2023 Nissan Townstar EV review
Electric vans could dominate last-mile deliveries thanks to low-emissions regulations, but will the electric version of the all-new Nissan Townstar EV be leading that charge?...
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If you’re reading this waiting for an online purchase to arrive, then pay attention. Why? Well, such deliveries could be making their way to your door in the back of an electric van just like this all-new Nissan Townstar EV.
Why a small electric van? Well, there’s a buzzword in logistics called ‘last-mile’ delivery – basically how something gets from the depot to its final destination. It's usually best done in a small van rather than a huge truck, and any company keen to display green credentials – and avoid congestion charges – will want to use a vehicle that runs on electricity.
That’s good news for air quality in congested cities, but it’s also great for the busy drivers who get to work in a quieter environment. And because electric vehicles are generally really straightforward to drive, hopefully a less stressful one too.
The Nissan Townstar EV is one of a few pure-electric vans to arrive in the past few years, with rivals including the Citroën e-Berlingo, the Peugeot e-Partner and the Vauxhall Combo-e van. It also competes with the closely related Renault Kangoo E-Tech. In a class that's getting ever more competitive, does the Townstar EV deliver the best electric van in the business? We’ve been driving one on the streets of Paris to find out.
What’s it like to drive?
You can get the Townstar with a turbocharged 128bhp 1.3-litre petrol (as per the Nissan Qashqai) but we’re driving the 120bhp electric version that Nissan hopes to be the biggest seller. The instant low-speed pulling power of an electric vehicle is ideally suited to relaxed urban driving and responds swiftly enough to quickly merge into gaps in the traffic.
With an 11.6sec 0-62mph time, don’t expect Tesla-like acceleration beyond town speeds, but the electric Townstar certainly won’t embarrass itself among traditionally powered petrol or diesel vans.
The Townstar EV is, of course, quieter than petrol or diesel-engined vans. Our test route predominantly took in urban roads in Paris, where electric motor noise is well subdued and there isn’t a great deal of suspension noise either. Road noise is on a par with other EV van rivals. We'll reserve judgement for motorway speeds, but UK-spec Townstars will at least come with a full-width bulkhead as standard, which isolates the driving compartment from the uninsulated load area behind them that would otherwise reverberate sound.
We didn’t have a chance to load up the Townstar, which is usually a problem because commercial vehicles have suspension tuned to carry loads. Unladen, the Townstar has a firmer ride than an e-Berlingo, but it never struggled to soak up the worst impacts from the rutted and occasionally cobbled Parisian streets. Having taut suspension should mean the Townstar will provide a settled ride at higher speeds.
Being a smaller van helps with manoeuvrability around town, while the weighty, low-mounted battery pack keeps the centre of gravity down and means there isn’t as much body lean as you might think. This isn’t a vehicle to be hustled, but a decent amount of grip and accurate steering should give you the confidence to maintain your speed on a twisty country road.
Of course, if you’re looking for a work vehicle, you want to know what the payload rating is like. Well, it depends on the length of Townstar you choose. The shortest L1 model has a 600kg payload, which lags behind the similarly short-wheelbase e-Berlingo’s 800kg capacity. However, the longer L2 increases that to closer to 800kg, which is up there with the best in class.
The 45kWh battery has an official range of 183 miles, while all trim levels bar entry-level Visia come with 80kW charging capability. That means a 15-80% charge takes around 40 minutes.
What’s it like inside?
The interior of the Townstar is essentially the same as in the closely related Kangoo E-Tech, but with a Nissan badge on the steering wheel.
That means you get plenty of adjustment for the wheel and seats, although some taller drivers might find that their chair doesn’t go back far enough because of the bulkhead. It doesn’t recline a huge amount for the same reason, leaving you with an upright driving position. It’s also a shame there isn’t lumbar adjustment, as there is in the e-Berlingo.
Material quality seems well up to the class standard. It’s all hard plastic (apart from the rather snazzy leather steering wheel on higher trim levels), but feels built to last. We approve of the chunky physical controls for the standard fit air-con that make adjusting the temperature on the move a breeze (excuse the pun).
Provided you go for Acenta trim or higher, the Townstar comes with an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone capability, so you can run apps on your smartphone through the screen. The screen itself responds swiftly enough to inputs and the menu layout is relatively straightforward. There are no physical shortcut buttons, which might make switching between screens a little more distracting while driving.
Visibility is fine as far as vans go, and is arguably better than in the e-Berlingo, which has smaller door mirrors. Acenta trim gets rear parking sensors, while Tekna adds front sensors and a rear view camera, although the image displayed isn’t particularly sharp.
Naturally, a van should be all about functionality, and the Townstar has some well-thought-out touches. There's a lidded cubby above the driver’s instrument cluster with a 12V outlet and a couple of USB charging sockets – perfect for keeping a charging phone hidden from view. There’s also an overhead tray above the sun visors that’s perfect for storing invoices and newspapers. The door cubby can take a decent-sized bottle of water or a flask of builder’s tea.
The Townstar matches the e-Berlingo for overall cargo volume, with 3.3m3 for the shorter L1, and 4.3m3 for the longer L2. The L2 impresses the most because of its slightly longer load area that's wider between the arches, although the e-Berlingo beats it for cargo height. Impressively, the L2 has a side door opening wide enough to be able to load one of the two euro pallets the Townstar is able to carry.
Six tie-down points are provided, while Acenta trim and above get LED illumination in the back to help you find your tools at night.
Next: Nissan Townstar verdict and specs >>
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