Citroen e-C4 Review | Select Car Leasing

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Citroen e-C4 Review

Introduction

Designing new cars is an expensive business, so rather than designing standalone electric vehicles, Citroen and its sister companies – including Peugeot and Vauxhall – have simply built cars capable of housing both conventional and electrified powertrains. So when the quirky new C4 family car was revealed, the electric version was announced alongside its petrol- and diesel-powered siblings. Bearing the same funky styling and modern cabin design, the e-C4 is arguably the ace in the C4 pack. Making the most of the car’s already impressive comfort and refinement, it provides stiff competition for the Kia e-Niro.

Review Sections

Select's rating score* - 3.9 / 5

At a Glance

By mixing the qualities of a hatchback and an SUV, the C4 – and, by extension, the all-electric e-C4 – has carved out something of a niche without feeling too off-the-wall. The looks demand attention, and the cabin feels crisp and modern and solid. But comfort is the name of the game, with a smooth ride more or less guaranteed by any variant. Yet the e-C4 is the most comfortable, and not just because of the quiet electric motor.

And despite this focus on ride, the e-C4 has plenty of other talents to laud. Standard specification is very impressive, with a reversing camera, 10-inch navigation system and digital instrument display all included with even the most basic model. Top-of-the-range Shine Plus models get more USB ports, leather seats and a fancy sound system, but the mid-range Shine is probably the one to go for, with its keyless entry and front parking sensors sweetening the deal.


Key Features

Perhaps unusually for a French car, it feels as though the e-C4 has been thought through by someone who knew something about both cars and families. Little things like the tray above the glove box for tablet computers and the false floor in the cubby hole under the infotainment screen just feel like good, simple ideas. Almost as if they should really be found in a Skoda.

But there’s verve, too, with a simple rocker switch taking the gear lever’s place on the centre console. Like most quirky ideas, it isn’t foolproof, but it’s quite a neat system that means you don’t keep catching your sleeve every time you try to turn the radio up. The seats are also a highlight, with their wide, padded bases and hardy but still welcoming materials. Sitting in the driving seat feels more like plonking yourself down on a DFS sofa.

Performance & Drive

The e-C4 uses a 136hp electric motor to power the front wheels, and that’s powered by a 70kWh lithium-ion battery. In essence, it’s the same battery technology you’ll find in a
laptop or a mobile phone, but it’s capable of feeding the motor enough juice to take the e-C4 217 miles on a single charge.

Although the 136hp motor is the second most powerful option in the C4 range, the car still isn’t especially fast, managing 0-62mph in an unremarkable nine seconds before whistling to a 93mph top speed. Sporty it ain’t, but then that kind of sets the tone for the whole car.

The standard C4 is bestowed with soft, pillowy suspension, but it’s the e-C4 that shows the setup in its best light. Where the lighter petrol versions feel a tiny bit nervous and fidgety at the rear, the heavier e-C4 is settled and stable. It leaves you with this beautifully cushioned ride that just suits the car’s natural preference for comfort and the refinement of the electric motor. It isn’t perfect, with the extra weight making its presence felt over big potholes, but it’s as good as anything else in this class.

Of course, the catch with all that is a distinct lack of driver involvement. If you’re looking for something to hoon around country lanes after you’ve dropped the kids off, may we suggest looking elsewhere? The e-C4’s steering is numb, and although the body roll is good enough to stop your passengers throwing up, it really isn’t set up for cornering.

But who wants to throw a car like this around? It’s refreshing to see something so perfectly suited to the miles most buyers will do. Just beware of a few foibles, including the slightly iffy rear view that’s caused by the spoiler across the back window.


Running Costs

Without a fuel tank, the e-C4 isn’t going to put you on first-name terms with the staff at your local Esso station, but charging might not exactly be free. 

Granted, if you have a drive and an accessible plug, you can take advantage of some relatively cheap-rate energy, but it’s more complicated when you’re out and about. 

With loads of different charging points on the roads, you might want to investigate the various memberships and tariffs available – otherwise you can spend a surprising amount on electricity. If you’re serious about an electric car, it’s probably best to look into a 7kW domestic ‘wallbox’ charging point, which transfers energy far faster than a 13-amp three-pin plug.

Emissions

Because the e-C4 is electric, it’s more or less as eco-friendly as can be – and the government taxes it accordingly.

Road tax, which is included in the lease, is free, and company car tax (properly known as Benefit-in-Kind tax or BiK) is almost as low. Until April 2021, you’ll pay nothing on a company-funded electric car, but that’s going up to one percent in the 2021/22 financial year. If you want tax-efficiency, then, the e-C4 is the C4 of choice.


Interior

If you’re a fan of the e-C4’s exterior design, you’ll love the interior, too. Gone are the dull, unimaginative Citroen cabins of old, replaced with something thoroughly modern and fresh. The dash itself is relatively minimalistic, with the big touchscreen dominating proceedings and just a couple of climate control buttons below. It sits smartly alongside the smaller digital instrument display, and the up-to-date graphics do nothing to harm the classy image.

That image is also supported by a feeling of quality that might surprise those used to older French cars. Where once a Citroen would have been filled with thin, brittle plastics and switchgear that came off the moment you looked at it, the new e-C4 is solid and chunky and substantial. It isn’t perfect, but generally speaking it’s very good – far better than a Nissan Leaf, and up there with the Volkswagen ID.3. High praise indeed.

But for all that maturity, it loses none of its character. The rocker-switch gear selector is a nice touch, as is the knurling on the switchgear. With those enormous armchair-esque seats and plenty of space – particularly in the front – this feels like a Citroen of the old school. Yet it’s still entirely modern.

Technology

You kind of expect electric cars to come with plenty of on-board technology, and the e-C4 doesn’t disappoint. No matter which version you choose, you’ll get a 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a digital instrument cluster that replaces conventional dials. You get the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration software, too.

And because the e-C4 eschews the lowliest of the C4’s four trim levels, you also get a reversing camera, two-zone climate control and satellite navigation as standard. And if you go for one of the more luxurious models, you’ll supplement that with a head-up display that helps keep your eyes on the road and a

Perhaps the coolest feature, though, is a tablet holder that allows the front passenger to use an iPad on the move, or watch Netflix without having to tire out their arms. Other tablet computers and streaming services are, of course, available, but only the iPad Air 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tablet A 1.5 can be had with a dedicated tablet mount – otherwise you’ll have to make do with a generic version.


Practicality & Boot Space

With an angled rear window and the associated low roofline, the e-C4 might be a looker, but it isn’t necessarily the most practical car on the market. The 380-litre boot is identical to that of the petrol- and diesel-powered cars, and it’s much the same size as you’ll find in a Volkswagen Golf. The catch is that rivals including the Kia e-Niro have considerably more luggage space. Even more compact models, including the C3 Aircross, have more room than the e-C4.

Inside, it’s a case of quantity over quality when it comes to storage. There are plenty of cubby holes and door bins, but none of them is particularly capacious, and that can make stowing awkwardly shaped items a bit – well, awkward. You do get a handy drawer above the glove box, though, which is perfect for stowing tablet computers, and you get a couple of trays for smaller items such as mobile phones.

There is plenty of space for human cargo, though, with huge amounts of space for the front passengers and massive, comfy seats. The rear bench is hardly pokey, either, although the tallest passengers might lament a lack of headroom. You could fit three children across the rear seats quite easily, however, and that makes the e-C4 a perfectly capable school-run vehicle.

Safety

Because the e-C4 is so new, Euro NCAP’s crack team of vehicle breakers haven’t yet got their hands on the French family bus. A test is surely on its way, though, and it seems likely the e-C4 and its conventionally powered stablemates will fare well. Four- and five-star ratings are now commonplace across the automotive landscape, and Citroen has been as diligent in its approach to safety as anyone else in the business.

As such, the e-C4 comes with a whole host of gadgets to keep you from ever having an accident in the first place. There’s autonomous emergency braking that will slam on the anchors automatically if the car detects an impending crash, while lane-keeping assistance that keeps the car in its lane if the car begins to wander, as well as emergency braking, which can automatically hit the brakes if it detects an imminent collision.

The car is also available with blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control that maintains a safe distance to the vehicle in front. By combining this with the lane-keeping assistance, the car can control itself in a single lane of the motorway, but the driver still needs to retain control. It is a handy safety net, though.

All that should make an accident unlikely, but if the worst does happen, you can rest assured all the usual airbags and crumple zones will be there to protect you from the worst of it.


Options

Unlike the petrol- and diesel-powered C4, the e-C4 is only available with a choice of three trim levels. With the entry-level Sense model consigned to the C4 alone, you are left with some really well equipped examples whatever your budget.

The e-C4 range kicks off with the Sense Plus model, which gets automatic LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels and rear parking sensors, plus the aforementioned digital instrument cluster and 10-inch touchscreen. Two-zone automatic climate control and automatic windscreen wipers are also thrown in, alongside satellite navigation and a reversing camera.

It’s a hefty kit list even before you bother with the high-end Shine and Shine Plus versions, which both add some chrome window trim, keyless entry and front parking sensors. Shine Plus models differentiate themselves by including leather upholstery and an upmarket sound system, not to mention wireless phone charging and seat massaging.

All that stuff is included with the petrol- and diesel-powered cars, too, but the e-C4 does benefit from a few upgrades all of its own. Shine and Shine Plus models get a heated steering wheel that’s an option on the ‘standard’ C4, while every model also has a remote temperature pre-conditioning system that warms the car up while it’s still parked, allowing you to stay toasty warm without eating into the electric range.

Should you feel the need to add to that equipment, Citroen will also offer some extra safety kit and special adapters for the passenger-seat tablet holder that hides your screen from the driver to prevent distractions. Only the iPad Air 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tablet A 1.5 are supported, but if you have one of those, it could be worth the extra money. The one miss from the e-C4 range is the lack of an optional panoramic glass roof, which is perhaps absent because of the impact of extra weight on the electric range.

If you want a snazzy paint job, the options list is your friend, allowing you to pick from some bright hues that match the car’s slightly quirky character. There’s Caramel Brown, which is actually more of a burnt orange, and a deep Elixir Red that goes particularly well with the red colour pack, which adds bright red trim to the bumpers and body cladding.


Rival cars

If you’re set on leasing an electric family car, your choices are not as numerous as you might think. Sure, you can get plenty of electric 4x4s and zero-emission city cars, but family hatchbacks aren’t quite so common. Of course, the big name in this sector is the Nissan Leaf, which remains the yardstick for such vehicles. Sadly, though, it isn’t actually that good, with mediocre range and a disenchanting driving experience. If you want an electric family car, the VW ID.3 is a much better bet.

Or you could look at the clutch of compact SUVs that provide competition to the new Citroen. The Kia e-Niro is a brilliant car in every measurable way, but it lacks the e-C4’s quirkiness and left-field charm. The same’s true of the MG ZS EV, and the Kia Soul EV, while the Hyundai Kona Electric, Vauxhall Mokka-e and Mazda MX-30 are both a little smaller than the e-C4, but still very competent little EVs.

Possibly the closest rival, though, has not yet arrived on these shores. It’s the Volkswagen ID.4, and it’s the ID.3’s big brother, offering SUV looks and size in an eco-friendly, zero-emission package. We’ll have to wait until it arrives here to pass judgement, but it’s expected to provide stiff competition to the e-C4 and e-Niro.


Verdict & Next Steps

If a battery-powered family hatchback suits your needs – a second car for mostly short or medium-distance journeys, for example – then the e-C4 is a peach. 

Arguably the best iteration of the C4, it’s the comfiest and quietest model in an already comfy and quiet range, and it comes with all the tax breaks usually involved in electric motoring. 

The Kia e-Niro and Nissan Leaf once had this market cornered, but no more. The e-C4 is right up there.


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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Citroen e-C4

**Correct as of 05/03/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2589.01 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.


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