Mercedes-Benz eCitan Review
It’s probably fair to say that Mercedes-Benz was a little underwhelmed with the success of the original Citan. Based on the ‘OK but nothing spectacular’ Renault Kangoo, the German manufacturer attempted to take the van upmarket with some cab alterations together with bold, premium manufacturer badging (and premium pricing). It didn’t quite come off, and in addition, the enhanced residual values the company had anticipated didn’t come to fruition.
In what has possibly turned out to be a masterstroke, the German firm continued the partnership with Renault for the new Kangoo, a hugely improved van which, as I indicated in my review is in my opinion the best small van out there. I’ve also reviewed the diesel engined Citan which, of course, excelled in a similar way.
The van was always going to be marketed in fully electric form, and with the small van sector ideally suited to a zero-emission drivetrain competition, particularly from the established contenders from Stellantis was always going to be fierce. Is there a place for a premium product perhaps with a price tag to reflect this positioning?
On The Outside
It’s a smart looking van, easy on the eye and whilst uncontroversial, it will probably appeal to most. There’s not a huge amount of scope away from the front grill and badging for Mercedes-Benz to differentiate the van from its Renault (and not forgetting Nissan with the Townstar Electric) sibling but, aesthetically the designers have done a great job, the van looks very smart.
Motors, Batteries, Range and Charging
The eCitan is fitted with a 90kW motor which is equivalent to 122hp, an output that should be enough for pretty much anyone in a small van, even when loaded to the max. Perhaps equally important is the torque output of 254Nm available immediately due to the characteristics of an electric motor. In a diesel van, maximum torque isn’t available until the engine has achieved maybe 3000rpm, far too late for a quick entry into a roundabout, or a hill start on a steep gradient. The battery, rated at 45kWh isn’t huge by today’s standards (big = heavy = reduced payload) but still manages to provide the van with an official WLTP Combined cycle range of 176 miles (usual caveats apply).
At the time of writing the official charging times are unavailable on the Mercedes-Benz website but the battery will easily charge overnight on a home 7kW AC wallbox. The cab can accept a 75kW DC rate from a public chargepoint providing a 38 minute 10% to 80% top-up.
There are just the two, but even the base ‘Progressive’ eCitan comes with a 7” multimedia screen including navigation, Mercedes going its own way using the established MBUX system rather than relying on Renault’s own architecture. The van also has Apple and Android smartphone integration, rear parking sensors and a reverse camera. The eCitan ‘Premium’ mostly adds some external enhancements including LED headlights, painted bumpers, alloy wheels and metallic paint.
Body Options, Loadspace and Payloads
Typically in this sector, there are two body lengths available. L1 offers a load length of 1806mm with the L2 providing 2150mm. Loadspace volumes equate to 2.9 and 3.62 cubic metres respectively. Access is by twin rear doors which are asymmetric (ie, one is wider than the other), and there’s a single side loading door – most competitors provide a second one as standard on the longer models but this is available as an option, as is a rear tailgate.
Once again, accurate payload figures seem tricky to get hold of as this review is being written, but, if the reports of 544kg (not spectacular) for the L1, and 722kg (OK) are accurate, then these are useable for the majority. Once again there’s no information on towing but as the Kangoo E-Tech is approved to tow a braked trailer of up to 1500kgs there’s no reason to believe the eCitan will be any different.
The Cab Environment
Time for a copy and paste from my review of the diesel Citan…
‘Mercedes-Benz has stamped its authority here, the dash being completely different to that in the Renault. It’s classy, especially with the carbon fibre style gloss trim in the Premium model, giving a real air of quality and featuring the unmistakable Mercedes-Benz air vents. There’s a fair amount of cab storage, always a challenge for designers of a small van including a good sized tray on the dash top and a lidded centre storage compartment doubling up as an armrest. The steering wheel has plenty of multifunction controls but I found the two touchpad style buttons very difficult to get the hang of. The multimedia unit is nicely angled just slightly towards the driver although its interface (not the same as the Renault version) isn’t the nicest or most logical I’ve ever experienced. After a few days of familiarisation, it became reasonably easy to find what I was looking for whilst driving. In the lower centre section, there are two USB micro C sockets but no type A, which caused me an issue initially when I was unprepared with the wrong type of lead with me.
There’s definitely an air of Mercedes-Benz quality in both the design of the cab interior and in the materials used. As small vans go, it doesn’t get much better than this’.
A quick mention of the instrument panel, which is different to the diesel version. Although generally clear, the range remaining indicator which many drivers will need to consult regularly is quite small and initially not easy to locate with a quick glance. It would be nice for this to be a little more bold.
On The Road
Let’s summarise this aspect in a few headlines. It’s quick. It’s nimble. It’s quiet. It’s competent. It inspires confidence. This van is fabulous to drive.
OK, let’s not get too carried away with the superlatives. The 122hp motor does zip the van along rapidly, and, whilst I had no opportunity to drive the van unladen, I have every confidence that it would cope admirably with the best part of ¾ of a tonne on board. Although you’d expect an electric van to be quiet, you’d also forgive other sources of noise to become more apparent, but, that’s not the case here, just a modest amount of road noise and that’s about it. The steering is super precise giving you that aforementioned confidence to chuck the van around a bit more than you probably should. Handling and road holding are both impeccable.
Is it all good news? No, not quite, there are some niggles which tried to spoil things. I’m not too keen on the centrally mounted drive selector which is in the style of a traditional automatic transmission. I just couldn’t select reverse the first time, always moving the lever to Park in error – this caused embarrassment on more than one occasion when trying to execute a quick, cheeky manoeuvre.
In addition, the lever is used to select the recuperation mode (the braking action provided by the motor which places charge back into the battery). This operation seemed cumbersome and a bit hit and miss – although to be fair this could have been the result of driver error and me not consulting the drivers manual.
A button on the dash labelled ‘Dynamic’ allows the driver to select either Eco or Comfort drive modes, giving the choice of enhanced performance or range. Annoyingly (and Mercedes-Benz is not the only manufacturer guilty of this) the van reverts to the default Comfort setting every time it is started (or perhaps that should say switched on). I’d much prefer my choice to be saved.
The range remaining indicator seemed a little erratic, perhaps overreacting a bit. My first 5 mile journey saw the range drop by 15 miles despite driving conditions being good but, conversely, a 15 mile trip which had some long but gentle downhill gradients only took 5 miles off the range. It was difficult to get an overall feel for the accuracy but, it didn’t inspire confidence, unlike the excellent indicator on the Volkswagen ID Buzz Cargo.
This is a great little van. Apart from an odd little niggle there’s nothing it does badly. A decent range, an OK payload, a good spec level as standard and it offers a great driving experience. It looks good too and with list pricing much closer to the Renault than in previous times, there could be many tempted to pay just that little bit more for not only the badge but the cab enhancements too.
It’s an excellent, all round package.