Citroen takes a step into the full-EV market with this e-C4. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Citroen's e-C4 shows us what family hatchbacks will almost all be like in a decade's time. They'll be full-electric of course, as this car is, though they'll hopefully have a much greater driving range. Still, this car is competitive in that regard - and extremely stylish, both inside and out. Plus there's a clever suspension system to make this contender feel really Citroen-esque.
At a time when it seems that full-EV models are everywhere, you might find it surprising to learn that you'll struggle to find such a thing in one of the market's most popular segments, that for Focus-class family hatchbacks - hence importance of this car, the Citroen e-C4.
Yes, we had the e-Golf, but that's gone to be replaced by VW's ID.3, which some might feel to be a bit of an overtly EV statement. There's the Kia e-Niro, but that's marketed as a crossover, closer to cars like the Hyundai Kona Electric and the Kia Soul EV. Then there are more established compact EVs like the Renault ZOE and the BMW i3 - but these are a bit small for a typical family hatchback buyer. All of which is to make the point that, for the time being anyway, the e-C4 should have a pretty clear run at its intended market. Let's see how it does.
The e-C4 uses a 50kWh battery powering an electric motor and developing 135hp. It can make 62mph from rest in 9.7 seconds and go on to a top speed of 93mph, but the more important stat is this model's ability to cover a WLTP-rated range of 217 miles on a single charge. To boost this capability, the car can recover energy when decelerating or braking. And there are three drive modes - 'Eco', 'Normal' and 'Sport' - that can vary the level of engine power and the energy draw from the air conditioning to boost driving range.
The e-C4 has a 'Brake' feature to amplify the deceleration of the car without pressing the brake pedal. This set-up allows for the recovery of energy when slowing the car and allows the driver to partially recharge the battery and increase driving range. Like other C4s, this one features a clever Progressive Hydraulic suspension set-up. Here, the car's springs and shock absorbers work in concert with hydraulic compression and rebound stops, which are supposed to slow body movement over bumps and tarmac tears. Plus no fewer than 20 of the latest generation camera driven safety technologies are available, some of them contributing towards semi-autonomous driving.
Design and Build
What this e-C4 does beyond any doubt is to confirm that the delineating line between family hatch and compact SUV design is being ever more blurred. Which many folk in search of a compact hatch will think to be no bad thing. Citroen says the crossover cues aren't for crossover purposes. The higher-than-Focus-class-average 156mm ride height is there to offer a high vantage point and better all-round visibility. The matte black-finished wheel arches aren't for arduous tracks but to prevent supermarket car park dings. And there's plenty of signature Citroen design, with stylishly-shaped signature lights and chromed Chevrons that stretch across the car's width. Plus there's and an air intake grille featuring a pattern first seen on the brand's recent 19_19 concept car.
Inside, the dash gets the kind of big 10-inch centre touchscreen that's in current vogue. And a fully digitalised instrument binnacle. Thankfully, the climate controls are separated out from the screen on the centre stack. Six interior colour schemes are on offer, all aimed at making you feel as 'if you're in your living room'. For the rear seat, the brand claims best-in-class knee room and offers a wide range of storage compartments. Plus there's a decently-sized 380-litre boot.
Market and Model
Pricing, following deduction of the government's £3,000 Plug-in Car Grant) sits in the £29,000 to £31,500 brcaket and there are three trim levels - 'Sense Plus', 'Shine' and 'Shine Plus'. This usefully undercuts segment rivals like the BMW i3 and even upper-spec versions of cars like the Kia e-Niro, the Hyundai Kona Electric and the Peugeot e-2008. To take on these competitors, this e-C4 needs to be well equipped. Fortunately, it is. You get an exclusive 18-inch 'Crosslite' alloy wheel design. And inside, there's the brand's Advanced Comfort seats, which offer extra support and include optional heating and massaging systems. A range of interior 'ambiance' packages can be specified to make the cabin feel really personal, including 'Metropolitan Blue' and 'Hype Red'.
The freshly designed 10-inch digital dashboard and instrument binnacle comes with all e-C4s, as does wireless 'phone charging and 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring connectivity. A superb sound system can be specified too, with Arkamys digital sound processing and 8 speakers. A nice optional touch you might well want to consider is a full-HD camera built into the rear view mirror which can take photos or video stored on a 16GB memory card. Safety-wise, there's no fewer than 20 different driver assistance features, including Highway Driving Assist and a 'level 2' semi-autonomous drive system incorporating Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist.
Cost of Ownership
The e-C4 is fitted with an 11kW charger, which can charge from empty in around 7.5 hours using a 7kW home wallbox. That could fall to just 5 hours if you have a 3-phase home electricity supply and have the car fitted with an optional 11kW on-board charger. The e-C4 also has 100kW fast charger, which can achieve an 80% charge in around half an hour using a 100kW public fast charger. As usual with an electric car, to take advantage of lower cost off-peak electricity tariffs, you can manage charging times by using the touchscreen tablet in the passenger compartment or by using the provided 'MyCitroen' app. The charging port features a coloured indicator so the user can monitor the charging process - which can also be followed on the 'MyCitroen' app.
Whatever your choice of C4, you'll properly want to keep garage costs in check by opting for the affordable 3 year servicing plan that is available at point of purchase. Finally, there's the usual Citroen three year / 60,000 mile warranty. And the e-C4 has its own battery warranty - 8 years or 100,000 miles for 70% of charge capacity.
Thanks to a relative absence of direct segment competition - amongst conventional family hatchback-styled EV's anyway - you'd think this e-C4 might do quite well. The only fly in the ointment might be its pricing; it'll probably be more than you expected to spend on a car of this kind, even a full battery-powered one. Is the e-C4 worth it? We can see why some target buyers might think so, particularly if they're Citroen loyalists. The styling stands out, the interior's just that little bit different and the EV driving range and charging stats seem competitive.
It seems appropriate that Citroen should be the first PSA Group brand to deliver a volume market full-EV. It's the kind of thing the brand would have made back in the '50s and '60s when it was pioneering in suspension, chassis and headlight technology. Today Citroens want to properly reference that heritage. And this one does.