously) and refined, even when travelling at motorway speeds. Even when empty, the van is stable despite being set up to carry 800kg of cargo. Perhaps the 300 or so kilos of batteries have settled the ride down.

Driving it like a sports car impacts how far you’ll get on a charge, of course. While the official figure suggests 168 miles will be possible, our unscientific testing that included urban, country and motorway roads, saw a more realistic range of 125 miles on a chilly if not freezing day. That’ll be more than enough for many spending their time in the city though, which is what the Proace City Electric is intended for - the clue is in the name, after all.


Running Costs

The list prices of electric vehicles can be steep - some larger vans can move into six-figure territory - but leasing an LCV keeps those costs in check. With the Toyota Proace City, there are near-identical rivals to compare against, so there’s no hiding whether the monthly payments are competitive.

Happily, at the time of testing, the Proace is available for around £300 a month, plus VAT, which is comparable to the Citroen e-Berlingo, and significantly less than the Peugeot e-Expert and Vauxhall Combo-e Cargo.

There’s an official 168-mile range available from the 50kWh battery. Charge that at home and, even with the spiralling energy costs we’ve got now, you should be able to charge it from empty to full for around £10, or around a third of the cost of diesel.

Servicing requirements are low with, subject to some conditions, a dealer visit is required just every two years. Keep it serviced at a Toyota Professional dealer - where there's a fixed price service menu - and the warranty will be extended annually, easily covering the period of even the longest lease agreement.

The growing Toyota Professional dealer network now stands at more than 130 locations, with more joining, and offers an enhanced level of service for commercial users. Key amongst those is a promise to carry out work at half price if you can’t get an appointment within seven days.


Interior and Technology

There’s not much to get excited about inside the Proace City Electric. The cabin is functional and perfectly usable, but it’s not got the car-like style of, say, a Volkswagen Caddy.

The switch to electric power means there's no need for a gear lever, which frees up space in the centre of the dashboard where a rocker switch now sits. However, that’s not allowed Toyota to remove the large lump from where the gear lever once protruded, so any middle passenger will still find themselves with nowhere to put their legs. Space is, for the most part, plentiful though. Stick to two people in the cabin and you’ll both be happy with your lot.


There’s plenty of storage around the cabin, including deep door pockets, a good glovebox and a cubby behind the infotainment screen. A shelf above the windscreen is capacious and feels impressively solid, too. Only a lack of sensible places to put a mobile phone lets the side down; as there’s no navigation system built into the infotainment centre, smartphone connectivity becomes vital. Happily, both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included as standard, but you need to attach your phone via a cable.

The centre seat folds down to create a shelf, with the hard back turning into a desk. It even spins around to extend the available space further, which will be handy when on a lunch break on-site.


Payload and Practicality

There’s been no loss of space in the back of the electric van, so it’s just as spacious as its diesel-powered siblings. That means you can fit a load that’s 3,090mm long into the Proace City Electric, or 3,440mm in the longer model.

Both share the same width and height, at 1,527 and 1,200mm respectively, while the gap between the wheel arches is 1,229mm - big enough to squeeze a Euro pallet in.

There is a difference in payload, with the battery pack eating into that slightly. That means the shorter model is limited to 803kg of cargo, while the longer model loses a little more and can accommodate 751kg. Both models are rated to tow 750kg, so a small trailer can be pulled along without issue.

The rear doors swing open to 180 degrees, allowing access for forklift trucks. Impressively, there’s a sliding door on each side of the van, making access incredibly easy regardless of where you’re parked.


Safety

Euro NCAP hasn’t run the Proace City through its demanding testing regime, nor its closely related commercial cousins. However, it has tested the Citroen Berlingo MPV, the passenger car version of the van with which it shares so much, where it scored a credible four stars from the five available.

However, much of the safety equipment included in the passenger car isn’t available on the commercial versions, which means the Proace City misses out on items such as automatic emergency braking, road sign recognition and lane-keeping assist.

You do get six airbags, an adjustable speed limiter and cruise control, and both hill start and hill descent control, though.


Options

Toyota has kept things simple with the Proace City Electric, limiting the options list to a choice of wood, paint and rubber.

Rubber floor mats will add £49.17 plus VAT to your total, while plywood panelling on the side of the load area will set you back £324.17 (or £357.50 on the longer model). Metallic paint is an additional £454.17. You get solid white paint included, but your options are limited to metallic silver, grey or black, so don’t get too excited about the colour palette.

It’s £125 to upgrade the charging capabilities, allowing you to charge at home more rapidly assuming you’ve got a suitable charging unit. Rapid charging speeds are unaffected, so it’s not essential equipment.

Rival Vans

The trio of near-identical models from Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall are the most obvious rivals. Each offers almost the same experience, although the Peugeot’s cabin is a little more interesting thanks to its ‘i-Cockpit’ design that marries a tiny steering wheel with a digital instrument panel that you look at over the wheel rather than through it, at least on higher models; the entry-level makes do with conventional dials.

The Renault Kangoo is a proven model, but feeling its age now. A new model arrives in 2022, along with a Nissan-badged version.

The Maxus e Deliver 3 is a left-field choice, but the Chinese firm is making huge inroads into the market with a van that’s comfortable, spacious and great value.

Verdict

If you’re after a compact electric van (and it’s not something that would suit everybody) then there’s currently no better option than the Toyota Proace City Electric. While you may be tempted by its Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall siblings, the 10-year warranty offered by Toyota should trump any minor differences in trim and price.

That’s true even for lease customers. On a typical four year lease, its rivals will leave you uncovered for 12 months, which could prove very expensive. Get the Proace City serviced at a Toyota Professional dealer - an impressive network that’s growing significantly to more than 140 centres - and your warranty will be extended by a year, offering you peace of mind.

Even without that extra reassurance, it’s a match for the best in class.


Where to next?

View latest Toyota Proace City Electric Van leasing deals - from just £304.23 per month inc VAT**

Looking for a great leasing deal? Check out our incredible range of Special Offers

New Electric Van? Read our latest Van Reviews and find the right model for you

Want to know more about leasing? Take a look at our comprehensive Van Leasing Guides

Interested in everything motoring? Why not catch up on all the latest Van Leasing News.

**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Toyota Proace City Electric Van 

**Correct as of 21/12/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 10,000 miles over a 36 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2738.07 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.



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