Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The VN5 is powered by a single 148bhp electric motor that’s mounted at the rear and drives the rear wheels. It offers decent pace once you’re on the move, but you’ll find yourself pressing the accelerator pedal all the way to the floor to get a decent turn of speed away from traffic lights.
The 0-62mph sprint takes 13.2sec, but unlike some vans, the VN5 doesn’t run out of puff accelerating at higher speeds. Indeed, motorway overtakes are a breeze thanks to the van’s instant acceleration. Its top speed is capped at 80mph.
Braking is well managed, too. You can select from two levels of regenerative braking by flicking the gear lever to either side, and on its highest setting the VN5 slows down predictably and smoothly while the brakes channel some of the energy that would otherwise be wasted as heat, converting it into electricity and feeding it into the battery.
The regenerative braking isn’t so strong that you could drive the VN5 using only one pedal, but it’s strong enough that, with a little patience, you’ll be reaching for the pedal a lot less than in conventionally engined rivals.
The VN5’s ride can be a little fidgety, especially on faster roads, but we reckon a decent load of cargo in the back would help in this regard. And while the steering could be lighter, it is at least accurate so you don’t have to make any wheel adjustments mid-corner.
What’s especially impressive is the VN5’s taxi-style turning circle of just 10.1m. That’s far smaller than rivals such as the Citroën Berlingo Electric, Peugeot Partner and Nissan eNV200 and makes manoeuvring the VN5 around tight city streets an absolute doddle.
As with other electric vans, you won’t hear much from the VN5 when it’s cruising around on electric power, aside from a whine from the electric motor when you’re really pressing on. On the motorway, the absence of any engine sound heightens the wind and road noise, but the latter i’s never distracting. And when the 1.5-litre petrol engine is running to generate electricity, all you’ll hear is a steady thrum from up front.
The VN5 has three driving modes to help you maximise your range, too. Save mode switches on the range-extender petrol engine, burning fuel to keep the battery topped up, while Urban switches the engine off and allows the VN5 to draw energy solely from its battery for as long as possible. Smart mixes the two, and in our experience does a good job of keeping the VN5 in purely electric mode around town, before switching the engine on at higher speeds.