What Car? says...
Look at the Citroën ë-Dispatch and you could be forgiven for having the feeling that you’ve seen this electric van somewhere before.
Well, you probably have, because the ë-Dispatch is almost identical to the Peugeot e-Expert, the Toyota Proace Electric and the Vauxhall Vivaro Electric – which are, in essence, the same van with minor trim and badging changes.
The ë-Dispatch and those related vans are near the forefront of the electric revolution in the commercial vehicle world (although they were preceded by the smaller Citroën ë-Berlingo). They're also designed to address buyers' worries about electric vans.
We know from your correspondence that buyers are concerned about the fact that they can carry less than their combustion-engined counterparts because they have to lug around the weight of heavy batteries. Range is also a worry.
Well, Citroën offers the ë-Dispatch with the choice of two battery sizes: 50kWh and 75kWh, allowing buyers to opt for price or ultimate range as they see fit. The smaller of the two gives the model an official range of 143 miles, while the larger-battery model can cover 205 miles officially. Obviously, the amount of stuff you’re carrying and how cold it is outside will affect the actual range.
All models have a 134bhp electric motor producing 192lb ft of torque, and it drives the front wheels through a single-speed transmission. It’s the same powertrain as you’ll find in not only the related vans but also numerous family vehicles from Citroën, Peugeot and Vauxhall. The advantage the ë-Dispatch has is that, unlike the passenger cars, it's also offered with the larger battery.
It's also available in three body sizes, so it should be attractive to everyone from those looking at a Renault Kangoo Maxi all the way up to those who require a full-sized van (load volumes range from 5.1m3 to 6.6m3). Better still, the payload capacity isn’t actually that far off what its diesel counterpart can carry.
As you'll see in our guide to the best electric vans in the UK, there’s certainly no shortage of competition for the ë-Dispatch – it faces a range of rivals including the Maxus e Deliver 3, the Mercedes eVito, the Nissan e-NV200 and, of course, the three related vans. There are also several hybrid models you could consider, including the Ford Transit Custom PHEV and the London taxi-based LEVC VN5. A fully electric Transit Custom isn’t that far off either.
Read on over the next few pages of this review to find out how we rate the Citroën ë-Dispatch. When you've decided which van is best for you, we can help you find the best car or van leasing deals if you search for a quote using our What Car? Leasing pages.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The ë-Dispatch’s 100kW electric motor (134bhp) looks a little weedy on paper compared with the standard Citroën Dispatch fitted with the range-topping 174bhp diesel engine. In the real world, though, the electric motor’s ability to provide instant torque (192lb ft to be precise) from a standstill makes it feel punchy away from the lights.
Of course, with its bluff front end and heavy kerb weight, acceleration does start to tail off north of 60mph, but its overall performance is not dissimilar to its diesel engine counterparts, or other alternatively-fuelled vehicles in the sector.
Citroën quotes a WLTP-certified range of 143 miles for the smaller 50kWh battery and 205 miles for the larger 75kWh battery. We reckon those figures are a bit ambitious, though. We would estimate that, with careful driving, it would manage around 110 miles with the 50kWh battery and 175 with the larger 75kWh unit. If you’re looking for a van to use on long journeys regularly, a diesel Dispatch will probably suit you better.
The van defaults to Normal driving mode when you start it up. That gives you a small level of regenerative braking (which recovers energy to top up the battery), comparable with very gently pressing the footbrake. There's a B mode button on the dashboard which lets you increase the effect significantly. If you press it, you’ll find that when you lift off the accelerator there’s a very obvious slowing down, to the point that the force is enough to activate the brake lights.
It’s effective, but a third, even more powerful mode would be welcome, while having the selection controls on the steering wheel rather than a button on the dashboard would make toggling to the optimum setting easier. We prefer the way the Mercedes eVito integrates its settings.
We found that Normal (which gives you access to 80% power and torque) was the ideal city driving mode. If you’re carrying the maximum payload, though, we’d recommend switching to Power mode. Eco mode cuts the available power to 60% of the total and torque down to 70%. That will help stop you zapping through all of your battery reserves, but be aware that acceleration is greatly decreased.
Wind and road noise are also mightily impressive, while the complete absence of engine noise makes it significantly more relaxing to drive than an equivalent Dispatch diesel.
The interior layout, fit and finish
You have to look very closely to spot the differences between the ë-Dispatch interior and the one in the regular Citroën Dispatch.
Indeed, the biggest difference between the two is the instrument cluster. Instead of a rev counter, there's a power meter to tell you how much energy you are using, and the fuel gauge has been replaced by a battery charge level indicator. Oh, and the trip computer has been modified to provide you with a predicted electric range.
The rest of the interior is as you’ll find in the regular Dispatch. That means it’s comfortable and well screwed together but a little on the small side – a problem it shares with the virtually identical Peugeot e-Expert, Toyota Proace Electric and Vauxhall Vivaro Electric. The seating position, for example, is quite low, while taller drivers will struggle with leg room. It doesn’t have as many storage compartments as you’ll find in a Ford Transit Custom or VW Transporter either.
Thin windscreen pillars and a bluff nose make navigating junctions a doddle, but parking can be a little tricky because the door mirrors are surprisingly small. Thankfully, help is at hand in the form of standard-fit rear parking sensors on mid-level Enterprise trim, with range-topping Driver trim adding front parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
Driver trim also gets automatic headlights and automatic windscreen wipers, which should help increase visibility in poor conditions, while Asphalt gets a wide range of safety features.
Entry-level X trim models get DAB radio and Bluetooth, but that’s your lot for infotainment. Stepping up to Enterprise adds a 7.0in colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, while Driver models add built-in sat-nav. The system is a little laggy at times, but there are shortcut buttons for most functions on either side of the screen and you can control some of them using buttons and dials on the steering wheel.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Citroën ë-Dispatch's three body lengths are dubbed XS, M and XL. The smallest van in the line-up, the XS, is 4600mm long with a 2160mm maximum storage area length, putting it in close competition with smaller electric vans such as the Renault Kangoo E-Tech.
The more conventional medium-sized M model measures 4950mm in length, with a 2510mm load length, while the long XL version stretches to 5300mm and can transport a 2860mm load. As with the Citroën Dispatch there's the option of the Moduwork folding front passenger seat, which comes with a load-through bulkhead hatch to give 1160mm of extra storage area length – ideal for pipes or timber.
Load volumes for the XS, M and XL are 5.1m3, 5.8m3 and 6.6m3 respectively, while the all-important payload is not too badly reduced by the extra weight of the batteries. The biggest van, with the larger 75kWh battery pack, can still transport up to 1001kg, while the smaller 50kWh battery pack will give you a significant 225kg of extra carrying capacity.
There is the option of upgrading the payload capacity on vans fitted with the smaller battery. The ë-Dispatch gets twin sliding doors as standard and is one of the only electric vans currently rated with a towing weight, enabling you to pull up to one tonne.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Citroën ë-Dispatch costs quite a lot more than a diesel-powered one, but the flip side is that you should enjoy significantly cheaper running costs. As a rule of thumb, the day-to-day running costs of an electric van are about a fifth of the costs of a diesel, but it of course depends how you use it and when you charge up.
Residual values for the ë-Dispatch are impressive by the standards of the class and in line with the Peugeot e-Expert, the Toyota Proace Electric and the Vauxhall Vivaro Electric. Indeed, all four vans hold on to their value better than premium rivals the Mercedes eVito – we suspect their relatively good electric ranges make them more appealing long-term prospects.
Entry-level X models are fairly well equipped with air conditioning, cruise control (with speed limiter), one-touch electric windows, twin sliding rear doors and a passenger bench seat with under-seat storage.
Mid-level Professional trim adds to this with rear parking sensors, automatic headlights, automatic windscreen wipers, the load-through bulkhead we mentioned earlier and the uprated 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system. It’s a pretty modest selection, which is why mid-level Enterprise would be the trim we would recommend because it adds an alarm, parking sensors and the 7.0in infotainment system.
Range-topping Driver trim includes electric heated mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, built-in sat-nav, a head-up display and a safety-pack which includes blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, speed-limit recognition, an advanced emergency braking (AEB) system and automatically adjusting headlights. It’s an expensive trim, but compares well with other vans available.
The ë-Dispatch is one of the few vans on the market capable of rapid charging at up to 100kW. That means you can get from 0% to 80% in a charge time of just 30 minutes for the small battery or 45 minutes for the large one. We would advise most buyers to go for the larger unit because the extra 60-odd miles of range makes it one of the most useable electric vans currently on sale.
The model is backed up by a three-year and 100,000-mile Citroën warranty for the vehicle and an eight-year warranty on the batteries.
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It has an official top speed of 81mph, but is also fitted with a speed limiter to stop you going faster than 70mph.
The official range is 143 miles for the model with the smaller battery, and 205 miles with the bigger battery, but in reality, you can expect to travel around 110 miles and 175 miles respectively (depending on the temperature and how much you're carrying).
The version fitted with the larger 75kWh battery has an official miles-per-kWh figure of 2.73, while the smaller 50kWh model has a figure of 2.86. These figures will be a bit less in the real world.
Not that long, because it's capable of 100kW charging, making it rapid to ‘refill’. At this rate, to charge the smaller 50kWh battery from 0-80% would take around half an hour, while the model with the 75kWh battery would take around 45 minutes.
A Type 2 connector for charging at home, and a CCS connector for rapid charging away from home.