Citroen e-C4 hatchback review
"The Citroen e-C4 hatchback is a stylish electric car that's safe, practical and comfortable"
The Citroen e-C4 is the all-electric version of the French brand's latest family hatchback, designed to take on the Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen ID.3. The e-C4’s rugged look is intended to appeal if you’re also considering cars like the Hyundai Kona Electric and Mazda MX-30. It's actually the sister car of the Peugeot e-2008 and DS 3 Crossback E-Tense, which are all part of the Stellantis group.
It's certainly no rebadging exercise because the e-C4 has a shape, size and identity all of its own. Citroen has chosen to step away from the old C4's forgettable design, instead taking inspiration from SUVs to make it far more fashionable.
A plunging coupe-style roof means its tough looks don't add up to lots of extra interior space but there's decent head and knee room for four adults and their luggage. Speaking of which, the 380-litre boot is only smaller than the ID.3's and exactly the same size as the petrol and diesel C4, which is impressive for an EV with a large battery.
Its 50kWh capacity means the e-C4 can manage up to 217 miles on a single charge, while its 100kW charging capability means it can be topped up from 0-80% in half an hour using a rapid charger. A full charge from a 7kW home wallbox takes around 7.5 hours. A single 134bhp electric motor gets it from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds.
An update for 2022 has, according to Citroen, made the e-C4 more efficient in real world, even if the official range remains the same. We’ve heard complaints about this powertrain actually offering far less real-world range than the numbers suggest, so improvements are welcome. The update also included changes to the colour and specification choices.
It feels as modern as you'd hope inside, largely thanks to standard digital instrument dials and a large touchscreen, while features like a head-up display are also offered. Lots of storage cubbies show Citroen's desire for the e-C4 to fit into family life, and there's even a tablet holder for the front passenger.
On the move, the e-C4's standout characteristics are comfort and refinement. It's particularly smooth thanks to 'Progressive Hydraulic Cushion' suspension, which is designed to absorb bumps and rough roads more effectively, while the quiet electric motor also helps make the e-C4 a relaxing place in which to spend time.
It's slower than the Volkswagen ID.3 and not as good to drive but the e-C4 has a more sophisticated interior with lots of equipment, despite costing less. It's fairly practical and its relaxing demeanour should appeal to anyone after a stress-free family car.
Range, charging & running costs
The Citroen e-C4 is more expensive to buy than a petrol or diesel version but the cost savings begin as soon as you arrive home from the showroom. Recharging the battery at home should only cost a few pounds rather than around £50 to fill a fuel tank. The e-C4 can travel for up to 217 miles in ideal conditions, which is slightly more than the 193 miles of the Peugeot e-2008 but behind the range of the 58kWh Volkswagen ID.3 (263 miles) or Hyundai Kona Electric. The e-C4 is cheaper to buy than the ID.3 though - the Shine Plus range-topper is around £3,000 less than a mid-range ID.3 Business, and even the top-spec e-C4 is eligible for the plug-in car grant.
Charging the 50kWh battery will take around 7.5 hours using a 7kW wallbox but if you need to top-up the e-C4 during a journey, it’s compatible with rapid charging up to 100kW. Where available, this will take the battery from 0-80% in just half an hour, making it possible to stop for lunch on a long trip and then continue on to the destination.
As with all zero-emissions cars, VED (tax) is currently free for the e-C4, but it's business drivers who potentially stand to make the biggest savings. That's because Benefit-in-Kind liability for company-car drivers is based upon CO2 emissions, which are zero for the e-C4, cutting bills compared with petrol, diesel and even hybrid models. In fact, your monthly payment could be less than £5 in 2021/22.
Electric motor, drive & performance
While some electric cars are available with more than one power output, the e-C4 currently comes with just one 134bhp motor, sending power to the front wheels. This gives it a 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds, which is a bit slower than most rivals. The cheapest Volkswagen ID.3 manages the sprint in a similar amount of time but it’s also available as a ‘Pro Performance’ model that takes just 7.3 seconds and feels quick. However, like the mechanically identical Vauxhall Mokka-e, Citroen deliberately gave the e-C4 a more relaxed feel to make it feel similar to the response you’d get from a petrol or diesel engine.
It's perfectly fine around town, with a punchy response at low speeds, but none of the eye-popping acceleration of a Tesla Model 3. There's also a 'B' mode that increases the amount of regenerative braking, so the driver can put more energy back into the battery and avoid using the brakes so much in town.
Citroen has taken a different approach to the suspension than rivals, giving the e-C4 a soft setup that's designed to take the edge off rough surfaces. It's not perfect but works well to promote the car's relaxed feel. The downside is more body lean in corners and slower reactions if you need to change direction quickly. The e-C4 has light steering, which is a help around town but isn't as confidence-inspiring as the ID.3 on faster roads.
Interior & comfort
Interior quality has taken a step up from the old C4, and technology like a standard 10-inch infotainment screen and instrument display help the Citroen feel modern and slick. There are plenty of neat touches too, like all the places to store items dotted around the centre console. Handy places for your smartphone and a novel tablet holder for the front passenger should make life on the go that bit more convenient. We're also glad there are now attractive and logical dials for the climate control, so you no longer need to use the touchscreen just to adjust the temperature. That’s one area where the Citroen triumphs over the VW.
Every e-C4 is fitted with Citroen's Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension, which is designed to better absorb impacts from severe bumps and potholes. It works pretty well, with only the deepest craters sending a shudder through to passengers. The extra weight of the battery pack seems to work in the car's favour here because the e-C4 feels more settled than the petrol version.
The Citroen's infotainment software is easier to use than the Volkswagen's, if not quite as straightforward as the interface used by Hyundai and Kia. If buyers prefer an experience more like their smartphone, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is also standard.
There are three trim levels called Sense, Shine and Shine Plus, and even the entry-level version is fitted with 18-inch wheels, a head-up display, dual-zone climate control and a rear-view camera. Shine adds privacy glass, keyless entry, all-round parking sensors and a heated steering wheel, while Shine Plus brings heated front seats, a wireless smartphone charger, leather upholstery, a powered driver's seat and a premium sound system.
Practicality & boot space
While you don't sit quite as high in the e-C4 as you do in a regular SUV, the driving position is slightly more commanding than in the Volkswagen ID.3. Citroen has also prioritised seat comfort, so the e-C4 should be good for longer trips. Space up front is adequate for tall adults, while rear headroom may appear limited by the sloping roof but isn't actually too bad. Proper rear doors and more knee room make it better for rear passengers than the Mazda MX-30.
There's 380 litres of space in the e-C4's boot, which matches the Volkswagen Golf and is just five litres off the ID.3. It also matches the petrol and diesel versions of the C4, which is possible because the platform was intended for use as the basis of electric models from the off. One small gripe is the quirky rear spoiler, which may reduce drag but also cuts rear visibility by covering the bottom of the rear window.
Reliability & safety
While we can't comment on the e-C4's reliability yet, Citroen itself came second-bottom out of 29 manufacturers in our 2021 Driver Power survey - a huge 10-place drop compared to our 2020 survey. This was a thoroughly disappointing result, especially as sister-brand Peugeot finished in 11th place. Owners were most happy with their car's low running costs but criticised poor infotainment systems and exterior build quality. Just over 17% of respondents reported a fault within the first year.
The e-C4 is fitted with a long list of safety equipment but that wasn’t enough to obtain a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. While its adult and child protection scores were good, its 57% score for pedestrian protection let it down. Technology includes adaptive cruise control that can stop and then set off again in traffic, blind-spot detection and autonomous emergency braking.