By Tom Roberts
Nissan's now discontinued NV250 was a rebadged Renault Kangoo - a van which already shared its platform with Mercedes-Benz on the Citan. With a new Renault Kangoo just out, Nissan has continued its commercial agreement and launched the Townstar. And while the Townstar is similar to the new Renault and Mercedes-Benz offerings, there’s one big difference Vanarama Van Expert Tom Roberts wants to tell you about.
At first glance, there are not many hints as to what makes the Nissan unique when compared to its cousins. I say this a lot, but with panel vans it’s really difficult for the designers to make their vehicle stand out - especially when platform sharing. Vans need boxy loadspaces, so there’s only the front where creativity can be allowed to take hold. The first bite of any fruit is with the eyes and, as with most small vans, the Townstar is relatively understated with the corporate Nissan logo mounted front and centre.
Personally, I like the front of the Townstar. It’s sharp and angular, the headlights are narrow (almost slightly angry) and it’s a great look for a Nissan van. If you opt for a top-of-the-range Townstar, you’ll complete the look with some snazzy alloy wheels fitted as standard, which really sets the van apart from its cousins.
How Big Is The Nissan Townstar Range?
Like most vans in this class, the Townstar is available in 2 lengths designated L1 and L2 and a single roof height. There’s a solid choice of trim levels with 4 on offer, and under the bonnet… well, I’m going to leave you hanging on this because this is where there’s big news.
Is The Nissan Townstar’s Cabin Any Good?
As you’d expect for one of the newest vans on the market, the cab is modern and comfortable. There’s lots of room, the instrument panel is fully digital and very clear, and visibility is excellent with the deep dashboard meeting the bottom of the windscreen at a nice, low point. This area isn’t wasted either, with a storage compartment and tray on top.
The door bins are fairly modest (small) in size, but there’s a lidded glovebox and a storage box between the seats (although only on the models without the optional centre seat). The multimedia screen is also angled towards the driver (take note, Ford), a simple but excellent feature, and there’s a multi-function steering wheel allowing the driver to keep their hands on the wheel while controlling essential functions.
What Engine Choices Are Available On The Nissan Townstar?
This is where things get interesting. There’s no diesel option. Yes, that’s right. Unlike Renault and Mercedes-Benz, Nissan has decided to offer the Townstar as a petrol or electric van only. The 1.3-litre turbocharged petrol power unit is rated at a healthy 131PS and is coupled to a 6-speed manual gearbox. It’ll get you to an impressive maximum speed of 114mph (although you cannot actually drive this fast on UK roads, so don’t) and the official WLTP fuel consumption figures are 31.0-36.8 mpg.
Although there are a small number of petrol-powered vans available, some manufacturers have dipped a toe in the water before, offering a petrol alternative only to withdraw it again due to lack of demand. Has Nissan misread the market, or are they using the Townstar as a vehicle to reduce the overall emissions of their product range? Or maybe, they’ve looked into their crystal ball and seen an appetite for petrol, with some operators wanting to ditch diesel but who aren’t ready to go down the electric route just yet. Time will tell on that one.
What Are The Specs Of The Electric Nissan Townstar?
The 45kWh battery fitted to the fully-electric Townstar (Nissan doesn’t appear to have specifically branded it, other than calling it an EV) fuels a 121hp electric motor zipping the L1 van to 60mph in just 14 seconds, the heavier L2 taking a second longer and both with a top speed of 84mph. The all-important WLTP combined cycle range is 183 miles meaning that many operators could manage a full working week between charges, and you’ll get your battery pack back up to 100% of charge in 7 hours from your 7.4kWh home wallbox. Find an 80kWh DC public chargepoint and you’ll have 80% of capacity in a maximum of 42 minutes.
What Is The Spec Of The Loadspace In The Nissan Townstar?
You get twin rear and twin side loading doors on most models of the Townstar, making accessing the load space a breeze. The area is nice and boxy, and there’s minimal intrusion from the wheel arches meaning that the floor has almost straight sides. Load lengths are 1806mm and 2230mm for the L1 and L2 respectively, giving the vans 3.3 and 4.3 cubic metres of volume.
Payloads are healthy, although not class-leading for a van of this size, the petrol L1 offering 840kg with the L2 (for some reason) providing an extra 6kg of capacity. The electric L1 can carry a respectable 612kgs, but, due to its higher GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass), the L2 is capable of loads up to 788kgs. Towing isn’t always possible with an electric van but Nissan has rated the electric Townstar to be capable of pulling a 1500kg braked trailer. It’ll bring your driving range down a fair bit, but the facility is there should you need to take advantage of it.
What Trims & Options Are Available On The Nissan Townstar?
There’s plenty of choice when it comes to specification, the Townstar being offered in no less that 4 levels of trim – Visia, Acenta, Tekna and Tekna+. Entry-level Visia has snazzy LED headlights and daytime running lights as standard, and in the cab you’ll find Nissan has generously provided the all-important air conditioning.
Acenta adds an automatic climate function to the aircon, cruise control, an 8-inch colour touchscreen (which includes Apple and Android smartphone integration) and reverse parking sensors. In the loadspace, there’s LED lighting, a vital addition which should be standard on every van, in my opinion.
Next up is the Townstar Tekna, with its body-coloured bumpers and door handles, and the touchscreen now gets navigation added to it. There’s front, rear and side parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
The ultimate Townstar is the Tekna+. This adds some 16-inch alloy wheels (not on the L2 EV for some reason), and some great safety and driver aids including ProPilot automated parking, blind spot detection, traffic sign recognition, driver attention alert and automatic high beam control for the headlights. The EV Tekna+ gets even more goodies including a 10-inch touchscreen, intelligent adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and even a heated steering wheel.
What Length Is The Warranty On The Nissan Townstar?
The big advantage the Nissan Townstar has over the Mercedes-Benz Citan and Renault Kangoo is the warranty. Nissan provides all of its vans with a 5-year or 100,000-mile (whichever comes first) guarantee, which gives a new owner a huge amount of peace of mind. Roadside assistance is also included for the same time period. On the EV Townstar, Nissan guarantees that the battery will retain at least 70% of its capacity for 8 years, or 100,000 miles.
In short, the Nissan Townstar is a great small van and it’s no wonder the platform won the 2021 International Van of the Year award. Four excellent trim levels, a practical loadspace, some great tech and an electric platform which is up there with the best in terms of range and power. Oh, and there’s that 5 year warranty too!
My only concern is the lack of a diesel option. Now, as I’ve said, this could be very astute planning by Nissan's strategy people, but I think that fleet users in particular might feel that they’re being pressured into petrol or electric options, and they may well look to van ranges where diesel is still on offer. However, given that the Kangoo and Citan are being manufactured alongside the Townstar at Renault’s plant in France, Nissan could react quickly and add diesel to the Townstar range should demand warrant it. It will be interesting to see what happens next.