A first drive of the Citroen e-C4 x Shine Plus makes its competitors seem a tad plain
The cynic in us could accuse Citroen of being a late adopter of pure electrification because only now is the French brand getting around to launching its first standalone EV model for the UK market.
Taking the C4 as its base, the zero-emission e-C4 X focusses on improving all-round levels of comfort and convenience.
A ‘DISTINCTIVE SILHOUETTE’
History tells us that we don’t tend to fall head over heels for hatchback cars that have a saloon boot bolted onto them purely because the look and the shape of the final third tends to be like Marmite: you either love it or you hate it.
The e-C4 X carries this tradition forward because despite being entirely all-new, the rear is certainly the least appealing aspect of an otherwise pleasingly-styled family car.
Touted as a fastback that blends the “robust styling and elevated ride height” synonymous with Sport Utility Vehicles, it is 240mm longer against the tape and for that you get a boot that mushrooms in size from 380-litres to 510-litres.
Welcome as this is, replacing a hatch’s tail-gate for a boot lid means accessing items that have found their way into the very heart of the cargo area is not the most straightforward of jobs due to the restricted nature of the opening.
IT ISN’T ALL BAD, IS IT?
Certainly not. As one of the quirkiest pieces of mainstream design in the still-popular C-segment right now, the C4 makes a fair few of its competitors seem a tad plain Jane. And that car’s bold front end is lifted across to the e-C4 X so that it is very much in keeping with Citroen’s corporate face.
Therefore, a double Chevron badge that merges seamlessly with slim DRLs and two-tier headlamps that rely on ‘Vision Lighting’ LED technology are on show. Pop around to the back and efforts to replicate the front lighting signature have not been as successful, chiefly because the huge slab of pressed metal dominates your gaze from every angle.
Sold in a choice of three specifications – ‘Sense’ (£31,995), ‘Shine’ (£34,495) and, as tested here ‘Shine Plus’ (£35,495) – every model wears 18-inch diamond cut ‘Crosslight’ alloy wheels with the middle- and top-trim versions treated to gloss black door handles and door mirror caps. Tinted rear windows framed in chrome finish the look.
ONE BATTERY, A SINGLE MOTOR
Being honest, the switch from petrol or diesel ownership to full EV can be a bit daunting. Single motor or dual configuration? Standard-sized battery or extended range? And should you opt for fast charging capability or stick with what comes as standard?
All pressing questions but none of which matter in the case of the e-C4 X because it is sold in one configuration. Capable of 222-miles on a full charge, the 50kWh battery pack powers a 134bhp front axle-mounted e-motor for a modest 0-62mph time of 9.3 seconds and a 93mph top speed.
Incidentally, there is one key advantage of the car’s elongated profile and that is a drag coefficient of just 0.29 Cx. A 7.4kW onboard charger and a Type 2 cable come as standard, so a full charge from a 7kW wallbox takes seven-and-a-half hours or just thirty minutes for a 0-80% juice up if linked to a 100kW rapid charger. Very handy.
WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE?
The e-C4X’s cabin is a doppelganger of the C4’s. Therefore, they are essentially the same and, as such, share a 5.5-inch digital instrument binnacle and a free-standing 10-inch multimedia screen that – oddly – doesn’t allow you to apply pinch and zoom inputs to the sat-nav maps.
On ‘Shine’ and ‘Shine Plus’ a head-up display joins the car’s arsenal of standard kit, although it is less fanciful than some systems as it relies on a piece of plastic that pokes out of the dashboard behind the instrument cluster rather than directions and information being projected onto the windscreen.
The layout is pretty strait-laced, with the majority of in-cabin functions executed via physical knobs and buttons that have a solid feel to them – a theme common to the rest of the cabin.
Electrically operated Alcantara and faux leather upholstered ‘Advanced Comfort’ seats that receive an extra 15mm of padding for extra comfort on longer trips help to differentiate ‘Shine Plus’ examples.
AND HOW DOES IT HANDLE?
We let the cat out of the bag somewhat in the previous paragraph when we mentioned the word ‘comfort’ because that is exactly the direction of travel Citroen is taking with its cars – and the e-C4 X is no exception.
The soft ride has a calm and unruffled quality to it while there is little or no noise from the e-motor or transmission worth talking about even under hard acceleration. What really helps are Citroen’s famed hydraulic ‘bump stops’; these ensure the car does a much better job of mopping up imperfections, a price worth paying for some additional body roll through the bends.
Still, this is a likeable car and one that leaves you feeling fresh after a three-hour commute. The only criticism from our time with the e-C4 X is the mushy and inconsistent feeling brake pedal and a Sport button we quickly concluded makes no discernible difference to overall performance.
As the letter ‘e’ in e-C4 X suggests, this is an all-electric car and although Citroen does intend to build combustion-powered versions of its newest four-door car for some markets the UK isn’t one. The 50kWh battery and 134bhp e-motor is a familiar set-up and one shared with other makes and models that co-exist within the Stellantis group, including Peugeot and Vauxhall.
At its very heart the e-C4 X is a four-door saloon – albeit one that is not short on style. Available in a choice of six body colours, including ‘Elixir Red’, these can be married to one of four ‘Colour Packs’ that add silver, red, black or blue accents to the driving light surrounds and doors’ protective ‘Air Bumps’. Citroen’s LED lighting technology is present across the three-car line-up.
The biggest gains enjoyed by e-C4 X owners are to be found in the boot as total capacity over the regular C4 hatchback shoots up by 130-litres. Legroom is vastly better too, but what you gain here is taken away in the headroom stakes. To counteract this, the rear seats are reclined 27 degrees further backwards, so tall passengers will notice their head positioned at an unnatural angle.
In comparison to how the e-C4 X looks, the cabin is a more restrained affair as function takes precedence over form. Quality is decent and even on base models the level of kit is pleasing. We counted 16 open and closed storage spaces that includes an area for your smartphone and keys. The retractable, dash-integrated tablet holder for the front seat passenger is a nice feature.
- Quirky exterior detailing
- Smooth and quiet drive
- Supports 100kW charging
- Looks won’t appeal to all
- Boot access can be a faff
- Average EV driving range
Price: £37,140 (as tested)
Engine: One e-motor, 50kWh battery
Power/torque: 134bhp/192lb ft
Transmission: Single-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
0-62mph: 9.7 seconds
Top speed: 93mph