Mercedes-Benz eCitan is the last of the Merc vans to be made electric but it arrives at a time when small electric vans are coming into their own.
Mercedes chose to electrify its large vans first. They started with the Mercedes-Benz eVito and moved onto the Mercedes-Benz eSprinter. Small vans, however, never seemed on the radar. That's because the Mercedes-Benz eCitan is a shared product with Renault.
It never seemed likely that the first generation Citan would ever get electrified and borrow from the Renault Kangoo ZE. After a platform change, though, the Mercedes-Benz Citan is a very different animal. You only have to look at the Mercedes-Benz Citan dimensions to see that it is considerably bigger. A bigger, wider van has meant much more space for batteries. All of a sudden, the prospect of a Mercedes eCitan seemed more sensible.
With Renault having totally transformed their small van chassis, and relaunching their compact electric van as the Renault Kangoo E-Tech, the stars aligned for Mercedes to finally sell a small electric Citan van. The missing piece in the Mercedes’ electric van puzzle has fallen into place with the Mercedes-Benz eCitan.
The Mercedes eCitan is available in a few different versions. There's a standard wheelbase model, and as well as a long wheelbase van. As well as the size difference between the two, adding 424mm to the overall length, they also have different GVW.
The gross vehicle weight of the standard van is 2.2 tonnes, while the long wheelbase van is 2.5 tonnes. This is important when it comes to payload. More on that later.
The eCitan is also available as an eCitan Tourer - a van with a second row of seats in both short and long wheelbase - and as a premium passenger car called the Mercedes-Benz EQT.
There's jsut one option for the electric motor, and there's also only one battery pack option.
Buyer can choose between two different trim levels, Base and Pro.
Yes and no is the answer to that question. The Mercedes-Benz eCitan is based on the Renault Kangoo E-Tech but Merc has done what it can to make changes. Like the diesel Citan, the eCitan is largely Mercedes’ own doing. There are many shared parts: the chassis, electric motor and batteries are all Renault’s own. But unlike with the first generation Citan which only got visual and minor suspension changes, there’s now been as much personalisation as possible.
Unique suspension and steering feel have both been acheived. More obvious is the very Mercedes-like appearance of the exterior and interior of the van. There's also an enhanced level of safety systems over and above the Kangoo. Behind the scenes there's Mercedes' own connected systems that work on the MBUX system to deliver live data, as well as features like Hey Mercedes voice control.
Of course there are still a few tell-tale Renault components that you'll spot below the immediate eyeline of the dash. Buttons around the arm rest area, near the cup holders are the shared between the vans, but on the whole it's a pretty convincing overhaul.
The least touched area, is of course the rear loadspace. There are no differences between the Mercedes-Benz eCitan and the Renault Kangoo E-Tech in the cargo space. Even the design of the rear is the same.
What the Renault can offer, that the Mercedes cannot, is a smart little internal roof rack.
Power comes from a 90kW motor producing 245Nm of torque. That's the same as the Renault, in case you were wondering.
Although a significant upgrade on what Renault were previously offering for its electric vans, the 90kW is equivalent to 122hp. That means that the eCitan has almost as much power as a top-end small diesel van like the Citroen Berlingo.
The Mercedes-Benz eCitan gets a 45kWh lithium-ion battery which is located under the floor. It is claimed to be capable of up to 174 miles on a charge.
Charging speeds are up to can be done up to 80kW using a DC charger. Mercedes says it will take just 38 minutes to bring the eCitan battery level from 10% to 80%.
There’s also the option of AC charging, with 11kW or optional 22kW abilities.
When it comes to the interior, the difference between electric eCitan and diesel Citan vans is slight.
The most obvious change is that there is now important electric powertrain specific details in the digital display. These give details about the range of the battery and the current levels of energy consumption.
Another important change is that there are now buttons to cycle through the choice of different driving modes. Unlike other Mercedes electric vans where there are three driving mode, the eCitan only gets two. There's the standard Comfort setting and the more efficient Eco. You change this seeting through a button on the dash.
The rest of the interior is very typical of a Mercedes van. There's high quality plastics, and a sensible layout to the controls. Base trim models are a little lacking in refinement and have a drab all grey plastic interior, but Pro trim vans get nice splashes of contrasting chrome effect trim, and plenty of piano black surrounds.
Comfort levels are high, even on the Base van, but Pro really ramps up the luxury. Pro trim gives you a height-adjustable driver's seat, air conditioning and one touch electric front windows. There's also plastic flooring in the load compartment.
The most obvious feature, however, is the MBUX screen. This 7-inch touchscreen is the infotainment and connected nerve centre of the van. It operates in the same way as the systems in the diesel and other electric vans, providing smart phone mirroring for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as DAB radio, navigation and the Hey Mercedes voice assistant.
Sadly it's an optional extra, but an upgrade worth having.
The Mercedes-Benz eCitan drives any other electric van with instant power and torque delivery and a quite and relaxed drive.
But there are a few things that Mercedes does a bit differently to other manufacturers. Its electric vans have always tended to offer more options and abilities than the others. It's made them great fun to drive and also easier to set at the levels you are comfortable with when it comes to power or braking.
That said, the Mercedes-Benz eCitan isn't a true Mercedes, so compromises have been made.
The eCitan gets D-, D and D+ modes with the minus option increasing the regeneration to its highest, and quite severe, setting, the regular D mode leaving a normal but still forceful amount of regeneration and D+ allowing the vehicle to coast.
Although the modes and regeneration levels are named similarly to the larger vans, they are slightly different, with fewer settings than Mercedes’ own vans that get three driving modes and five levels of regeneration. Instead, the settings match that of the Kangoo E-Tech which also gets an Eco driving mode and three levels of regen.
It's perhaps the biggest dissapointment if, like us, you are a fan of the way things are currently done.
Fortunately, it doesn't dampen the overall experience of the eCitan, which is a pleasant and easy van to drive.
Visibility is good, and providing you have the height adjustable driver's seat, you can easily make the eCitan a comfortable space.
The electric motor delivers a good performance and while it’s not lightening quick compared to many electric vehicles it’s still plenty fast enough for a small van with a modest payload.
Aside from the appearance of the exterior and interior, there are other ways in which Mercedes has tried to make the eCitan their own.
The springs, shock absorbers and stabilisers of the eCitan are all different, which leads to a different feel as to how it rides and handles.
Many of the bits underneath like the motor and batteries might be the same, but there’s a subtlety in the way the Mercedes drives. The eCitan feels smoother and more comfortable as a result.
Like the Kangoo E-Tech it is also exceptionally quiet. In fact, the eCitan is perhaps slightly quieter than the French van. This is perhaps down to different specification for sound deadening, or it might just to to do with the road surfaces we experienced.
There is little in the way of wind noise, though, and road noise doesn't penetrate into the cabin too badly either.
Payload is always a tricky subject when it comes to small electric vans, but the Mercedes-Benz eCitan does quite well if you pick the right model.
As previously mentioned there are two different gross vehicle weights for the Mercedes eCitan. That means that a van that has a higher GVW will have a correspondingly higher payload.
The standard size eCitan has a GVW of up to 2240kg. This gives the standard wheelbase eCitan a payload of up to 544kg.
The long wheelbase eCitan has a larger 2490kg GVW. Payload for the long wheelbase van is increased to as much 722kg.
The eCitan has the same load volume capacity as the diesel van. That means a 2.9m3 capacity for the regular van and larger 3.6m3 capacity for long-wheelbase models.
Overall the standard van is a fraction under 4.5m long, while the long wheelbase van is just over 4.9m. All eCitan vans are also 1.85m wide and 1.8m high.
It almost feels like we're saving the best until last here. That's because Mercedes really prides itself on safety features and it's no different in the eCitan.
The standard van gets a generous amount of safety systems, while the list of other options available is really impressive.
Small vans are urban dwellers and as such they're exposed to a lot of danger and risks. The eCitan's standard safety kit goes some way to mitigate those risks.
As well as the legally required ABS and ESP systems, the eCitan gets Hill Start Assist, Crosswind Assist and Attention Assist. There's also a nifty upgrade to the now legally required eCall function that dials for help in the event of an accident. Communication to the driver is not in the language of the country you are in, but in the language set in the infotainment system.
Optional safety systems include: Active Brake Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Blindspot Assist.
There's also six airbags (front airbags, window bags, thorax sidebags) as standard, and the eCitan Tourer gets a new central airbag that is between the driver and the passenger which stops the two people coming together in the event of a particularly serious side collision.
The new Citan is a massive step up from the old model, so to base an electric vehicle on such a vastly improved van means that it is already well on the way to success.
It’s also slightly different to the other electric Mercedes, and while that shouldn’t be considered a bad thing – the larger vans do after all have their own issues, namely with range and payload, as they are conversions of diesel vans rather than on an EV prepared platform like the eCitan is – there are elements of the Mercedes way of doing electrification that the eCitan misses.
The Mercedes-Benz eCitan offers pound-for-battery-pound better range than its bigger van siblings, and is all the better for it.
As with many Mercedes products, you do feel that the Base trim level is a bit miserly. Pro trim is where we would suggest you aim for, but as with everything Mercedes it will come at a price. UK pricing hasn't been revealed yet, but the €36,000 price tage before taxes of the German van will be an indication as to where it is priced. Namely, more expensive than the Renault, even for the basic van.
The Mercede-Benz eCitan is as convincing an EV as the small segment has to offer. It's attractive, packed with safety features and has a sensible range.