When you are competing for sales with three other models that are virtually identical to yours apart from their badges, how do you gain an edge? By being a bit clever with the aftersales package you provide, that’s how.

That is the approach Toyota is taking with its new battery-powered Proace City Electric.

The newcomer shares the same design as Citroen’s e-Berlingo, Peugeot’s e-Partner and Vauxhall’s Combo-e; all four were accorded the What Van? Electric Van of the Year Award for 2022. Toyota distinguishes its offering from the rest of the pack by marketing it with a Toyota Relax warranty, which lasts for up to ten years/100,000 miles. 

The same package is being offered with all its light commercials.

After an initial three years/60,000 miles, owners can extend their Toyota Relax cover by a further one year/10,000 miles for no extra charge every time they have their van serviced by a Toyota dealer, until the warranty’s ceiling is reached. Anybody worried about City Electric’s 50kWh lithium-ion battery can rest assured that it is covered by an eight-year/100,000-mile package.

Power comes courtesy of a 100kW electric motor with a claimed WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) range of up to 168 miles. 

Customers can specify either a 7kW single-phase or an 11kW three-phase on-board charger. 

With the former you can recharge the battery in 7.1 hours if you plug the van into a wallbox says the manufacturer. Opt for the latter and it takes 4.5 hours if you have access to a three-phase supply.

Buyers can choose either the L1 with a 3.8m3 cargo bay and an 800kg payload capability or the longer L2, which offers 4.4m3 and 750kg respectively. The payload figures are the same as those of conventionally-powered versions.

Both models are equipped with the same powertrain, come solely in Icon trim, and can tow a trailer grossing at 750kg.

Instead of a gearshift, Toyota’s latest light commercial has what the maker describes as an e-toggle, which the driver uses to engage Park and choose Drive, Neutral or Reverse. 

A switch next to it allows Eco, Normal or Power drive modes to be selected, while another switch delivers additional regenerative braking energy to help charge the battery. It kicks in every time you lift your foot off the accelerator.

Sliding doors on each side of the load area come as standard, as does Smart Cargo. It gives you extra carrying capacity by allowing you to fold the passenger bench seat forwards and load through some of the longer items you may wish to carry.

Icon trim features include a reversing camera and an 8in touch-screen with smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

So what’s City Electric like to drive? It rides and handles well and it is of course quiet, although the absence of engine noise makes you more aware of decibels emanating from the tyres and the suspension. 

Treat the Power mode with caution though. If you opt for it when you are lightly-laden and hit the accelerator pedal hard, then you will practically take off, and drain charge from the battery at the same time.

It’s far better to stick with Normal if you have some weight on-board, switch to Eco if you are returning home empty, and deploy Power only if you are for example running at maximum gross in hilly terrain; or towing a trailer. 

It’s good to see that City Electric is allowed to haul a trailer incidentally –by no means all electric light commercials can.

Make use of the regeneration facility, unlike similar systems we have encountered in the past, it is not that aggressive, and could extend your range by several miles.

The message City Electric delivers is that it is useable. If your beat encompasses a regional town or small city, and you rarely travel further afield, then it should give you enough range to meet your needs for two or three days before you have to plug it in again – and you won’t miss your old diesel van at all.

Toyota Proace City Electric Icon L1 11kW

Price (ex VAT, PiVG) £27,053

Price range (ex VAT, PiVG) £26,928-£27,678

Insurance group TBC

Warranty 3yrs/60,000mls

Service intervals 2yrs/25,000mls

Load length 3,090mm

Load width (min/max) 1,229mm/1,527mm

Load bay height 1,200mm

Gross payload 800kg

Load volume 3.8m3

Electric motor 100kW/260Nm

Range 168mls (WLTP)

Charging time 4.5hrs