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Citroën's third-generation C4 gets an electric version for the first time. We try a left-hand drive example.
Six airbags, active brake, speed limit and lane-keep assist, driver attention alert, forward collision warning, auto lights and wipers, electric park brake, rear parking sensor, dual-zone climate control, 10in colour screen system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB radio, 18in alloys
136hp (100kWh) electric motor / 50kWh battery
Sense Plus, Shine, Shine Plus
Citroën now joins French sister brands Peugeot and DS with a mainstream full-electric car.
The new C4 replaces both the old and bland C4 family hatch and the characterful (but not for everyone) Cactus small crossover, and predictably - given the popular customer dominance of anything vaguely SUV-shaped - the new C4 is more crossover than hatchback. At 4,360mm long, 1,800mm wide and 1,520mm high it is bigger than both the Cactus and old C4 in every dimension too.
Visually, it's a busy design, especially around the rear end, with its cuts, creases, multiple light intersections and window-splitting spoiler that obscures some rearward vision - as per the 2005 Honda Civic - but it's certainly avoided the obscurity of the previous C4. Citroën's design team doesn't appear to have differentiated between the exteriors of the internal combustion petrol and diesel versions and the electric variant though - save for E-C4 badging on the flank and rear. There's certainly no 'closed-mouth' approach common on many other recent EV front ends.
That keeps things simple on the production line and reflects the fact that EVs may soon become so everyday they no longer need to stand out. Indeed, Citroën UK believes 30% of its first full year of sales will be the 136hp EV, with the 100hp, 130hp and 155hp petrol versions taking up more than a whopping four-fifths of the other 70% (with the 110hp and 130hp diesels making up the rest).
All variants are due to go on sale at the same time in the UK in early 2021 and a significant 63% of these are predicted to go to business.
The Citroën E-C4 only gets three electric vehicle grades - entry-level Sense is just for the 100hp petrol and 110hp diesel versions and should equate to 15% of sales - while the mid-rated Sense Plus (34.5%) and Shine (44%) should account for most units made. Top grade Shine Plus will take the remaining 6.5%. As per the electric vehicles from sister brand Peugeot, fast-charging 100kWh DC outlets will get an e-C4 to 80% in 30 minutes while wall boxes and more widely available 7kWh AC points will get it to 100% - or 217 miles WLTP - in 7.5 hours.
Inside, the vehicle is well-appointed, and feels special in Shine trim with neat touches like the digital driver display screen pleasingly backlit with purple light to enhance its floating appearance. Citroën's already well-regarded Advanced Comfort seats and Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension system are standard across all trims.
Rear space is reasonable, and boot space with rear seats up is 380 litres - more than Ford's Focus (375 litres) but well below the similar-sized Kia E-Niro (451 litres). With seats down the capacity rises to a wide and accessible 1,250 litres though.
On the road, the 136hp E-C4 is quiet, smooth, well-mannered and quick enough (9.0 seconds to 62mph). Getting revs high enough and considering inclines before choosing a gear are no longer relevant driver concerns - just press the accelerator and the car does the rest. Take the foot off and regen helps slow it down.
If you want to fiddle, there are three driving modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. Eco saves the 50kWh battery's life and Sport tightens up driving sensations, but to the detriment of available miles. Check your range and take your choice.
The standard safety spec is pretty good, with active brake, speed limit and lane-keep assist functions, plus driver attention alert and forward collision warning.
Tax-wise, early-adopting company car driving purchasers may gain a 0% benefit-in-kind rating, and even after April 2021 the Citroën E-C4 still only attracts a 1% band (compared to the 130hp petrol auto's 29-30% benefit-in-kind rating across the same time frame). The only catch is the e-C4's nearly £5,000 price premium, like-for-like: a petrol PureTech 130hp automatic Shine costs £25,390 while a similarly powered and trimmed 136hp E-C4 is £30,130 (after the £3,000 government grant).
Still, the e-C4 is a lot of car for the money and if your commute is not too long and charger access is good, the company car tax benefits and driving experience are tangible differentiators. There are more powerful and longer-range rivals, but the E-C4 is very good and well worth a test-drive.