What Car? says...
The Toyota Proace City Electric might not be the first model that springs to mind when you think of the Japanese brand and commercial vehicles – you’re probably picturing something pick-up truck-shaped with a Hilux badge – but we think perhaps it should be.
You see, this Proace City Electric van is the result of some nifty collaboration between Toyota and the Stellantis group (Peugeot, Citroën and Vauxhall). That means it has three siblings: the Citroën e-Berlingo, the Peugeot e-Partner and the Vauxhall Combo-e.
Each vehicles has different styling, and also has a slightly different take on what customers expect from an electric van. The Proace City Electric is for drivers who don’t want to scrimp on kit – it’s available with just one trim level which gets you all the equipment you’re likely to want.
It costs more than its siblings, and is aimed at buyers who work for themselves and need a ruthlessly reliable van that’s comfy and has lots of features to make life on the road bearable.
Two wheelbase options are available, giving the Proace City Electric a maximum load volume of up to 4.4m3 (the same as the diesel Toyota Proace City). Payload limits are up to 800kg, which is impressively for a van lugging round a 50kWh battery pack and a 134bhp motor. Electric range is officially up to 168 miles on a full charge.
Aside from vans it shares underpinnings with, rivals for the Proace City Electric are actually relatively sparse. They will include the forthcoming Renault Kangoo E-Tech and Mercedes eCitan, although you might also consider slightly larger vans which are still viable city runabouts, including the Nissan e-NV200 and Maxus E Deliver 3.
Not content with having a commercial vehicle version, the Japanese manufacturer also offers a people carrier with seats for up to seven, the Toyota Proace City Verso Electric.
In this review we’ll tell you what the Toyota Proace City Electric is like to drive and live with, rating its performance, interior, running costs and more, to help you work out whether it's a good fit for your business. If it's not, we've also produced a rundown of the UK's best electric vans.
We can also help you find the best leasing deals for personal or business use through our free What Car? Leasing section.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Electric vehicles are generally associated with quietness because you don’t have an engine chuntering away under the bonnet, but not all electric vans deliver on that promise. The boxy bodies and larger-than-life door mirrors can generate a lot of wind noise on some models.
Fortunately, this isn’t an issue with the Toyota Proace City Electric, partly because it’s packed with a lot of sound-deadening material, and partly because its door mirrors are actually quite small.
True, you do hear a hint of whirr from the 134bhp electric motor, but it’s much quieter than the diesel engines in the regular Toyota Proace City. Plus, the City Electric feels far more responsive, because its full 192lb ft of torque is available from the moment you press the accelerator.
In fact, you might be surprised by just how peppy the Proace City feels, especially if you're not fully loaded down. Toyota gives you three driving modes – Normal, Eco and Performance – which either sharpen or slacken the accelerator response depending on your needs. We think Normal will be punchy enough for most situations (Eco can boost your range slightly, too).
The van's handling is better than with diesel versions, too. That's because the battery is beneath the floor, and therefore lowers the centre of gravity.
In fact, the Proace City Electric is actually better to drive than many combustion-engined cars, mixing accurate steering with strong grip and a well-balanced feel. Its tight turning circle makes manoeuvring on tight city streets fairly easy, too.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Inside, the Toyota Proace City Electric isn’t markedly different from its Peugeot, Citroën and Vauxhall siblings, and combines traditional analogue dials with a large driver’s information screen. That shows electric-specific information, including battery capacity and power consumption data.
There’s smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto built into the main 8.0in infotainment screen, which is handy if you want to bypass the Toyota software. You can’t access it wirelessly – you’ll have to connect your phone using a USB cable.
The system works fine once you’re connected, responding promptly to inputs. The resolution of the screen could be higher, though, and the standard stereo can sound a bit tinny.
Elsewhere, the Proace City Electric ticks the box as a comfortable electric van to be in. The driver's seat offers decent and there's enough adjustability in the steering wheel to ensure most people will be able to find a comfy position.
The materials used throughout feel of a suitably high quality, too, and they vary just enough in colour and texture to keep things interesting.
The Proace City Electric is easy to see out of from the front thanks to the relatively slim front pillars and the fact that, as in an SUV, you’re seated quite high up so you can look down on other cars.
Looking out of the back is harder because there’s a bulkhead behind the front seats. Still, a reversing camera is standard, or you can opt for the Visiopark 180-degree bird’s eye camera system from the options list.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Small vans still need to be practical, which is why the Toyota Proace City Electric’s ‘Smart Cargo System’ folding passenger seat is such a welcome feature. It doubles as a useful table you can work from, and front seat can also fold completely flat, increasing the loading length of the cargo area.
Folding the seat down increases the load volume of the Standard City Electric from 3.3m3 to 3.8m3, while in the Long version the volume increases from 3.9m3 to 4.4m3. It’s worth noting, though, that anyone using the passenger seat as originally intended is going to be fairly squashed as it’s quite narrow.
The Standard and Long vans have maximum load lengths of 1817mm and 2167mm respectively. They both have the same internal height of 1243mm (no high-roof models are available). The gap between the rear wheel arches is 1229mm, which is enough for a pallet to fit between them.
The rear doors and the side door open nice and wide, so loading your items inside the Proace City Electric should be a doddle. There’s nowhere handy to store your charging cables, sadly, but they do come in their own bag.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Proace City Electric come with more equipment, and also extra safety features including lane-keeping assistance, traffic sign recognition and blind-spot detection. Its list of extras and options makes it a very different proposition to the other small electric vans it shares underpinnings with, which instead focus on value for money.
If you still think the Proace City Electric is expensive after that, then remember this too – you essentially get a warranty of up to 10 years if you keep coming back to the Toyota network.
There’s another sweetener too: the car maker has partnered with British Gas to give buyers of its electric van a free home charger along with their vehicle. Granted, a government grant would usually cover most of the cost anyway, but it’s still a nice gesture.
Speaking of charging, the Proace City Electric can take a rapid charge from a 100kW supply get the battery from 0-80% in just 30 minutes. An 11kW home charger will do a full charge in 4hr30min, while plugging the van into a three-pin socket will take 30 hours or so.
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About the author
George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.
Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.
The Proace City Electric is officially rated by its maker as having up to 168 miles of range per charge. While that figure is taken from an official test cycle mandated by legislators, in our experience it’s hard to match in the real world, and especially with a fully laden van. We’d recommend banking on 120-140 miles, depending on conditions.
You can use anything from a standard electric socket to a dedicated electric vehicle charger. At best it can use absorb a 100kW supply, which can theoretically charge an empty battery to 80% capacity in 30 minutes. An 11kW charger can do a full charge in 4hr30min, but a normal plug socket will take closer to 30 hours.
It's sold with a warranty of up to 10 years/100,000 miles – although after the first three years/60,000 miles you have to have it serviced by a Toyota dealer annually to get a 12-month (and 10,000 mile) extension. The battery is covered by a separate, eight-year/100,000 mile warranty.