A pioneer in people movers, Citroën has years of experience in developing versatile and spacious models for large families, and it’s brought that expertise into the 21st century with an electric version of its SpaceTourer.
Following on from the launch of the new C5 Aircross SUV Hybrid, Ami, ë-C4 and ë-Dispatch, the new ë-SpaceTourer continues Citroën’s electrification offensive. The large MPV is particularly well suited to the needs of businesses and of course large families, who want the benefits of comfortable, environmentally responsible and economical driving. However, with a rather restricted 143 mile range and a £45k price tag it’s neither practical for those looking to cover long distances or financially viable for a lot of private buyers, although that said there’s not exactly much choice in the way of electric MPVs. There’s the considerably more expensive Tesla Model X and Mercedes EQV, or the other offerings from the PSA group (now merged with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to create Stellantis) including the Vauxhall Vivaro-e Life Elite and Peugeot e-Traveller. There’s also the Nissan e-NV200 Combi which has been on sale since 2013 but is very dated to drive now and offers even less range (124 miles). As a family of six we find out if its two major downfalls make the Citroën ë-SpaceTourer a worthwhile purchase.
The ë-SpaceTourer uses the same 136bhp electric motor and 50kWh battery combination found in the Peugeot e-208, Vauxhall Corsa-e and DS 3 Crossback E-TENSE, however as the Citroën is a lot heavier it doesn’t deliver the same kind of performance, taking just over 13 seconds to get to 62mph before it tops out at 84mph, not that you’d want to go any faster. Still, the 192lb-ft torque, which is readily available from zero rpm, provides plenty of poke at low speeds. Built on Groupe PSA’s EMP2 multi-energy platform, which shares running gear with the Peugeot 3008 and the Citroën Grand C4 SpaceTourer, it is one of the most car-like vans to drive and more refined than other van-based people carriers.
While it’s easy and pleasant enough to drive despite its size especially round town with a turning circle of 12.40m (compared to 10.4-10.7m on a typical car) and electro-hydraulic power assisted steering, it’s not the most responsive of vehicles to drive on country roads. The steering requires a laughable amount of lock, there’s a lot of body roll if you approach a corner with even a modicum of enthusiasm and it washes out at the front end. Grip levels are nowhere near that of a regular MPV and it bounces around on broken surfaces. For the most part though the eSpacetourer is a comfortable companion, helped by the absence of noise and vibration that you’d otherwise associate with a combustion engine van.
There are three driving modes: Normal which is restricted to 106bhp and 155lb-ft of torque and is the best balance between range and dynamic performance, Eco which optimises energy consumption by reducing the output of the heating and air-conditioning, without shutting them off completely, and by limiting motor torque and power at 140lb-ft and 79bhp respectively, and Power which gives you access to the motor’s maximum 136bhp and 192lb-ft. We actually left it in Eco during our week with it preferring to prioritise efficiency over performance.
Like all electric vehicles the motor recovers energy under braking or during deceleration. Two energy recovery modes are available to the driver – ‘Standard’ which replicates a similar feeling to that of a conventional engine when you take your foot off the throttle, and ‘Enhanced’ for increased deceleration, which doesn’t quite allow for one pedal driving but means you’ll use the brakes far less than you would do.
Citroën quote an official range of 143 miles, but after a full charge it was showing 111 miles. Over our week with it, we averaged around 2.7mi/kWh and the predicted range decreased at roughly the same rate as miles travelled. It’s not the most efficient of vehicles – not surprising given it’s boxy proportions and the fact it weighs over two tonnes – and with a restricted range as it is, the Citroën ë-SpaceTourer isn’t the most practical of people carriers, especially for those who want it as a private hire vehicle. It’s a shame it isn't offered with the larger 75kWh battery that the e-Dispatch van can be specified with.
On the upside it has the ability to charge at speeds of up to 100kW, taking 30 minutes to reach 80 per cent of its range, but if you need to factor this in your day after every airport run for example, it’s almost going to certainly restrict how many jobs you can take in a day. There's also up to 11kW on-board AC charging capability for topping up in a couple of hours. For those with a 7.4kW wall box at home or place of work, it will fully juice from empty in less than eight hours.
In terms of running costs, the electric version is cheaper at the plug than the pump, there’s no annual tax to pay and servicing is more affordable with fewer moving parts, no need for costly engine oil changes and less wear and tear on expensive items such as brakes. But when you consider it costs £48,615 (in Business trim) versus £37,020 for the turbo diesel it’s going to take a few years to break even, leaving little incentive to go emissions free at the tailpipe unless you’re really committed to going green, or you drive in and out of London every single day of the year, in which case you would save over ten grand in Congestion Charge and ULEZ fees per annum.
The ë-SpaceTourer is offered with the M body style, so its 4.95 metres long, 1.92 metres wide and 1.90 metres high. The only tell-tale signs that its electric is the charging port on the left-hand front wing, grille blanking trim at the front of the vehicle and a new monogrammed ‘ë’ on the right side of the grille and on the tailgate. It can hardly claim to have attention-grabbing looks but it’s one of the better-looking van-based MPVs on the market.
You wouldn’t exactly use the words premium or range-topping when it comes to the materials, fit and finish and gadgets of the ë-SpaceTourer, but then Citroën is not renowned for crafting exquisite high tech interiors, what it does do however is make good people movers. The carpeted floor and fabric upholstery hides its van roots well, but there are still loads of plastic on show.
Visual cues that elude to its powertrain include an ë-Toggle gear lever, special instrument panel with a power meter showing consumption and charging information, battery charge status gauge, consumption gauge for the on-board electrical equipment (heating, air conditioning) and an electrical matrix displaying energy flow, remaining battery life and the charging status of the vehicle (current or delayed).
The 7 inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, DAB radio, USB socket and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring incorporates a new section under the heading ‘Energy’, which gives access to the vehicle’s electrical system dashboard. One can also view the charging stations nearby, along a selected route, and the range to each location according to the remaining battery.
With the battery pack fitted under the floor, Citroën was able to preserve cabin and boot space, so there was no loss of interior space compared to the non-electric versions. What’s more with sliding and removable independent rear seats, it’s easy to adjust rear cargo space to suit your needs.
Storage compartments can be found throughout the cabin – offering up to 74 litres. The lower glovebox features an audio jack, plus 12 V and USB sockets, while cup holders are usefully positioned either side of the dashboard and there are also two large front door bins that can hold 1.5 litre bottles while passengers in the second and third rows benefit from – much to the delight of our children – aircraft-style fold down trays, sun blinds and 12 V and 220 V sockets!
There are two trim levels – ‘Feel’ as per our test car – which comes as a five, seven or eight seater (arranged in a 2+3+3 layout), or ‘Business’ with upbeat styling and more equipment. Some of the standard safety systems include head-up display (unique to segment), driver attention alert, blind-spot monitoring, coffee break alert, collision risk alert and reversing camera with top rear vision, which comes in handy when trying to squeeze in small spots during the school run. The only real negative is the large tailgate is very heavy to open and close.
A five, seven and eight seat layout mean the Citroën ë-SpaceTourer opens up the option of electrified mobility to a variety of new buyers including families and private hire firms but its short range holds it back. If you cover more than a hundred miles a day, you might want to hold out for the seven-seat passenger version of Citroën’s e-Berlingo electric van with a range of up to 170 miles on a single charge, or the Peugeot e-Rifter and Vauxhall Combo-e Life which use the same technology, all due to go on sale later this year.
While it's not a game-changer, the ëSpaceTourer is a good option for larger families that do local journeys, or taxi drivers that work shorter routes but at the moment with that hefty price tag we can’t see it selling in volume.
Interestingly, the Citroën ë-SpaceTourer starts at £48,615 on the configurator while its sister vehicle, the Vauxhall Vivaro-E Life starts from £34,615. Also the Business version of the Vauxhall is almost on a par price-wise with the Life version of the Citroën but comes with a lot more toys. We took it up with the brand’s Head of PR and were told: “Citroën are currently reviewing the SpaceTourer range with a view to potentially being in line with our sister brands in terms of trim level offering as well as equipment and pricing. This is currently in the planning phase at the present so nothing is confirmed yet.” You heard it here first… Watch this space!
Price (RRP OTR): From £48,615, £49,795 (model as tested)
Top speed: 84mph
0-62mph: 13.1 seconds
Driving range (combined): 148 miles
Charging time: 7hrs 30m (7.4kW, 0-100%), 4hrs 45m (11kW, 0-100%), 32 min (100kW, 15-80%)
Insurance group: 38E
Vehicle warranty: 5 years / 10,000 miles
Battery warranty: 8 years / 100,000 miles (up to 70% battery capacity)