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First drive: Citroen e-C3 44kWh. Image by Citroen.

First drive: Citroen e-C3 44kWh
Citroen sharpens the C3s styling, raises the roof and fits electric power to it. The result? One of the finest new superminis going.

   



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2024 Citroen e-C3

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Previous generations of the Citroen C3 have not been without their appeal, but neither have they ever scaled the heights of being able to claim supermini-class leadership. Can this new one, inspired by the looks of the Oli Concept, possibly have a crack at the B-segment title?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max
Price: C3 range from 17,790, e-C3 21,990, 44kWh Max as tested from 23,690
Motor: 83kW electric motor, on front axle
Battery: 44kWh (net) lithium-ion
Transmission: single-speed reduction-gear automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 113hp
Torque: 124.5Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Range: 199 miles
0-62mph: 10.4 seconds
Top speed: 82mph (limited)
Boot space: 310-1,188 litres

Styling

While it might look all big and crossover-y, and have various rufty-tufty styling features such as 'skid plates' (insert your own disbelieving *discreet cough* in here), wheelarch cladding and a set of roof rails, it's worth remembering that this isn't supposed to be a crossover. Those duties, at this size and price level of vehicle, are going to be handled by the incoming C3 Aircross, which means the C3 is reputedly 'just' a hatchback.

Of course, it doesn't assist in this line of argument that the new one is fully 107mm taller than the car it supersedes, which is a huge jack-up in the physicality stakes, but if you can get past that then you might be surprised to know the new C3 is barely any longer (+19mm) or wider (+46mm) than the third-gen, and only measures a smidge beyond four metres from nose to tail.

So it remains a compact thing that should be adequately suited to life in the city, and we're certainly not aiming to denigrate the Citroen's styling by insinuating that it has got fat. What it has, instead, is oodles of presence, thanks to those bracket-shaped light clusters at either ends, crisp and clean lines, and a two-tone colour combination offered as standard on all models.

Visually, the only difference between the petrol or hybrid C3 variants and the all-electric e-C3 is a trio of 'e' badges on the latter, which sit on the front doors and in front of the model designation on the bootlid, so if you opt for the electric vehicle (EV) then you're not immediately marked out amongst a group of your peers with outlandish and contrived sci-fi details that are the sorts of things which normally go hand-in-hand with zero-emission cars. All you end up with instead is a great-looking little runaround, in our opinion.

Interior

This car's cabin is an object lesson in how to make an attractive, comfortable and well-equipped interior down to a strict budget, without it feeling cut-price. Sure, some of the plastics on the main expanses of the doors and the sides of the centre console are pretty retrograde and scratchy, but the main touchpoints like the steering wheel and column stalks are pleasant enough, while the Advanced Comfort seats are genuinely excellent; squishy, yet supportive.

All UK C3 models will benefit from the 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment screen which has wireless smartphone mirroring (Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, basically), while the high-set digital instrument cluster is called a head-up display (HUD), although the Citroen doesn't quite have the same idiosyncratic driving position of sister firm Peugeot and its iCockpit products. About the only differences between the e-C3 electric we're focusing on here, and the 1.2-litre petrol we also drove, are the gearbox (small auto selector on the EV, large-knobbed - steady - six-speed H-pattern lever in the manual) and the read-outs in said HUD, which focus on remaining range and the like in the e-C3, rather than fuel economy.

One disclaimer here, though: the cars we were driving on the launch were pre-production versions and not all their electronics, specifically the driver assist aids (ADAS), were working correctly. This was a blessed relief, in some ways, as it meant the e-C3 didn't incessantly beep and bong at us as many modern cars are wont to do, so perhaps we should reserve judgment on how good the car is to drive until we've seen just how much of an interfering busybody (or otherwise) the active ADAS is.

Practicality

Another strong report card for the Citroen e-C3 in this section, because the elevated roof has blessed the car with loads of headroom in the second row, while legroom is surprisingly generous as well, even behind the driving position of someone six-foot tall. Storage up front is helpful too, although we now come onto the usual lament when driving a left-hand-drive French car - it's highly likely that the glovebox capacity will be cut in half for right-hand-drive models, as the fusebox is on the left of the car and very rarely is it moved for our market's glovebox. Sigh.

Anyway, stowage is generally good otherwise, with a nice touch being the light interiors of the door pockets, which should make finding stuff in them that bit easier. There's also a reasonably capacious 310-litre boot, which applies for petrol, hybrid and electric models equally - there's no sacrificing space due to battery placement - and that figure rises to 1,188 litres with the 60:40 split rear seats folded down, although there's a big lip to the boot because there isn't an adjustable floor, presumably for reasons of cost.

Performance

As we've briefly mentioned already, there are three drivetrain choices for the C3 and e-C3 range. For the former, you can choose from a manual, non-hybrid 1.2-litre PureTech with 100hp, while an automatic, mild-hybrid with the same output is also offered.

It's the e-C3 we're going to concentrate on here, though, for a reason which we'll come to in greater detail in the Value section, although we'll also touch upon it here. Pick any compact Stellanis EV you like - the Peugeot E-208, the Vauxhall Corsa-e, the Fiat 600e, the Jeep Avenger and so on - and what you get is a 54kWh battery, a 115kW (154hp)/260Nm electric motor, and a range of about 250 miles. They also all cost the wrong side of 35,000.

The Citroen, however, does not have this set-up, even though it's ostensibly in the same class of vehicle. It has a 43.7kWh (usable) battery pack and an 82kW motor, which equates to 113hp. The torque seems barely believable, in all the wrong ways, as it's a mere 124.5Nm, which is a weirdly specific and bizarrely low number for an electric car; normally, they have oodles of this stuff. Anyway, on the plus side, the e-C3 is relatively trim for an EV at 1,416kg, and then on the 'absolutely phenomenal' plus side, the price for all this lot starts at 21,990, while the top-spec model will only set you back 23,690.

Frankly, the e-C3 could crawl along like a snail for that sort of cash and we wouldn't mind, but it doesn't. In fact, it's perfectly perky and sprightly, certainly up to 50mph, yet it doesn't feel lost if you must venture onto a motorway - even though it's limited to 82mph flat out. The power delivery is nice and smooth, as you'd expect of an electric, and the regenerative braking is sweetly judged too, with the 'C' button on the gearbox actually reducing its effect if you want, rather than enhancing it.

And while all the compact EVs we've listed above, with the bigger battery, often turn in more like 200 miles to a charge in the real world no matter what you do - some way down on their official claims - the Citroen seemed to match or even better its on-paper range of 199 miles, which means in practice that it's pretty much identical to those much more expensive alternatives. We drove it for nearly 100 miles on a day which was warm to start with and then raining heavily at the end of our test, which meant we ran the aircon constantly, while we also did extended sections of motorway driving at 70mph and more. And from a starting range of an indicated 168 miles from a not-quite-full battery, it still had 37 per cent left at the end with another 68 miles left in its electrical 'tank'.

Now, simple maths shows that to be 161 miles overall according to the trip computer, yet the car was also doing 4.7 miles/kWh. In electric terms, that's the sort of economy that would equate to those little turbodiesels at the start of the century which could do 80mpg and more, and if you multiply 43.7 by 4.7, you actually get 205 miles to a charge. If you factor out the motorway work, then, which is not the sort of thing that electric superminis need to do that often, the Citroen starts to look more economical to run than it already is. And therefore even more terrific value to boot.

Charging times, by the way, are 26 minutes for 20-80 per cent battery on the e-C3's maximum 100kW DC hook-up, while an 11kW AC wallbox will take the power pack to 100 per cent in four hours ten minutes. A time for the more common 7.4kW domestic unit hasn't been specified yet, but some quick maths would suggest it'll be around and about six hours.

A very quick word on the 1.2 petrol. It's a perfectly smooth and willing performer, even if the C3 doesn't have a rev counter to know when you ought to shift up if you're working the turbo hard, and it remains subdued at more realistic road/engine speeds too. It gave back an easy 53mpg on a similarly varied route as the e-C3, while the six-speed manual is light of throw and satisfying to use. So if you don't fancy going full electric, the petrol model doesn't feel like a significant step backwards.

Ride & Handling

Like many a modern Citroen, the e-C3 and C3 models focus on comfort over speed, with their Advanced Comfort suspension featuring Progressive Hydraulic Cushions. Now, this isn't always a recipe for success. Soft springs and dampers are one thing, but we'd draw your attention here to the poor old facelifted C4 Cactus, which bounced around like a waterbed on a trampoline on rougher road surfaces and so was a right dog's dinner of a vehicle when it came to ride comfort.

The e-C3, though? It's borderline exquisitely done. Granted, we're talking about a great-value car here, so don't go expecting limo-like levels of control and stoicism in the face of adversity, but for a small, light, short-wheelbase vehicle it rides with a remarkable level of grace and dignity, even on the very worst road surfaces you can imagine. The Citroen can soak up and negate large lumps and bumps, and the suppression of both wind and tyre noise - while by no means absolute - is nevertheless sufficiently impressive enough to render these potential discordant intruders nothing more than background susurrations.

It's also remarkably stable and resolute, even at motorway pace, rarely being deflected from your intended path by either robust crosswinds or pesky cambers in the roads. So what with its super-comfy ride, its admirably hushed passenger compartment, and its steadfast manners on all types of roads, the e-C3 is truly brilliant for both rolling refinement and, concomitantly, conveying the feeling of being a larger, grander car than it is.

As to the handling, that's surprisingly good as well. You don't often expect Citroens to be much cop in the corners, thanks to the super-soft suspension, and while the e-C3 is certainly no dynamic firecracker - saddled, as it is, with almost feel-free steering - by the same token it's far from the loosest-handling vehicle we've ever driven. It's clean and capable on a twisty road, with commendable body control and plenty of grip, so it doesn't let itself down in this regard as a payoff for its pursuit of ultimate comfort.

Everything that holds true for the electric model applies to the petrol, incidentally. It is a little louder at speed due to the added machinations of the turbo engine up front, but overall it's a refined, smart-handling car that drives in a deeply reassuring and satisfying manner in a wide variety of scenarios.

Value

This is the trump card. The C3 range begins at just 17,790 for a 1.2 PureTech petrol in decently specified Plus trim, which is an eye-catching enough figure for any supermini these days, but it's not as extraordinary as those prices for the e-C3. The whole of Europe is banging on about the '25,000 EV in 2025' being the immediate future of affordable motoring, yet Citroen has served such a confection up a year early; less chit-chat, more action, would seem to be the company's take on the matter.

It'll only be available in Plus (21,990) and Max (23,690) specifications in the UK, which means for the former you'll enjoy 17-inch alloys, bicolour paint, LED head- and daytime running lights, the 10.25-inch infotainment (excluding nav) with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air conditioning, rear parking sensors and a goodly spread of ADAS.

To that list, Max adds LED rear lights, privacy glass, half-leatherette and cloth seats, connected satellite navigation for the infotainment, wireless smartphone charging, fully automatic climate control, a reversing camera, and heated elements for all of the front seats, the steering wheel and the windscreen. Frankly, that's a generous level of kit either way up, and it would be even if these two e-C3 specifications cost two or three grand more than they do.

Verdict

There are one or two tiny reservations about the Citroen e-C3, or indeed just the regular, petrol-powered C3, which temper our enthusiasm for it slightly. And these relate to how invasive the ADAS will be when it's working (which it wasn't on our early test cars), as well as the highly aggravating 'bip-bop' indicator noise; please, Citroen, have this changed before the cars make production. Because, otherwise, what you have here is a handsome supermini with a most amenable cabin, blessed with plenty of space, practicality and equipment, and possessed of some of the smoothest, most enjoyable driving manners in any car of this class or of even vaguely comparable size. That any model of it, even the electric e-C3, is comfortably sub-25,000 new only makes it even more of a fabulous achievement by the French marque. Class-leading? It could very, very well be.



Matt Robinson - 4 Jun 2024



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2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max. Image by Citroen.

2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max. Image by Citroen.2024 Citroen e-C3 44kWh Max. Image by Citroen.








 

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