Citroën C-Zero

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Citroën has a new EV after a 7-year hiatus. Called C-Zero to indicate Zero emission and fit with their existing numbering system it is virtually identical to Peugeot iOn. The two sister companies have long shared designs on small cars: the Peugeot 106 was (generally) the upmarket version of the Citroën Saxo. Currently the Peugeot 107, Citroën C1 and Toyota Aygo are all essentially the same car and roll off the same production line.  Peugeot and Citroën have followed the same logic to bring a new EV to market.

Citroën
                          C-Zero
Citroën C-Zero © ecodrive

Peugeot-Citroën's pre-existing relationship with Mitsubishi to buy-in low volume models (they also rebadge their Outlander 4x4 model as Citroën C-Crosser) meant it was an obvious choice as a partner to reintroduce EVs to the market using the well-developed i-MiEV as the basis.

The French giant has quite a history with EVs: their Berlingo électrique was the first serious commercial electric vehicle getting into fleets in the UK in the 90s.  They also produced an electric version of the Saxo, which never made it to these shores since it would have competed with the Peugeot 106 Electric.

In terms of specification, the Peugeot and Citroën products are identical so C-Zero is definitely not the poor-man's iOn. So what are the differences between C-Zero and i-MiEV?  The most significant addition on the C-Zero is Citroën Connect, fitted to all of the other cars in their portfolio now, allowing you to summon roadside assistance or the emergency services at the touch of a button - or automatically in the case of an accident.  A built-in SIM card, mobile phone technology and a GPS allow emergency calls to be tracked and the vehicle location pinpointed.  On C-Zero the service extends cover to running out of juice - a comforting safety blanket, especially for a novice EV driver.

The cooler, funkier cousin?

Just like other small Citroën's, C-Zero is normally shown off in the bold yellow or red (to reflect Citroën's branding) as opposed to the conservative silver and metallic blue normally seen on Peugeot iOn.  Whilst the colour pallette is far greater than the paltry 4 choices available on i-MiEV, they are largely the same between the sister brands (solid white, silver, black, pearlescent white, red & yellow) but each brand has a unique choice, Citroën replacing the metallic Killi Blue with metallic Raspberry Red.  Peugeot iOn and Mitsubishi i-MiEV have opted for body-coloured door frames whereas C-Zero has black borders: together with the tinted windows and black-bodied mirrors they give a more solid look with the illusion of a single, large contrasting panel.

Smoke-tinted rear lamp clusters are carried straight over from the i-MiEV and are a little more 'Citroen' than the red ones of iOn, reflecting the same choices on C1 and 107.  The headlamp bodies are darker too. C-Zero comes with automatically folding mirrors activated by the remote central locking and 7-spoke alloys are standard - an option on i-MiEV.  Completing the Citroën image are the trademark chevrons on the tiny bonnet.

You get a standard DIN radio with 2 speakers and 2 tweeters but it has both a CD and a USB connection - to connect straight to an iPod, other MP3 player or even just a memory stick with your favourite tunes.  It also has Bluetooth and a microphone in the dash to use handsfree with a suitable mobile phone.

On the road

The official range figure from the European 'NEDC' test cycle quotes a range of 93 miles, but this is an overestimate in virtually all circumstances.  A practical maximum of 80 miles is a more honest estimate, subject to modest speeds and without the use of the electric heating or air-conditioning.  With automatic style driving controls and just Park-Reverse-Neutral-Drive selections, it is incredibly simple to drive. There is no built-in satellite navigation but is available as an accessory to fix to the windscreen.

Being rear-wheel-drive it doesn't have a huge boot, just 166 litres, but the 50:50 rear seats fold flat very simply (no issue with seatbelts being caught up etc) to liberate a high, level load floor making it more practical than many larger hatchbacks. Without drive going through the front wheels it has an incredibly tight turning lock, particularly useful in city driving and for making u-turns in the road.

There is only one trim level, in one shade of brown, but relatively well-specified with remote central locking and all-round electric windows.  Electric heating and air-conditioning need judicious use to avoid reducing range, where this will be an issue.  The range can be down to as little as 40 miles, especially in winter with heating and a heavy right foot, but with care a reliable 60 mile range is easily achievable.

All three of the cars achieved an impressive 4-star Euro-NCAP rating, with 6 airbags including curtain airbags, Isofix points for child seats in the rear with a disabling function for the passenger airbag.

Charging

In common with the other Japanese origin cars, including Nissan LEAF, C-Zero has 2 charge inlets, one on each rear quarter panel: the right-hand-side has the 'normal' inlet for charging at home (or base) from a wallbox charger or at a charging station, recouping 8-12 miles' worth of driving per hour.  On the left-hand-side rear is the Quick Charge inlet for use with ChaDeMo chargers to bring up 80% in 30 minutes from empty: 30%-80% in about 15 minutes.  Plugged In Places areas deploying these chargers (as well as Ireland, the Netherlands and Estonia) give longer legs to the pint-sized car.

Citroën C-Zero (Pic: Citroën)
C-Zero comes as standard with a 10Amp 'Granny cable' to use with domestic-type sockets at charging stations.  All new charging stations will soon be using the safer, faster 'Mennekes' type sockets and so a second cable will be required - available as an accessory from ecodrive.

Economics

The C-Zero is available to retail at £21,216 inc VAT and Plug-In Car Grant, or is especially good value on Contract Hire at just £144+VAT per month on a 3-year, 30,000 mile contract. When factoring in the potential to save over £100 per month on fuel charges, nil road tax, exemption from Congestion Charge (in London, with a £10 annual admin fee) and, as a business, 0% Benefit-In-Kind (Company Car tax) for an employee & nil National Insurance contributions for the employer,  you can quickly see how affordable the C-Zero really can be, especially for businesses who can write down the costs against tax.

Verdict

In common with the Peugeot iOn and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Citroën C-Zero is a nimble, agile EV with generous interior space for 4 adults considering its small footprint on the road.  Fantastic steering lock make it incredibly maneouverable. Whilst its Peugeot stablemate is more staid and serious, the Citroën looks more fun, especially in a bold solid colour such as the red or yellow.  Avoid the pearlescent black since it will require greater ventilation or air-conditioning in summer.

We're not so keen on the one choice of brown trim to the dash and seat cloth, whatever the exterior colour, which is a shame but it is lighter than the sombre interior of iOn.

The only option of the Cold Pack (heated drivers seat and heated mirrors) at just £155 (inc VAT) should always be specified: the heated seat can take the chill off and avoid use of the energy-hungry main heating, preserving range.

Citroën C-Zero is £21,216 On The Road (including the Plug-In Car Grant) or £144+VAT per month on a 36-month (3+35) 10,000 miles per annum Contract Hire.

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