What Car? says...
A lot can happen in ten years – several generations of the Apple iPhone, for example, or a long list of film sequels. And yet, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth taking time over, hence why it’s only now that the Mercedes eCitan is going on sale.
As before, the Citan is heavily based on the Renault Kangoo, but while there has always been an electric version of that van, there hasn’t been an electric Citan until now. Indeed, the eCitan is one of a trio, being twinned with the Kangoo E-Tech and Nissan Townstar Electric.
All three models share the same chassis, motor and batteries, but Mercedes has tried to add its own imprint on the van to make it stand out against its Renault and Nissan competitors, as well other small electric van rivals including the Citroën e-Berlingo, Fiat E-Doblo, Peugeot e-Partner, Toyota Proace City Electric and Vauxhall Combo Electric.
In this review we’ll look at how the Mercedes eCitan looks to differentiate itself from the huge amount of competition as well as what it’s like to drive, how much space there is and the safety features it comes with.
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Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Generally speaking, Mercedes vans have traditionally been good to drive, which means we’d expect the same of the eCitan. Fortunately, this small electric van lives up to that expectation, offering neat handling, a comfortable ride and decent performance from its electric motor.
Speaking of the motor, it’s a 121bhp unit which produces 181lb ft of torque – figures which make it almost as potent as the most powerful diesel engine in the regular Mercedes Citan. Power for the motor is fed from a 45kWh battery which offers an official 174 miles of range. As always, though, be aware that you’re unlikely to match that figure in the real world, where factors including the weather and your driving style will have an impact on how far you can travel.
That figure matches most electric van rivals, even though, on paper, the eCitan is down on power compared with some other small electric vans. In our experience, though, you won’t miss the extra turn of speed – indeed, the instant torque from the motor spirits you away from a standing start with ease, even if you’re loaded the van to the gunwhales. In fact, we’d say it feels every bit as fast as the most powerful diesel-engined Citan.
While the eCitan is good to drive, it doesn’t offer the same levels of flexibility as some of Mercedes’ other vans. Because this is a van built by Renault rather than by Mercedes, you’ll only find three settings for the regenerative braking rather than the five you might be used to, for example.
We suspect many drivers won’t care or notice the difference, but if you’re used to the Mercedes way of doing things, it’s a small negative against the eCitan.
For those not looking to customer their braking and coasting, it’s best to leave the van in its automatic “D” mode. This gives you a ‘normal’ driving feel rather than the strong braking you get in D-, or the free-wheeling feeling you’ll find with D+.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The feeling of space should never be underestimated in a van, but the only thing that can surpass a feeling is the real thing, and the Mercedes eCitan now has space in abundance. That’s because the newest Citan is built on much wider underpinnings than the previous model. You’ll notice the difference most in the elbow room and space around your knees, and with a wider cab the eCitan feels just as roomy as its bigger siblings, most notably the Vito, despite being a fraction of the size.
While its Renault stablemate can also claim space superiority, the eCitan trumps the Kangoo for aesthetics. From the piano black surrounds found on the air vents to the familiar, easy to use software of the 7.0in infotainment touchscreen, the eCitan feels a cut above most small vans. It certainly feels more welcoming than the rival Citroën e-Berlingo or Peugeot e-Partner.
Speaking of the infotainment system, Mercedes’ MBUX software looks flashy, is quick to respond to your inputs and its voice control setup works well.
There are areas of the Citan’s interior which look exactly the same as in its Renault counterpart, but it’s an acceptable amount of sharing for a co-developed van.
In terms of noise, the eCitan lets very little road noise inside, and there’s only a small amount of wind noise which whips up from around its generous side mirrors.
Visibility is good all round, and for such a small van the eCitan offers a comfortable place to be in for extended periods of time.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
It’s rare to find a small electric van which also has a high payload, but the Mercedes eCitan gives it a good go. It’s available with two gross vehicle weights, with standard models with a total mass of 2240kg able to haul 544kg. Opting for the long-wheelbase eCitan, however, ups the gross vehicle weight to 2490kg – that means not only do you get a 400mm longer van, but the payload capacity jumps to 722kg.
Load volumes, meanwhile, remain unchanged compared with diesel-engined versions of the Citan, with a 2.9m3 capacity for the regular van, and up to 3.6m3 for long-wheelbase models.
There’s also lots of space in the front of the eCitan. Small vans are often plagued with limited useful storage spaces around the driver, but the eCitan has you well covered. The door pockets are ideal for large bottles, and there are sensible slots for your mobile phone in the centre console, complete with USB charging ports. There’s even a covered storage area directly above the steering wheel for your odds and ends.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Van drivers rarely agree on most matters, but one thing they’re likely to agree on is that Mercedes vans tend to offer a comprehensive suite of assistance and safety equipment, usually as standard. That’s definitely true for the eCitan, which manages to pack a lot in, even if it doesn’t lead the field with any one innovation.
Standard safety systems include Crosswind Assistance and Speed Limit Assistance which recognise road signs and help keep your speed within the limit. There are also optional safety systems which appear in the Pro trim level, and include lane-keeping assistance, active brake assistance and active steering assistance. All of these should help to take the sting out of long motorway journeys, meaning you’ll reach your destination ready to work.
When it comes to buying an eCitan, you won’t be surprised to know that the starting price is slightly more than an equivalent model from all of its French rivals, be it a Citroën e-Berlingo, Renault Kangoo E-Tech or Peugeot e-Partner.
Where you do get real value for money is with an unlimited mileage warranty which lasts for three years. You’ll have to be pretty busy to make use of it though, because despite its reasonably long electric rance, the eCitan only has capacity for charging speeds of up to 80kW.
In fairness, Mercedes says it will take just 38 minutes to bring the eCitan battery level from 10% to 80%, but even with the optional 22kW AC charger for home use, you’re unlikely to stretch its legs enough to trouble Mercedes’ warranty claims department, even without unlimited mileage cover.
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The Mercedes eCitan has a 45kWh battery which offers a range of up to 174 miles between charges. That range is decent for a small electric van, but drivers are likely to get less mileage in real-world conditions, because factors including the weather and your driving style can have an impact on your range. The eCitan can charge at a maximum rate of 80kW, meaning it will take 38 minutes to charge from 10-80%.
As a small electric van, the Mercedes eCitan has plenty of rivals. As well as its badge-engineered siblings, the Nissan Townstar Electric and Renault Kangoo E-Tech, the eCitan also faces competition from vans including the Citroen e-Berlingo, Peugeot e-Partner and Toyota Proace City Electric. The upcoming Ford E-Transit Courier will also be a rival for the eCitan.