Opinion is divided as to whether hybrid or range-extended LCVs have a meaningful role to play on the journey to going green. They are due to be phased out in 2035, five years after petrol and diesel vehicles, but if they do have a place in the market then LEVC’s VN5 has a decent claim to be the best available.

In truth, the VN5 only has one comparable rival, Ford’s Transit Custom PHEV, and both brands have plans for fully electric vans in the future. 

LEVC says the VN5 has an all-electric range of 60 miles but can cover just over 300 miles when the range-extender comes in to play. With on-board 50kW DC charging, LEVC claims the VN5 can be fully charged in 30 minutes. Charging with a standard 7kW socket takes 225 minutes. 

The VN5 has a load volume of 5.5m3 and a payload of up to 830kg, although this falls to 780kg for the spec-loaded Ultima driven here. The VN5 also has a maximum roof-load capacity of 100kg. The hybrid Custom PHEV has a pure-electric range of just 30 miles but a total range of 345 miles. For most operators needing emission-free urban access, we reckon the 30 extra miles you get on electric power from the VN5 would be more useful than the 45 miles the Custom adds from its petrol engine.

Beneath Ultima are the Business and City grades. All trims come with Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio and a 9in touchscreen, plus safety features such as forward-collision warning, post-impact braking and cruise control. City trim adds the Safety Pack, comprised of road sign information, speed limit intelligent function, lane departure warning, driver and passenger curtain airbags, and front and rear parking sensors. The flagship model includes electrically adjustable heated seats, a rear-view camera, satnav, body-coloured bumpers, and 22kW AC fast-charging capability.

The VN5 provides three drive modes: Save retains the electric charge in extra-urban settings such as motorways, Smart switches between petrol and electric power for mixed routes, and Pure EV is designed for urban driving. The transition between the modes is smooth, in Smart our VN5 remained mainly in electric mode as there was sufficient charge and we were driving in the city, but switching from Pure EV to Save is reasonably comfortable and does not dramatically increase vibration or noise inside
the cabin. Two stages of regenerative braking can be selected by flicking the gear lever to the right and by choosing the stronger setting there is rarely any need to use the foot brake, which makes for a less tiring urban drive.

Unlike the Custom PHEV, the VN5 does not have an EV Charge mode, which uses the petrol motor to both power the van and top up the battery, but when testing the PHEV we found this mode to be noisy and to cause the powertrain to lose responsiveness.

The VN5’s taxi heritage (it is based on the LEVC TX London cab) means it has, at 10.1m, a tighter turning circle than any other medium-sized van. As we discovered, this can be handy when making U-turns in London traffic. With a turning circle of 10.9m, however, the Custom PHEV runs closer than most, and the Ford wins out for payload with 1,110kg in Limited trim, and a load volume of 6.0m3

On the downside, the VN5’s London taxi lineage means it’s not likely to win any beauty contests, LEVC describes the van as ‘sleek, sophisticated and uncompromising’, but while we would not argue with the latter two adjectives, sleek it is not. We were not convinced by the touchscreen-dominated controls in the cab and found the satnav, which requires you to write the location address on an e-signature style screen, particularly frustrating to use.

LEVC VN5 Ultima

Price (ex VAT) £52,000

Price range (ex VAT) £46,500–52,000

Insurance group TBC

Warranty 5yrs/150,000mls

Service intervals 25,000mls

Load length 2,447mm

Load width (min/max) 1,109/1,574mm

Load bay height 1,373mm

Gross payload 780kg

Load volume 5.5m3

Engine size/power 1,477cc/150hp

Combined fuel economy 314mpg

CO2 21g/km