Nissan's Townstar EV might be the best small battery-powered van you've never heard of. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
In full-electric form, Nissan's Townstar small LCV offers all the attributes of an electric Renault Kangoo van, but with a longer five year warranty. Which makes it a strong contender.
It's almost forgotten now that Nissan were amongst the innovators in the field of electric vans. Think of a trendsetting small full-battery-powered LCV and it's the Renault Kangoo Z.E. of 2011 that tends to spring to mind. But Renault's partner Nissan used the same drivetrain in an eNV200 model that appeared shortly afterwards and sold steadily for the Japanese brand.
That model's replacement is this contender, Nissan's Townstar EV, a far more modern and usable take on what a small electric van should be. Like its predecessor, it shares all its drive technology with the electric Renault Kangoo, but this time round, that technology allows for a far greater driving range, swifter performance and faster charging. Sounds promising. Let's take a look.
The Townstar's EV powertrain is lifted straight from the Renault Kangoo E-Tech (and the Mercedes eCitan). Which means you get a 44kWh battery powered by an electric motor producing 122PS and 245Nm of torque. When fully charged, this variant can offer up to 177 miles of range. That's a 43% improvement over the old eNV200. The electric Townstar combines intelligent energy management and effective battery thermal cooling in one package, but bear in mind that you've to engage a rather restrictive 'Eco' mode to get close to achieving the quoted range.
On the road, the longer wheelbase of the L2 variant helps it provide a more composed ride and handling package than the shorter L1 option, which bounces around a little more. On the downside, the turning circle increases with the extra length but most drivers will hardly notice, the Townstar always feeling manoeuvrable for its size. All models have great forward visibility courtesy of the extensive windscreen and truncated bonnet, while the well-weighted steering and positive gear change should also impress. You might also be impressed by the 'ProPilot advanced driver assist' system, which allows the vehicle to automatically slow down to a complete stop and then accelerate away.
Design and Build
Downtown, this little Nissan should fit right in, its sharp front end looks reflecting the aesthetic cues of the company's Ariya full-electric car. This full-electric Townstar looks a little different to the petrol Townstar variant because it merely has a front end blanking plate; the combustion model requires a radiator grille to admit cooling air to its 1.3-litre petrol engine. With this EV, that blanking plate is flanked by signature LED headlamps and an aerodynamic front shield incorporating a smart 'Kumiko' pattern and a restyled version of Nissan's usual 'V-Motion' front-end theme, along with daytime running lights.
Inside, it's all a lot more futuristic than you might expect an affordable van to be, with a 10-inch digital dashboard and an 8-inch central infotainment screen, both borrowed from Nissan's Qashqai. The latter monitor has 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' connectivity and you can add a smartphone charging pad if you want it. The basic dashboard design is user-friendly, though has lots of hard plastics, broken up by a faux-aluminium dashboard panel. There are physical switches for the climate controls and you get a lower dash-mounted gear lever. The upright driving position facilitates easy entries and exits. Plus a good quota of storage options are provided, including large door pockets.
Market and Model
You might be a bit shocked at the price premium this EV version of the Townstar demands over its petrol-powered equivalent - it's about £11,500, which means a starting price for the Townstar EV of around £31,000, before you deduct the government's £2,500 Plug-in Van Grant. As with the petrol version, there are two Townstar panel van body lengths - L1 and L2. And four trim levels - 'Visia', 'Acenta', 'Tekna' and 'Tekna+'. Even base 'Visia' spec gives you LED headlights, air conditioning., heated mirrors and remote central locking.
This Townstar is slightly more expensive than some of its obvious rivals, but you do get the potential for a lot more safety kit, including features like Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Keeping Assistance and the option of a 360-degree camera view system. This is also one of the first vans to be available with any kind of autonomous driving capability, the optional ProPILOT advanced driver assistance system, which is able to control the van's speed and road placement during highway driving and can allow the vehicle to autonomously slow to a stop and accelerate off again following the vehicle ahead.
Practicalities and Costs
As is now usual with electric vans, there are no practicality downsides in choosing a full battery drivetrain. There are two Townstar body lengths, short L1 and long wheelbase L2. The L1 can carry up to 3.9m3 (a little less than the 4.2m3 of its eNV200 predecessor), but if you stretch to the L2 Townstar model, you can boost that to 4.3m3 of load space, enough for the carriage of two euro pallets. You only get a second side sliding door with the L2 version. The payload is up to 800kg. as we said, you get the same carriage capacity with either of the two powertrains. And both will tow up to 1,500kg.
We gave you this Townstar EV's driving range figure in our 'Driving' section - 177 miles - which is nearly twice as much as was possible from previous e-NV200 model. Connect up to a 75kW DC rapid charger and you can replenish the battery from 0 to 80% in only 42 minutes. That's 12 minutes longer than was required for the old eNV200, but remember that the Townstar features a larger 44kWh battery - hence its longer range. This van supports both 11kW and 22kW AC charging, although the latter set-up is an extra cost inclusion. This van has a class-leading five year / 100,000 mile warranty and its battery has a separate eight year 100,000 mile warranty.
The Nissan Townstar EV is the small electrically powered van you may have left off your wish list if you're seeking a compact battery-powered LCV. Which could be a mistake because there's very little that any of its competitors can offer that this little Nissan can't match. And it'll do so with the added peace of mind of a 5 year warranty that's longer than virtually all its rivals.
It's certainly a big step forward from the old eNV200 and if your business ran one of those, once you've got used to the fact that the bigger battery in this Townstar takes longer to charge, we think you'll like just about everything else about it. Apart perhaps from the price, which is a bit of a step up - but that's the case with most rivals too. A Townstar offers a thoughtful customer's alternative to any of them.