itroen has been quite adventurous in the styling of the new version of its five-door hatch, the C4, a rival to such stalwarts as the Ford Focus and VW Golf.
A sloping roof gives it a coupe-like image and its chopped-off rear adds a hint of the old Citroen GS, while remaining very contemporary in its styling. Black plastic cladding around the wheel arches make the wheels look larger, adding a hint of SUV robustness.
I’ve been testing the electric version, badged e-C4, which is powered by a 136hp electric motor plus a 50Kw lithium-ion battery under its floor. This gives it an official range of 217 miles, although in the real world you are looking at about 160 miles, especially if you are doing much motorway driving, which gives it less chance to regenerate power from braking.
With a top speed of 93mph and 0-62mph acceleration in nine seconds, this is no fire-breathing monster. But what it lacks in driver appeal it makes up for in refinement and quietness in the cabin.
Citroen has avoided the temptation to operate all the controls through the touchscreen. Heating controls have knobs – and a good job, too. It was annoying in some earlier PSA cars to have to fiddle with sub menus just to adjust the temperature.
The 10-inch touchscreen can show energy flows and range statistics and the sat-nav map can direct you to your nearest charging stations.
There are three driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport. I tended to stick to Eco and use the Brake setting for maximum power regeneration, which usefully extended the rather meagre range. The other settings gave it more zip but added to the frequency of charging stops, which take about 30 minutes to 80 per cent or 7.5 hours using a domestic wallbox. There is no point in charging to 100 per cent as it takes too long and diminishes the life of the battery, which has an eight year/100,000 mile warranty.
A smart key locks and unlocks the car automatically as you approach or walk away, and on the move the e-C4 is quiet, comfortable and quite roomy for this type of vehicle. The boot can swallow 380 litres of cargo or 1,250 litres with the rear seats folded, and there is another 39 litres of storage in cubby holes in the cabin.
The steering is light and reasonably precise, and gears are selected with a pleasingly tactile metal switch. In Shine trim, the test car was well equipped, with a very clear reversing camera and 360-degree view – so useful when parking if you are not using the car’s park assist system.
Using a Citroen app you can set the car’s heating or cooling from home without using up battery power if the vehicle has been left plugged in.
One pleasing touch is the Smart Pad Support, a pull-out lip which secures a tablet for the front seat passenger’s use. There is also a handy storage drawer to keep the tablet safe when not in use.
At around ￡30,000 as tested, the Citroen e-C4 is priced in the same ball park as the Volkswagen ID3 and Nissan Leaf but is not quite as nice to drive as either of them. But it is roomy, refined and stylish and will appeal to buyers for whom range is not the main priority.
Top speed: 93mph
Range: 217 miles
CO2 emissions: Zero