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The future of family hatchbacks?

The new ë-C4 is the fifth electrified model to be announced this year by Citroën, but this is the first zero emission car with the others being a hybrid, quadracycle, electric van and MPV. Question is, could this reinvented compact hatchback prove a family game changer?

Discover EV expert verdict...

4 / 5

PROS
  • High levels of comfort
  • Very well specified
  • Can cover up to 217 miles on a charge
CONS
  • Slower than rivals
  • Infotainment not best in class
  • Polarising looks

Overview

In pursue of its electrification offensive for this year, Citroën has turned its attention to the compact hatchback segment with its brand new 100 per cent electric ë-C4. Playing a major role in the European market, accounting for nearly 28 per cent of C-segment sales in 2019, does the new ë-C4 have all the qualities needed to shake up a segment that now needs to reinvent itself? Discover EV takes up the opportunity for a first drive.

Citroën ë-C4 rear three-quarter
Citroën ë-C4 rear three-quarter

Driving

The ë-C4 is built on the PSA Group’s CMP modular platform, so it has the same 132bhp electric motor linked to a 50kWh lithium ion battery as the DS 3 CROSSBACK E-TENSE. It is 0.3 seconds slower to 62mph compared to DS Automobile’s offering, taking 9 seconds, but with 192lb-ft of torque available from zero rpm, it's great for around town. And with a top speed of 93mph it’s suitable for motorway munching, too.  

Not least because the powertrain is near silent and it’s so comfortable thanks to Citroën’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension. With the car’s springs and shock absorbers working with hydraulic bump stops front and rear it’s able to better control compression and rebound on uneven surfaces. In a nutshell it helps to reduce bouncing and smooth the ride, and as a result the ride quality is a lot better than many of its competitors’ cars.

Steering is light and fairly accurate and while it’s no hot hatch it’s able to deal with our imperfect roads with aplomb and, combined with being spacious and practical it’s all you need from a family car. 

With 156mm ground clearance, combined with short front and rear overhangs, the ë-C4 offers a higher vantage point and better all-round visibility than class rivals – with the exception of the view out back thanks to that very small rear windscreen.

As with most electric cars, there's a regenerative braking system to recoup energy when slowing down but there’s only two levels - normal to simulate the behaviour of an ICE vehicle and B mode which is stronger, but doesn’t quite allow one-pedal driving. There are three drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – that alter the amount of engine power and the energy draw for the air conditioning to boost range. 

Citroën ë-C4 electric motor
Citroën ë-C4 electric motor

Range and running costs

The 50 kWh battery gives a range of 217 miles which is plenty enough for day-to-day driving, and for longer road trips it has built-in capability for rapid charging. That means at a 100kW charging station you can get up to 80 per cent charge from empty in just 30 minutes, which is more or less the time it takes to visit the toilet and grab a coffee – especially with kids in tow. For regular home charging a Type 2 charging cable is included as standard, allowing a 7.4kW charger to reach 100 per cent charge in seven hours and 30 minutes, while a 3-pin plug will take 24 hours. An e-Remote Control service subscription is provided free of charge and allows you to remotely schedule charging or climate pre-conditioning.

The Citroën ë-C4 starts from £29,180, and the model we tested costs £30,130 – £6190 more than the equivalent petrol version, which shows how the price disparity between internal combustion engine and electric vehicles is growing smaller. And if you run one for a few years, you’ll soon claw back the difference. Charging at home overnight on an off-peak electricity tariff fills up the battery for a fraction of the cost of a full tank of fuel, there’s no annual road tax to pay and it’s exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty. If you regularly travel into London you won’t need to pay the Congestion Charge either. And if you’re a company car driver, you skip Benefit-in-Kind tax during the 2020/21 financial year, and it rises to just 1% in 2021/22, and 2% in 2022/23.

Like every new Citroën, the ë-C4 gets a three-year warranty, and in addition an eight year/100,000 mile warranty for the battery, which stacks up well against mainstream rivals (with the exception of Kia and Hyundai’s seven year vehicle warranty, of course).

Citroën ë-C4 charging port
Citroën ë-C4 charging port

Design

With a bold new (some would say polarizing) look that combines the dynamism of a hatchback with characterful SUV styling details it marks the beginning of a new era of Citroën style. The front grille is borrowed from the new C3, and features the brand’s new V-shaped front lighting signature and chrome chevrons that stretch across the width of the vehicle. The bonnet’s concave shape is reminiscent of the C5 Aircross SUV, and the matte black front bumper and pumped up wheel arches (which apparently add protection in small impacts) add to the SUV styling cues together with the elevated stance on 18 inch wheels. The sloping roof and small rear spoiler helps with aerodynamics but also lends the car a much sleeker, modern coupe-like profile. The rear overhang is also intended to reflect the Citroën GS. 

The hatchback market has dropped off in the wake of the SUV explosion, so it’s no surprise Citroën took this approach with the styling of its third-generation C4, just take a look at what rivals Volkswagen and Ford have done, blurring the lines between family hatch and compact SUV design for its new Golf and Focus.

Tinted side windows, LED front headlamps, fog lamps and daytime running lights, and welcome and goodbye lighting all come as standard, and with the exception of blue detailing on the badges of the e-C4, there’s no visual difference between the combustion and electric powered versions. There is a choice of seven exterior hues (only Polar White is standard, the rest are optional) and colour packs so that customers can configure their ë-C4 just the way they want with 31 combinations.

Inside, you can expect a gentle redesign of the C4 Cactus’ cabin. It’s not particularly inspiring but it’s simple and uncluttered with sweeping lines and lots of dark, soft-touch materials. It’s not as luxurious as the DS 3. Cloth and leather effect seats, LED lighting, a 5.5 inch frameless digital instrument cluster and a newly designed 10 inch touchscreen infotainment (that’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto),all come as standard. Unlike some other recent Citroën, Peugeot and DS models, the climate control stack is separated from the touchscreen with physical controls rather than touchscreen operation.

Citroen e-C4 interior

Comfort and practicality

The boot offers up 380 litres of space or 1250 litres with the rear seats folded and a further 39 litres spread across 16 storage compartments, including door bins, dash board drawer, obligatory glovebox, two cup holders in the centre console and map pockets in the rear of the front seats. With best in class rear knee room and plenty of head room it will easily accommodate five adults, and comfortably, too, which was one of the brand’s focus points for this model.

There are three trim levels for the Citroën ë-C4: Sense Plus, Shine and Shine Plus. The first of these builds on the basic Sense trim available on the combustion engine versions and so is very well equipped indeed, especially for the price (£29,180). In terms of safety features highlights include video assisted Active Safety Brake, Speed Limit Information, Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Alert 3 with lane departure detection, Forward Collision Warning, cruise control, in-crash braking and anti-theft alarm. When it comes to comfort and convenience it boasts rear parking camera and sensors, dual zone air conditioning, heated steering wheel, automatic day night switching rear view mirror, front and rear electric windows, electrically heated, folding and adjustable door mirrors, rain sensing wipers, Keyless Entry and Start and automatic headlights. Citroën also throw in a head-up display, Connect Nav with TomTom Live services for the first three years, a 12V power outlet and a USB Type-C and Type-A socket (plus one for the rear), and integrated support for attaching a tablet computer for the front passenger.

For an additional £950 Shine offers a tinted rear window, deluxe leather steering wheel, radar assisted Advanced Active Safety Brake with night time and cyclist detection, Extended Traffic Sign Recognition, as well as Intelligent Beam Headlights (automatic switching between dipped and mainbeam), and front and lateral parking sensors with Flank Guard (warns the driver when there is a risk the vehicle will collide with an obstacle when turning at low speeds). 

At £31,330, Shine Plus adds wireless smartphone charging, Citroën HiFi System (with additional speaker in dashboard centre, four woofers in doors, two tweeters in pillars, and one subwoofer), an additional Type-C and Type-A USB socket, leather and leather effect seats (both heated up front) with electrically adjustable lumbar support, backrest and height controls for the driver, rear central folding armrest with cup holders and ski hatch, fitted carpet mats, and High Driver Assist with Adaptive Cruise Control.

Verdict

Is the ë-C4 a worthy heir to the line of daring compact Citroën cars from the past which made their mark through comfort and character? We think so. It’s Citroën to its core in terms of design, innovation and comfort, yet manages to also find a balance between affordability and versatility. We also preferred it to the DS 3.

The C4 was never a huge seller, so it will be interesting to see how altering its formula – with striking coupe SUV looks and a pure electric version – will steal sales from the likes of the Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric, which in their cheapest trim and with the smaller 39kWh battery, still cost more than our test car (by £2465 and £20 respectively). There’s the smaller VW e-Golf, but that's now replaced by the ID.3, or the Nissan LEAF 62kWh, and while both have more range with 263 and 239 miles respectively, they cost almost £33,000. The most you’ll pay for a ë-C4 is £31,330. Citroën is also currently offering a no deposit and 5% APR finance deal – and they’ll bung in a free upgrade worth £1000 and free PodPoint wall box.

Citroën expects in the region of 8 to 10 per cent of total C4 sales will be of the e-C4 electric version initially, but there’s an expectation that could grow to as much as 20 per cent before long and we wouldn’t be surprised given what you get for your money.

Citroën ë-C4
Citroën ë-C4

Key Specs

2020 100kW Citroën ë-C4 Shine

Price (RRP OTR): From £29,180; model as tested £30,130 (including PiCG)
Top speed: 93mph
0-62mph: 9 seconds
Power: 132bhp
Torque: 192lb-ft (260Nm)
Driving range: 217 miles
Power consumption: 15.3-16.6kWh/100km
Charging time: 30 minutes (100kW DC, 0-80%); 7 hours, 30 minutes (7.4kW, 0-100%) 24 hours (13A socket, 0-100%)
Insurance group: TBC
Vehicle warranty: 3 years
Battery warranty: 8 years / 100,000 miles for 70% capacity

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