But now, finally, Citroen has its own contender. And, cleverly it’s pitching its newcomer – the snappily-titled e-C4 – not as yet another SUV but as a family five-door hatchback. This might sound like marketing suicide given the car industry’s obsession with SUVs, but we think it’s something of a masterstroke. That’s because a quick look at the best-selling cars in the UK will tell you that the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra actually account for way more sales than SUVs do.
We won’t bog you down with too much industry talk, but the e-C4 shares its framework, battery pack and electric drivetrain with its PSA Group siblings, the Peugeot e2008 and the DS3 Crossback E-Tense. That means it has the same 50kWh battery pack, 134bhp electric motor and the ability to charge at up to 100kW on a DC rapid charger. It has a WLTP range of 217 miles on a charge and has prices ranging from £29,190 on the road including the Government plug-in car grant.
Design and dimensions
In terms of design, the e-C4 strikes a neat balance between conventional and wacky. It’s daring enough to mark you out from the crowd, but not crazy enough to have kids laughing at you at pedestrian crossings. The swooping rear roofline gives it an almost coupe-like profile and the designers have done a great job in disguising the car’s additional height. The blue-rimmed vents at the front and side are particularly pleasing details in what is one of Citroen’s sharper pieces of design.
It measures 4,360mm in length, is 1,800mm wide and 1,525mm high. This makes it comfortably larger than a VW Golf and a few mm bigger than the VW ID3. The boot is also the same size as the ID3’s at 380 litres.
But it’s inside where the e-C4 really starts to impress. Citroen interiors have come on in leaps and bounds over recent years and the e-C4 marks another step up. The seats are a highlight plus the dashboard arrangement looks and feels very intuitive.
There’s a digital dash plus a 10-inch touchscreen and physical controls for the air conditioning underneath. Everything has a determinedly clean feel, and there’s plenty of storage as well as a little flip out holder for a tablet, which is a nice touch. It all feels very nicely put together, and very modern.
As ever, there’s a whole raft of new systems to keep you in lane, beep and bong and generally try and stop you having a crash.There’s even a full HD camera, which can take photos or video stored on a memory card, built into the rear-view mirror.
Like most electric cars, the e-C4 is supremely simple to operate. Just pick from park, reverse or drive on the neat selector on the centre console and you’re off. In terms of power output, Citroen quotes 134bhp and 194lb of torque and that’s adequate for doing the usual stuff. It’ll get to 62mph in under ten seconds and do more than 90mph, which is enough for most people doing most things. But, as ever, it feels perkier and faster from a standstill than a petrol or diesel because of the way the electric motor makes torque from no rpm - it just surges forwards.
Vision seems to be pretty good, although the C-pillar is a bit thick, meaning there’s a chunky blindspot. Thankfully, the split rear windscreen isn’t as much hassle as the design suggests. It doesn’t really affect the view through the rear view mirrors, and that’s a good thing.
Another impressive aspect of the e-C4’s driving experience is the ride quality. Thankfully, Citroen has resisted the temptation to follow the herd and vie the e-C4 a ‘sporty’ driving experience. The suspension set up has been deliberately skewed towards comfort, using what it calls ‘progressive hydraulic cushions’ that stay firm in the corners, and floppy on the bumps. The system was originally invented for rally cars, but here it works… really nicely. Better than in other modern Citroens, in fact.
Match that to the squishy seats, and the eC4 feels genuinely relaxing - and yet when you drive around a corner, it doesn’t wilt, or flop about like overcooked pasta. Top job Citroen spring people.
There are three driving modes Eco, Normal and Sport, but like a lot of these things, it’s best left in Normal unless you’re really playing the distance-to-empty game, or you need a touch more response when overtaking. Regen in standard drive mode is good, but if you want a one-pedal feel, there’s an additional B mode that works well.
Battery and charging
The c-C4 comes with one battery option only - a 50kWh pack that sends drive to the front wheels via a 134bhp motor. It has 100kW on-board charger, which means that if you can find an ultra-fast 150kW or better rapid charger, it’ll charge to 80% in half an hour. There’s also app that you can use for scheduling charging to off-peak times, checking state of charge and pre-conditioning for frosty mornings - which preserves range.
If you’re hooked up a more common 50kW charger, you can expect to get to 80% charge in around 50 minutes. A full charge on a home wallbox will take 7hrs 15 minutes if you have a 7.4kW unit and 14hrs 30minutes if you have a 3.7kW box. A full charge via the granny charger and three-pin socket will take 23hrs and is only recommended in emergencies.
Citroen offers the e-C4 with three trim levels: Sense, Shine and Shine Plus. LED headlights, head-up display, 18-inch alloys and climate control are standard on all models, as is the neat touchscreen infotainment system and reversing camera. Higher spec Shine models add privacy glass and creature comforts such as keyless entry and heated steering wheel. Shine Plus adds leather trim, a better sound system and heated front seats.
There’s a lot to like about the e-C4. Comfortable, easy to live and nicely made, it does all the boring things very well. Which, when you’re trying to persuade drivers to make the switch to electric, is essential. But where the e-C4 really stands out is its design and attention to detail. This feels like a car that a team of designers and engineers genuinely enjoyed putting together. The exterior design is clever and contemporary while the interior strikes a lovely balance between style and practicality. It’s a great package.