What Car? says...
Nissan isn’t particularly known for commercial vehicles in the UK, but this Nissan Townstar EV is part of a resurgence in its line-up – it's a small electric van that replaces the e-NV200.
Of course, the three brands like to do some things a little differently, so in this review we’ll look at what Nissan offers that sets it apart from those rival vans. We'll let you know what it's like to drive and use the Townstar EV – in short, whether it's a van we'd recommended buying.
The Nissan Townstar EV isn't just up against the related vans from Mercedes and Renault of course, so we've also rated it against a few other models you might be considering: the Citroën ë-Berlingo, the Peugeot e-Partner and the Vauxhall Combo Electric. And if you like the look of the Townstar but don't want to go electric yet, have a look at our list of the best small vans.
Once you've picked your next work vehicle, we can help you find the best leasing prices too – just check out the deals on the What Car? Leasing pages.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The electric version (there's also a petrol Nissan Townstar) has a 90kW motor delivering the equivalent to 121bhp, which is more than enough for a small van, with 245Nm of instantaneous torque at your disposal.
It’s not lightning quick, with an official 0-60mph quoted by Nissan of 14 seconds, but pulls away eagerly from a standstill and is quiet on the move, with little in the way of motor whine.
Overall, the electric Townstar's Renault drivetrain and revised underpinnings are a big step forward in terms of performance and handling over the Nissan e-NV200 (which was based on the original Nissan Leaf).
There's what looks like a traditional gear selector, which allows you to switch between three levels of regenerative braking (B1, B2 or B3). Meanwhile, the adaptive cruise control with lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist (on top versions) do a good job of manoeuvring the vehicle in a non-intrusive way.
The cabin is well insulated from road noise and there’s very little in the way of wind noise. Plus, like its Renault and Mercedes siblings, the Townstar EV is a comfortable and engaging van to be in, with excellent all-round visibility.
The small van sector is packed full of vans that are good to drive, but as an electric model, this is up there with the best, and just has the edge over the three Stellantis small vans (the ë-Berlingo, the e-Partner and the Combo Electric).
Strengths Pleasant to drive; low noise levels
Weaknesses Slow acceleration
The interior layout, fit and finish
Nissan has really gone to town on developing an interior that makes the Townstar EV stand out, with upmarket materials and plenty of comforts.
Four trims make up the range, with entry-level Visia getting manual air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver's seat, DAB radio and steering wheel controls for the 4.2-inch infotainment system.
Acenta trim adds one-touch electric windows and a few good-to-have features including an electronic parking brake and cruise control. Significantly, there’s also an upgrade to a proper eight-inch colour touchscreen that has smartphone mirroring for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Tekna trim adds a smartphone holder and keyless entry and start, while Tekna+ is where a leather heated steering wheel makes an appearance, along with a larger 10-inch screen. It’s also where the bulk of the safety features are added, including Intelligent Adaptive Cruise and Lane Keeping Assist.
Regardless of trim, the Townstar EV has a comfortable interior, although the seat doesn't slide that far back, so it's worth testing that before you buy if you have really long legs. The seats are supportive, and the imitation leather sections are of a high quality, as is the woven fabric.
The major let down in the cabin is the quality of the infotainment screen, which is grainier than the high-resolution displays we're becoming used to.
Strengths Quality feel; lots of equipment
Weaknesses Grainy infotainment screen
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Nissan Townstar EV is available in a choice of two body lengths. The standard L1 van has an overall length of of 4,488mm, with a loadspace length of 1,810mm. The longer L2 model is 4910mm with a 2230mm loadspace.
Together with a loadspace width of 1570mm and a height of 1215mm, the L1 version gets 3.3m3 of load volume, rising to 4.3m3 for the L2.
Maximum payload weights in electric vans are usually significantly lower than in their petrol or diesel equivalent, but the Townstar EV does well to keep the gap respectable. The L1 van has a 500kg capacity (189kg less than the petrol van), and the larger L2 model has a higher 604kg limit.
Towing is also possible, with a maximum braked trailer weight of 1,500kg.
In the front of the van there’s just as much practicality as the rear, with a large overhead storage tray, a storage compartment with a lid directly ahead of driver and, in Tekna models, a mobile phone holder on the dash.
There’s a central console under the armrest for additional storage, and you’ll find two cupholders in from of that.
Strengths Competitive load bay capacity; can tow up to 1,500kg
Weaknesses Can't take as much weight as the petrol version
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Nissan Townstar EV starts at a lower price than the related Mercedes eCitan, but is competitive against other non-premium electric vans. It's worth noting, though, that the eCitan gets plenty of safety features from the get-go, whereas Nissan has kept the best of its systems for the top-spec Tekna+ model.
Standard spec Visia vans get an immobiliser, driver airbag, tyre-pressure monitoring, hill-hold assist and automatic headlights as standard, but parking sensors, intelligent braking assistance and other useful kit don’t appear until the Acenta trim.
Tekna adds all-round parking sensors with a rear camera, but Tekna+ has the lion's share of goodies, with parking assistance, an Intelligent All View Monitor 360, blind-spot detection, traffic-sign recognition and driver attention alert.
If you’re particularly safety conscious, Tekna+ is the trim level to go for, but otherwise the Acenta (with reversing sensors) is a sensible choice.
Acenta is even more appealing when you look at the charging abilities of the van. An 11kW charger is standard on Visia spec vehicles but Acenta upwards get a 22kW as standard, as well as the ability to rapid charge at 80kW.
Charging takes around seven hours on a 7kW domestic supply, while a top-up from 15% to 80% is claimed to take just 37 minutes on an 80kW rapid charger.
As with all Nissan commercial vehicles, the Townstar EV comes with a five-year warranty, while the main battery is covered for up to eight years.
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Strengths Respectable charging speeds; competitive pricing
Weaknesses Good choice of trims; only top version gets the best safety kit