What Car? says...
Being unique is usually a good thing – but what if you’re the only one doing something because everyone else thinks it's a bad idea? A case in point might be the Maxus T90EV, a two-wheel-drive electric pick-up truck, and the only vehicle of its kind on sale in the UK.
That’s not to say the T90EV is a bad idea, though. Indeed, for drivers who work in a city where diesel-engined pick-ups attract emissions zone fees, it could make a lot of sense.
After all, plenty of two-wheel-drive electric cars and electric SUVs already exist, and the T90EV offers space for five people plus a decent payload of up to one tonne. There’s not much variety in the line-up, with just one trim level, one electric motor option and one battery size, which gives it an official range of up to 220 miles.
With no electric pick-up truck rivals in the UK at the moment, buyers in the market for a Maxus T90EV will most likely be considering combustion-engined alternatives. They include the Ford Ranger, the Isuzu D-Max, the Toyota Hilux and the VW Amarok.
While you might not have heard of Maxus, the brand already makes a compelling range of electric vans including the Maxus eDeliver 3 and the Maxus eDeliver 9 (which is one of our favourite models in its class).
Over the next few pages of this review, we’ll cover what the Maxus T90EV is like to drive and live with, whether it measures up as an electric vehicle and as a pick-up truck and, ultimately, whether you should consider getting one.
And remember, we can help you find a competitive leasing quote for whichever make and model of car or van fits your personal or business needs through our free What Car? Leasing section.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Maxus T90EV’s 88.5kWh battery hangs low underneath its body, and between that and the 201bhp electric motor, it’s not only congested down there, but also heavy.
In some vehicles that’s a good thing (a low centre of gravity can help with handling), but not here. The steering is very light, meaning there’s no real bite at the front wheels, and this heavy pick-up can end up feeling a bit wayward through corners. Putting lots of stuff in the back makes it worse.
The low centre of gravity also comes at the cost of ground clearance. Combustion-engined pick-ups have a clearance of at least 220mm, but the T90 must make do with just 187mm – and that means you won’t be able to go as far off the beaten track as you would in rivals.
Not that you’d want to, because without the benefit of four-wheel drive, the T90EV isn’t anywhere near as capable off road as other pick-ups, and if you venture on to anything other than a gravel track, you could be asking for trouble. There are none of the off-road driving aids or electronic help you get on the Ford Ranger.
Drivers can choose between Eco, Normal and Power driving modes by using a button on the T90EV’s centre console. There are small changes to the accelerator pedal’s responses based on which mode you choose, but the level of regenerative braking – which harvests braking energy and feeds it back into the battery to increase range – is always set to a fairly aggressive level.
Speaking of range, the T90EV can officially travel up to 220 miles on a charge, according to official tests. That figure is likely to dip in real-world use.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Some modern pick-up trucks – most notably the Mercedes X-Class and VW Amarok – closely match their SUV counterparts in terms of features and the quality of materials on show. The Maxus T90EV adopts a far more utilitarian approach, and most surfaces are made from hard plastics. At least the seats are made from artificial leather, and are comfortable to sit in.
In the centre of the dashboard is a 10.25in touchscreen infotainment system, through which almost every function is controlled. It’s also capable of mirroring your smartphone through Android Auto and Apple CarPlay so you can use your sat-nav or messaging apps through the infotainment screen.
There’s a USB charging point to keep your devices topped up. Alongside the infotainment screen, there’s a smaller information display within the instrument cluster, which shows you your basic range and other driving information.
It lacks the creature comforts you get in the Ford Ranger or Amarok. Those rivals also let you do more using controls on the steering wheel – from scrolling through trip data and changing infotainment settings to simply making a phone call. The T90EV’s steering wheel just lets you manage radio and basic Bluetooth functions such as accepting or rejecting a call. There’s also no cruise control, which has become almost standard among pick-ups.
The interior is a quiet and comfortable place to be though. There are noises from the electric motor and a sound at low speeds to warn pedestrians of your presence, but they soon fade into the background. At higher speeds, you’ll notice modest amounts of tyre and wind noise.
Visibility out is decent, and as in other pick-ups you get a commanding view of the road ahead. A rear-facing camera helps to avoid any embarrassing scrapes when parking.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Pick-up trucks need to have a payload capacity of more than 1000kg to make them eligible for businesses to reclaim their VAT. Thankfully, the Maxus T90EV manages that.
While you can haul plenty, we do think the rear tailgate could do with having a soft open and close mechanism. It can drop down with a clunk when you release its catch, and is heavy to put back into place.
If you plan on towing, you’ll be interested to know that the T90EV is rated to pull up to 1500kg. Bear in mind, though, that using all of that towing allowance will limit how much payload you can carry in the load bed. It’s also well below what a combustion engine model can pull: the standard is set at 3.5-tonnes for a braked trailer.
You won’t be daunted by the T90EV’s configuration options, because there’s only one size of load bed to look at, and only double cab variants are available.
Inside, there’s a decent amount of storage space for your odds and ends, and two cupholders in the centre console to keep your coffee upright. The back seats are fairly upright but comfortable, and we think most passengers will have room to stretch out. There are 12V and 220V sockets back there, so you can plug in equipment and have it powered from the vehicle's main battery.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Being the first to do anything is always tricky, and although launching the T90EV puts Maxus ahead of rivals, a rear-wheel-drive-only pick-up truck isn’t going to be for everyone.
If you are interested, you’ll be pleased to know that it supports fast charging at a rate of up to 80kW, which is enough to take the battery from 20% to 80% in around 45 minutes. A full charge from a standard single-phase household supply will take around 13 hours.
There’s no such thing as an options list for the T90EV, because the only option you can add is heated seats. The single trim level, Elite, gets you everything you’re likely to want, including 17in alloy wheels and a stainless-steel sports bar. Dealers will be able to offer suitable load covers and other options that don’t come direct from the factory.
That respectable amount of standard equipment makes the price tag more palatable, but even without the VAT, the T90EV is more expensive than all but the most premium conventionally powered pick-ups on the market.
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here