Vauxhall Vivaro-e electric van review

The impressive Vauxhall Vivaro-e is the best pure-electric van we've driven yet, with a great driving range for the asking price

Vauxhall Vivaro-e
£27,028 - £38,478
Electric

Pros

  • Long driving range
  • Pretty good value
  • Nice to drive

Cons

  • Wide-angle mirrors needed
  • Cargo area not the largest
  • Slow charging at home
Battery size Range Wallbox charge time Rapid charge time
50kWh 143 miles 7hrs 30mins (0-100%, 7.4kW) 32mins (0-80%, 100kW)
75kWh 205 miles 11hrs 20mins (0-100%, 7.4kW) 45mins (0-80%, 100kW)

After a slow start, the electric van category has really gathered momentum during 2020. The first of a new wave of models designed from the outset to run zero-emissions drivetrains – as opposed to being adapted from diesel-engined vans – has arrived.

The Vauxhall Vivaro-e is a sister model to the Citroen e-Dispatch and Peugeot e-Expert, and is available with two battery sizes, 50 or 75kWh, giving a driving range of 143 or 205 miles respectively, according to official testing. That's significantly better than rivals like the Volkswagen e-Transporter and Mercedes eVito, yet the Vauxhall remains competitively priced.

You'll find the Vivaro-e's electric motor where the engine sits in the diesel version, while the batteries are accommodated under the cargo compartment floor, so load space is identical to the diesel's. The motor and batteries are the same as those in the Vauxhall Corsa-e supermini and its Peugeot e-208 sister model, so total power output is 134bhp, which is enough for a motorway-friendly top speed of 84mph.

As well as the choice of battery sizes mentioned above, you can pick from Dynamic and Elite trim levels; the former gets steel wheels, black plastic bumpers, cruise control, automatic wipers and lights and rear parking sensors. Elite adds car-like luxuries such as alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers, sat nav and an alarm, and is also available in five-seat double-cab form, while the Dynamic is a panel van only.

Sit inside and you'll see the Vivaro-e is near-identical to the Vivaro diesel, although in place of the rev counter there's an energy gauge for the battery, while the gearlever has been replaced by a drive selector for switching between Eco, Normal and Power driving modes. Space up front isn't quite as generous as in some rivals, but it's far from being a tight squeeze. The glovebox is on the small side, but there's dash-top storage and the twin-passenger seat base flips up to reveal more storage underneath.

Like all electric vans, the Vivaro-e's relatively high purchase price has to be set against the significant running-costs savings to be made compared to a diesel van. Vauxhall itself estimates you can save about £100 a month compared to a 2.0-litre diesel Vivaro, based on covering 40 miles a day at a per-mile cost of 2.1p in the Vivaro-e, versus 10.3p for the diesel. Servicing costs are lower, too, while there's no road tax, Benefit-in-Kind is levied at 60% of the normal van rate and the Vivaro-e is exempt from the London Congestion Charge.

City centres are where electric vans like this are at their best; while they're perfectly capable of taking to the motorway, sustained running at 60 to 70mph, especially with a full cargo bay, will see the potential range drop significantly, so this is not really a vehicle for regular long-distance runs.

When it's time to charge, you can use a wallbox at home or at a business premises, but at a maximum speed of 7.4kW this is best reserved for overnight charging; it'll take over seven hours to replenish the 50kWh battery and more than 11 hours to do the same for the 75kWh unit. For quicker top-ups while out and about, the Vivaro-e has up to 100kW DC rapid-charging capability – enough to get the smaller battery from near-empty to 80% in half an hour, and the larger to the same capacity in just over 45 minutes.

Turning to load space, two body lengths are available (called L1 and L2), but at the moment there's no variation in roof height, and the standard height is on the low side compared to some rivals. The rear double doors and sliding side doors don't offer the widest access to the cargo area, either, so while the van might have enough room inside for a very tall item, the height and width of the doors might prevent you from carrying it in the first place. Cargo volume is unchanged compared to the diesel Vivaro, at 5.3 cubic metres in the L1 and 6.1 cubic metres in the L1, but the electric model can't quite match the diesel's maximum payloads, managing about 200kg less in all instances.

To drive, the Vivaro-e is much more refined than its combustion-engined counterpart, as the electric motor is so much quieter than a diesel engine. Tyre and wind noise do become evident at higher speeds, but it's far from deafening. The van is also very simple to drive; you simply press the starter button on the dashboard to bring the electric motor to life and it's ready to roll away. Light steering makes maneuvering around town a breeze, while the weight of the batteries makes the rear axle less susceptible to bouncing around when the load bay is empty.

The three driving modes mentioned above feel noticeably different: Eco limits use of climate control and dulls the throttle response considerably in order to achieve maximum range, while Normal is perfect for everyday use, giving strong acceleration to around the 40mph mark. Power is useful for when the van is heavily loaded, but does hit range quite considerably the more you use it.

There are also different braking modes, with the standard setting allowing the van to coast smoothly when you lift off the throttle, while a 'B' mode brings a stronger slowing effect when you lift off – but quite strong enough to allow for one-pedal driving, so you still need to use the brake pedal to come to a complete halt.

Overall, the Vivaro-e is a very impressive electric van package. It offers an extremely good driving range for the price, even with the smaller of the two batteries, although it remains best suited to the typical electric-van use case of urban multi-drop deliveries rather than long-distance motorway runs.