Panel Vans Are Big Outside US: Toyota and Nissan Debut New Ones

Smaller panel vans are very popular throughout Asia and Europe. In the US-not so much. Volkswagen will be testing the waters with the retro ID Buzz in a year or two. But they are such sales successes in other markets that both Nissan and Toyota have unveiled new electric panel vans. Nissan’s is based on its Townstar van while Toyota is sticking with its diesel engine in the Proace City. It is leaving electrification for next year when it will add a 134 hp motor and 50kWh battery. 

Toyota Proace “Design” panel van version

Toyota Proace panel van
Toyota Proace panel van | Toyota

With the Proace City Toyota has added the “Design” trim, which means it can be loaded with more power, better looks, and creature comforts. Soon it will offer a 128 hp 1.5-liter diesel, replacing the standard 99 hp version. That is hooked to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Toyota Proace City
Toyota Proace City | Toyota

Lower trims include the Active and Icon versions. These lower models have 16-inch steel wheels while the Design trim gets 16-inch alloy wheels. It also adds body-color bumpers, and extra safety features including pre-collision, lane departure warning, road sign assist, and driver fatigue warning.  

With the base Active trim, one gets automatic headlights, air-conditioning, electric windows, and DAP audio with Bluetooth. The Icon model adds automatic wipers, multi-adjustable seats, and a touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Parking sensors and a reverse camera are part of the package.

The Nissan Townstar panel van comes with a gas or EV powertrain

Nissan Townstar interior
Nissan Townstar interior | Nissan

Nissan is ahead of Toyota in the electrification department. It still offers a gas engine, but also has an all-electric powertrain. Choosing the Townstar’s gas version gets one the 1.3-liter four-cylinder with 128 hp. With a range of 177 miles, it is powered by a 120 bhp motor fed by a 44kWh battery. 

Nissan Townstar panel van
Nissan Townstar panel van | Nissan

The Townstar replaces the NV200 which was also sold in the US. A rebadged version of it was also fielded by Chevy. That also included an earlier version of the electric powertrain in the new Townstar. Cargo is loaded to a 260 cubic inch floor with towing and payload capacity at 3,300 lbs. 

To save on fuel the gas-powered Townstar utilizes aerodynamic shutters that close when cooling isn’t required. That helps the air move around the van instead of going into the engine compartment, which adds drag. It should be noted that with the electric version Nissan offers an eight-year vehicle warranty and 100,000-mile warranty with the battery. 

The Proace City shares its platform with three other brands

Peugeot e-Partner panel van
Peugeot e-Partner panel van | Stellantis

The Townstar also has a host of safety equipment. That includes trailer sway assist, hands-free parking, intelligent cruise and emergency braking, pedestrian detection, and a 360-degree camera. A 10-inch digital screen is found inside, with an eight-inch infotainment screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both available, as is a wireless phone charger. 

Toyota shares the Proace architecture with the Peugeot e-Partner, Citroen Berlingo MPV, and Vauxhall Combo-e vans. Other than featuring different fascias they are virtually identical. All of these with the exception of the Proace, are under the Stellantis tent. So this architecture has been spread across four different brands and two different companies. Might one of them show up in the US as a Ram cargo van too?

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