Renault provides van platform and electric powertrain for new compact MPV

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Cars based on vans have been commonplace for a long time, but the popularity of people-moving Citroën Berlingos and the like – dog cars, I like to call them – is on the wane in sales terms, due to the rise of SUVs. Which makes the new Mercedes EQT a curious thing.

Being derived from the recently introduced T-Class (which is the passenger version of the second-generation Citan compact van) means the EQT shares its platform with the Renault Kangoo, and in fact it’s built by the French company in Maubeuge.

The single front-mounted 122bhp electric motor and 45kWh battery are also familiar, coming from the eCitan and Kangoo E-Tech, and in this application are officially enough for a range of 175 miles.

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Charging can occur at rates of up to 80kW, taking the EQT from 10-80% in as little as 38 minutes.

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Prices are expected to start at about £48,000, for which you will get the Advanced Plus trim level, including either a yellow or high-gloss black interior theme, chrome detailing, ambient lighting, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, height-adjustable front seats, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.

Premium trim adds a number of driver assistance and safety systems, including semi-automatic parking and LED headlights with automatic high beam.

Premium Plus then brings sat-nav, keyless go and smart-looking 17in twin-spoke alloy wheels in place of the standard 16in ones.

Every EQT gets synthetic leather upholstery plus an upmarket suede-like material on the doors and dashboard, integrated into which is a 7.0in touchscreen running Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system with voice recognition.

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A heat pump for the air conditioning is also standard to improve heating efficiency and suitability for cold weather.

As the EQT is based on a van, it provides plenty of storage space, with the boot volume measuring 551 litres and increasing to 1979 litres when the rear seats are folded flat.

It’s an elegant interior with some high-quality materials that you would expect in a Mercedes, but it still feels like a van. The boxy interior is noisier than you would imagine an EV’s should be, with noticeable motor whine and more wind and road noise than in Mercedes’ conventional EQ cars.

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Despite this, rear passenger space is quite limited. The seats are fitted considerably higher than those in the front to give occupants leg room above the large battery, meaning adults sitting there will feel quite close to the ceiling.

If you would instead have children back there, though, you will be pleased to learn that there are three Isofix mounts as standard.

The EQT is a comfortable vehicle to spend a lot of time in, with a ride that’s noticeably softer at the front end than at the rear.

It handles well too, controlled by direct steering, even if its van platform inevitably makes it less dynamic than a regular electric car.

Fully load the EQT with your family and their luggage and the motor will have to move two tonnes with 180lb ft of torque. It’s hardly lightning-quick, then, but it can muster a decent turn of pace.

You will only really feel like a snail if you use the EQT’s towing capacity to its impressive full extent with 1500kg worth of small boat, jet-ski or whatever other ‘lifestyle’ enabling equipment.

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The EQT is slightly more spacious and better to drive than the Citroën ë-Berlingo and its Fiat, Peugeot and Vauxhall offshoots. However, those have the big advantage of offering a seven-seat layout within a stretched, long-wheelbase body, which Mercedes isn’t expected to offer us until mid-2024.

Until then, the EQT will struggle to make sense, because there are much more enticing yet hardly less practical electric SUVs available in the same lofty price bracket.

George Barrow