What Car? says...
Toyota is more associated with hybrid models, so even several years after its introduction, the Toyota Proace Electric remains something of a departure for the Japanese brand.
Its arrival shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, though. Like the diesel Toyota Proace, the electric version is based on the same platform as the Citroen e-Dispatch, Peugeot e-Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro Electric.
All four vans are produced by the mighty Stellantis Group (once known as PSA), and are available in two battery sizes: 50kWh and 75kWh. They give the Proace Electric – which is powered by a 100kW (134bhp) electric motor producing 192lb ft of torque – an official range of 142 and 205 miles respectively, according to WLTP tests.
Unlike its relatives, the Proace Electric is not available in a range of body styles and sizes. Instead, Toyota has chosen to offer just one mid-length vehicle to meet the needs of its key market – namely small and medium-sized fleets, which account for more than 95% of its van sales.
Rival electric vans include the Ford E-Transit Custom, Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo and Maxus E Deliver 3. There are also several hybrid models to consider, including the Ford Transit Custom PHEV and the LEVC VN5 (a van based on the TX electric taxi).
This Toyota Proace Electric review will tell you all you need to know about running one, including what it's like to drive, whether it's good value, how big the load space is and how it compares with its rivals. We have full separate reviews of the closely related Citroen e-Dispatch, Peugeot e-Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro Electric.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Demand for electric vans is still relatively low and, while they are growing in popularity, manufacturers have yet to start producing several power ratings for their vehicles as they would with a combustion engine model.
Toyota is not alone in having just the one 100kW (134bhp) offering for the Proace Electric – the Citroen e-Dispatch, Peugeot e-Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro Electric all have a single drivetrain option, too.
On the face of it, that might not seem very powerful, but because the electric motor delivers its power and torque instantaneously without the need for any gear changes, the Proace Electric feels more eager and capable than diesel equivalents.
There’s a brief lull between pressing the pedal and the van beginning to move, but the 192lb ft of torque produced by the motor quickly surges you forward and doesn’t really stop until you reach motorway speeds.
In fact it feels as fast as the most powerful Toyota Proace diesel (174bhp), while also benefiting from more stable handling thanks to the low-slung batteries. While we wish its steering was a little sharper (a Ford Transit feels far sportier in comparison), the Proace Electric’s impressive body control at least gives you the confidence to drive swiftly down a country road.
As you make progress, there’s a small amount of noise from the road and the whirr of the motor, but it delivers an air of sophistication you won’t find in conventionally powered commercial vehicles.
Toyota claims a WLTP-certified range of 142 miles for the smaller 50kWh battery and 205 miles for the larger 75kWh battery. We reckon those figures are a bit ambitious, though.
We estimate that, with careful driving, it would manage around 110 miles with the 50kWh battery and 175 with the larger 75kWh unit. If you’re looking for a van to use on long journeys regularly, a diesel Proace will probably suit you better.
The van defaults to Normal driving mode when you start it up. That gives you a small level of regenerative braking (which recovers energy to top up the battery), comparable to a light amount of engine braking.
There's a B mode button on the dashboard which lets you increase the effect significantly. If you press it, you’ll find that when you lift off the accelerator there’s a very obvious slowing down, to the point that the force is enough to activate the brake lights.
It’s effective, but a third, even more powerful mode would be welcome, while having the selection controls on the steering wheel rather than a button on the dashboard would make toggling to the optimum setting easier. We prefer the way the Mercedes eVito integrates its settings.
We found that Normal (which gives you access to 80% power and torque) was the ideal city driving mode. If you’re carrying a heavy load, though, we’d recommend switching to Power mode so you feel as though you have some grunt at your disposal. Eco mode cuts the available power to 60% of the total and torque down to 70%, and acceleration is greatly decreased.
Power mode is best for towing, which is something of a party piece for the Proace Electric and its siblings – they can tow up to one tonne, more than their competitors.
Strengths Instant power delivery gives nippy performance; decent towing capacity
Weaknesses Lack of 'one-pedal driving' ability; limited range from smaller battery
The interior layout, fit and finish
You have to look closely to spot the differences between the Proace Electric’s interior and the one in the regular Toyota Proace, but there are a couple.
For one, the Proace Electric gets its own seat material: a typically Toyota black cloth with the ends of the seat bolster finished in leather. It’s an attractive touch and helps raise the perceived quality of an already solid-feeling and well screwed together interior.
Secondly, the instrument cluster has been overhauled. Instead of a rev counter, there's a power meter to tell you how much energy you're using. The fuel gauge has been replaced by a battery charge level indicator and the trip computer has been modified to provide you with a predicted electric range. There’s no gear stick – instead, you select forward and reverse using a rocker switch on the lower centre of the dash.
The rest of the interior is as you’ll find in the regular Proace. That means it’s comfortable but a little on the small side, which is a problem it shares with the virtually identical Citroen e-Dispatch, Peugeot e-Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro Electric. The seating position, for example, is quite low, while taller drivers will struggle with leg room. It doesn’t have as many storage compartments as you’ll find in the Ford Transit Custom or VW Transporter either.
The Proace Electric's relatively narrow windscreen pillars and bluff nose make checking that the road is clear at a junction a doddle, but manoeuvring into tight gaps can be a little tricky because the door mirrors are surprisingly small. Help is at hand in the form of standard-fit rear parking sensors, while automatic headlights and automatic windscreen wipers should help increase visibility in poor conditions.
All models get a 7in touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring. The system is a little laggy at times, but there are shortcut buttons for most functions on either side of the screen.
Strengths Feels solidly built; standard-fit park sensors; good forward visibility
Weaknesses Cramped for taller drivers; disappointing interior storage; small door mirrors
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
With just one body size on offer – compared with the three sizes available from its siblings – the Toyota Proace Electric range is a simple one.
The van measures 4959mm in length and is 1920mm wide, with an overall height of 1890mm. The loadspace has a length of 2512mm, a maximum width of 1628mm and an internal height of 1397mm. Give or take a few mm, that's identical to the space offered by mid-length versions of the Citroen e-Dispatch, Peugeot e-Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro Electric.
Like those three vans, it's also available with an optional Smart Cargo load-through hatch, located in the bulkhead. That adds 1158mm to the maximum lengths that can be carried and increases the standard maximum load volume from 5.3m3 to 5.8m3.
Payloads depend on the size of the battery, with the smaller 50kWh battery version capable of carrying 1226kg and the larger 75kWh van able to transport up to 1000kg. That’s impressive when you consider that the best performing diesel Toyota Proace has a 1487kg payload.
Strengths Payload is comparable with diesel Proace; optional load-through hatch boosts flexibility
Weaknesses Big-battery models can't carry as much as smaller-battery models
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Choosing an electric van, whether you pay up front or lease, will cost significantly more than an equivalent diesel model. On the other hand, you'll enjoy significantly cheaper running costs provided you can charge the van cheaply and use it in a charge-based emission zone.
Talking of charging, the Toyota Proace Electric battery can be topped up from 0% to 80% in about 30 minutes for the 50kWh version and 45 minutes for the 75kWh if you have access to a 100kW DC rapid charger.
Residual values for the Toyota Proace Electric are impressive by the standards of the class and in line with the Citroen e-Dispatch, Peugeot e-Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro Electric. Indeed, all four vans hold on to their value better than premium rivals such as the VW ABT eTransporter and Mercedes eVito – we suspect their relatively good electric ranges make them more appealing long-term prospects.
We also suspect that Toyota knows its audience for the Proace Electric will be looking for a mid-level fleet-spec van. It therefore makes sense that of the three trim levels offered on the diesel Toyota Proace (Active, Icon and Design), the electric version only gets the mid-spec Icon trim. That comes with automatic windscreen wipers and headlights, an electronic parking brake, cruise control, air conditioning and rear parking sensors.
As we mentioned earlier, the closely related e-Dispatch, e-Expert and Vivaro Electric give you choice of sizes and trims, so why choose the Japanese van? Well, the Toyota has an ace up its sleeve – its warranty.
The Proace Electric gets a five-year warranty rather than the three years offered by the other brands (all four have a 100,000-mile limit). Also unlike its siblings, the Proace Electric can have its warranty cover increased by one year each time it's serviced by Toyota, up to a maximum of ten years. That additional peace of mind could count for a lot – and Toyota came an impressive second in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey too.
Strengths Decent rapid charging capability; solid resale values; longer warranty than its siblings
Weaknesses Narrow choice of sizes and trims
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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.