9.12.2020Citroen e-C4 first drive
Citroen’s first proper foray into the electric vehicle market is with its new e-C4. Aimed at offering customers the choice between electric, petrol, or diesel without any compromise for the EV version, the e-C4 is launched alongside with the rest of the new C4 line-up. Unlike other PSA Group stablemates - which have opted for a supermini/crossover to kick-start their pure-electric fleet - Citroen has gone for the larger e-C4, which will take on the likes of the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Ioniq Electric, and VW ID.3. We’ve had an early try of a left-hand drive version on UK roads.
Review by Chris Lilly
The electric version is just about the fastest C4 model you can get right now, with the e-C4 completing the 0-62mph sprint in 9.0 seconds. It’s a tenth slower than the manual PureTech 130 petrol version, but feels quicker because of the instant response the electric motor provides. Drivers will need to have the car in ‘Sport’ mode to complete that sprint however. In Normal, the e-C4 doesn’t feel particularly responsive for an electric car compared to some rivals. Having a 100 kW electric motor will play some part in this since many - though not all - competitors have typically 150 kW on offer. However, the e-C4 doesn’t feel sluggish, and will be more than a match for daily tasks. It’s comfortable with motorway stints, and clearly very capable around town, as an EV should be.
Citroen’s focus is very definitely on comfort, and here the e-C4 excels. Fitted with the French firm’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions, the suspension has a buffer top and bottom allowing for the springs to be set-up softly, but without fear of hitting the bump-stops every time you drive over a harsh road surface. It works very well, and has been well tested across much of the Citroen range before being applied to this latest C4 line-up. The suspension is nicely set-up considering many electric cars can prove extremely refined due to little-to-no engine noise, so having a waft-along ride suits both the Citroen brand and the e-C4’s driving dynamics. It’s not a wallowy-old-Hector however, and retains decent levels of body control in the bends; it’s simply more suited to pottering about town or cruising on the motorway than being chucked down a country road. The turning circle seemed vey small, which will certainly help those regularly driving in tight streets or cramped car parks. Not for the keen driver then, but excellent for those prioritising comfort.
It’s clear that the new C4 - and by extension the e-C4 - is not going to be considered a beautiful car, but it’s nicely designed, if a bit fussy for my tastes. It’s a car that looks better in the metal than in pictures, and sharply styled elements like the headlights bring a sense of purpose to the design. The shape has hints of crossover to it, but the proportions are those of a conventional family hatchback, and thankfully that translates to the interior too. There’s a significant sill to climb over, but once inside, head, leg, and shoulder room in the rear is good even for adult passengers. Those up front can sit relatively far back without encroaching unduly on passenger space, and further back, the boot is a good size for life as a family workhorse. The sloping roofline cuts into rear load space a little above the tonneau cover, but there’s it doesn’t dip too soon to affect passengers in the back.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The interior is a significant step forward for Citroen’s family car offerings, with a good-sized touchscreen infotainment system sitting classily on the dashboard. The rest of the centre console is neat and tidy, both to look at and use. Drive selections are made using a recessed rocker switch which means the transmission tunnel is fuss-free, and although the materials used don’t feel of the highest quality, they certainly aren’t bargain basement either. I really liked the steering wheel, and the digital driver’s instruments were clear to read if not the most sophisticated on the market. There’s a new feature for front passengers with a specific pop-out tablet tray and holder for their iPad or similar, which is sure to prove popular on longer trips.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The Citroen e-C4 has a range of up to 217 miles on a charge, which puts it just ahead of the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and a little behind the Nissan Leaf e+ in terms of official outright range. On a chilly morning’s drive around the Midlands, the e-C4 had a calculated range of around 170 miles on a charge, which had a good blend of city and country roads, plus a stint on the motorway/dual carriageway. It’s not a perfect example of what drivers can expect on a winter’s day - there was a frost on the ground - but it’s not a bad one, and I’d expect a longer stint with the car to bear that out.
The 200+ mile range quoted by Citroen is possible from a 50 kWh battery. It’s fitted to the same platform as that used with the Peugeot e-208 and Vauxhall Corsa-e for example, but with the architecture set to its largest size. The powertrain is also fitted to those PSA Group models, and others as well, so is well proven and easy to drive. There’s a B-mode on the drive selector which adds in strong levels of brake energy recuperation, though I would have preferred stronger still for almost one-pedal driving, or allow variable levels to swing up and down the range of strength easily. Charging can be carried out at up to 100 kW DC using the CCS inlet, and there’s a 7 kW on-board charger for AC use, with the option of an 11 kW on-board charger should drivers want faster charging times.
Available on three trim levels - Sense Plus, Shine, and Shine Plus - the Citroen e-C4 has a very good level of kit as standard. All e-C4 models get a Safety Pack Plus for a suite of assistance systems, plus LED headlights and fog lamps, 18-inch alloys, acoustic insulation pack, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, dual-zone air conditioning, automatic headlights and wipers, head-up display, 10-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, Bluetooth & DAB. Models further up get 360-degree parking sensors, intelligent high-beam headlights, and heated steering wheel.
Citroen’s e-C4 comes as the family-hatchback market needed a fresh injection of new electric models to chose from. The Leaf and Ioniq Electric were long-standing options, but other family-friendly car buyers had to head to crossovers or SUVs in the mass-market sector. The new e-C4 - alongside the VW ID.3 - shows there’s plenty of choice in the hatchback sector, and Citroen is a real competitor. The conventional C4 is a good car, but the electric e-C4 is better. Smoother, more refined, quick, practical, and quick to charge, t’s a great choice of EV.
Model tested: Citroen e-C4
Body-style: Family hatchback
Engine / CO2: 100 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Sense Plus, Shine, and Shine Plus
On-road price: From £29,180.
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Available to order, deliveries expected early 2021
Review rating: 4.0 Stars