Renault Kangoo E-Tech van review
Renault's Kangoo E-Tech sets a fresh standard for what a compact full-electric van should be.
Renault's Kangoo E-Tech sets a fresh standard for what a compact full-electric van should be. In terms of range, power and practicality, it's a big step forward from its Kangoo Z.E. predecessor. As a result, this is the class benchmark.
The Renault Kangoo Z.E. was the market's original all-electric van, launched a decade ago to take the segment for compact LCVs into a brand new world. It lent its powertrain to its Renault Nissan Alliance cousin, the Nissan e-NV200, in 2014, but no other van was able to follow Renault's lead throughout the 21st century's second decade. Now, just as the opposition is - finally - catching up, the all-electric Kangoo LCV moves into its second generation, aiming to set standards that'll stay just beyond its competitors' reach.
Now it's called the 'Kangoo E-Tech' and offers huge advances in both power and range. And, like the similar petrol and diesel Kangoos, it's also larger and cleverer inside too, both for cargo and passengers. The market's been impressed, awarding this Renault and its cloned Mercedes Citan sibling an International Van of the Year award at launch. But will you be? Let's see.
The original all-electric Kangoo Z.E. van sold quite well for Renault, but buyers needed to overlook a couple of fairly significant issues. First, the rather feeble 143 mile driving range delivered by the relatively small 33kWh battery. And you only got that if you engaged an 'Eco' mode which stifled throttle responses from the modest 44kW motor and made the Kangoo feel gutless. But forget all about that now. With this replacement Kangoo E-Tech, there's a vastly bigger 45kWh battery giving a considerably improved 186 mile range figure. Yes, again you've to engage a rather restrictive 'Eco' mode to get close to achieving that, but because power output from the new electric motor has almost doubled to 90kW (121hp), that's no longer such a problem.
There are three selectable levels of regenerative braking, the most dramatic slowing the vehicle so much when you come off throttle that you hardly ever need to use the brake. This second generation model is significantly more refined too. With some other EV vans, all the deletion of a combustion engine does is to emphasise wind and tyre roar, but there's little of that here. And there's a whole range of advanced camera drive assist features available which could never have been fitted to the previous model.
Design and Build
Visually, unless you happen to notice the charging flap or the 'E-Tech' badging, there's very little to set this all-electric Kangoo apart from its combustion counterparts. You're not likely to notice that charging point because it's concealed behind the large Renault badge on the nose. That brand moniker is flanked by headlamps incorporating the brand's signature C-shaped daytime running lights. And there are also smarter light clusters at the rear, where the left hand door has been made wider to improve access in tight spaces.
There's an even bigger step forward inside, where just about everything that matters has been carried over from the current Clio supermini - steering wheel, dashboard, climate controls and the prominent infotainment touchscreen that appears further up the range. The cabin's more spacious too - now wide enough for the inclusion of an optional double passenger seat, which can also flatten to be used as a base for your laptop. If you need to carry more than two passengers, then it's worth checking out the LL21 Crew Van variant.
A clever feature that Renault unfortunately hasn't been able to engineer into right hand drive Kangoo E-Tech models is the 'Open Sesame' side door. With this, the lack of a B-pillar, combined with the swivelling bulkhead and a flat seat makes for an opening so big (1,446mm) that you could load in items of up to 3.0-letres in length. That's disappointing, as is the lack of another clever feature, the 'Easy Life' glovebox drawer. In compensation though, there's a folding partition bulkhead which adds an extra 0.5m3 of load volume and allows longer items to be transported, poked through from the loading area.
Market and Model
Pricing for this Kangoo E-Tech starts from around £33,000, once you deduct the £2,500 government Plug-in Van Grant. Prices range up to just over £36,000. As with the combustion Kangoo range, there's a choice of two trim levels - base 'Start' and plusher 'Advanced'. There's the usual choice of either the short wheelbase 'ML19' body shape or the longer 'LL21' body style, the latter also available in Crew Van form with a second row fold-out passenger seat. The Crew Van only comes with 'Start' spec. In case you're interested, the premium over a combustion Kangoo is around £11,000 over a TCe 100 petrol model - and just under £10,000 over a Blue dCi 95 diesel variant.
As with the combustion model, we would want to keep some budget aside for the useful folding seat arrangement which sees the passenger chair collapse and the mesh bulkhead hinge to one side to leave completely flat floor that runs from the rear doors into the passenger foot well. Another nice optional touch is the 'Easy Inside Rack', an interior roof rack that can hold lengths of up to 2,500mm and folds down from the roof when it's needed - a more secure solution than a roof rack and one that keeps valuable items away from prying eyes. Safety provision includes up to six airbags and you can specify all kinds of camera safety stuff this time round, including Lane Assist, tiredness alert and automatic emergency braking.
Practicalities and Costs
Carriage capacity is unaffected by the EV installation. So, which Kangoo E-Tech is going to suit your business? It isn't quite as straightforward as simply choosing the right body size - select either the 3.3m3 standard ML19 Kangoo van (up from 3.0m3 with the previous generation SWB model); or the 4.2m3 LL21 Kangoo van (up from 4.0m3 with the previous Maxi version). That's because in each case, there's the option to specify a fold-forward front seat that can boost said figures by quite a lot; to 3.9m3 for the standard version and to as much as 4.9m3 for the LL21 variant. Choose carefully, making full use of this feature and you'll find that item lengths of over 3.0-metres can be transported within this van.
As for the payload, well that's not much different from the combustion models either. For the standard van, this is limited to around 600kgs, but the longer wheelbase versions can carry up to 800kg because of a higher plated gross vehicle weight. There's also a 1,500kg towing capacity, which is much better than you get from most rivals. All models can squeeze in a standard Euro pallet thanks to the generous width between the wheel arches that all Kangoos share. You wouldn't have to lift said pallet too far off the ground to get the thing in either, thanks to a user-friendly loading height. As usual in this class, there's a sliding side door, with the option of a second on the opposite side.
This E-TECH variant can be charged via an 80kW DC public rapid charger in 42 minutes to full, with about half an hour's charging getting you about 106 miles of range. You can also use a slower 22kW charge - or hook up to 3-phase or single-phase charging. Replenishing the battery from an ordinary 7kW garage wall box takes around 6 hours. We gave you the range figure in our driving section - 186 miles. A 3 year/100,000 mile warranty is provided, with no mileage limit for the first two years and roadside assistance for the entire duration. You also get a 3 year paintwork guarantee and a 12 year anti-corrosion warranty.
Rarely does second generation vehicle design deliver as big step forward as is evident with this all-electric Kangoo van. We struggled to recommend its Z.E. predecessor except to businesses whose deliveries would be purely urban-based. This MK2 E-Tech model though, has a powertrain able to take you further afield, so it's just as well that the larger load area allows you to carry more cargo.
As with the combustion versions of this design, we're disappointed that right hand drive models don't get the clever 'Open Sesame' pillar-less sliding door that's available on the continent. But the more versatile cabin and the folding partition bulkhead provide some compensation for that. Renault's been building electric vans for much longer than its rivals. And in this case, you have to say that really shows.