2023 Citroen eC3 review, first drive - a 320 km shot in the arm?
It was always known that the Citroen C3 was the first rung in a family of affordable cars from Citroen, the C-Cubed architecture always being ready for electrification. So just six months after the petrol hatch's launch, we now have the Citroen eC3 electric hatch with us. It's positioned at the lower end of the EV price spectrum so there is quite a lot of potential for success.
Citroen eC3 battery, range, charging
The Citroen eC3 uses a 29.2 kWh lithium ferrous phosphate battery pack, the hatchback's long wheelbase design was always meant to house a respectably sized battery pack. This gives it 320 km of ARAI range which should be good for about 240 to 260 km in the real world. We saw 220 km on the read-out with about 96 per cent charge so these numbers seem believable. Notably, this battery pack is naturally cooled with passing air unlike most of the liquid-cooled setups you currently see.
Citroen says it has tested this pack extensively and found this strategy to work effectively with the battery size and chemistry. The battery pack can function between -10 to 55 degrees Celsius and also ford water without trouble although an IP rating isn't mentioned. Otherwise, the pack can withstand nail penetration.
As for charging, the eC3 can charge at up to 30 kW of DC fast charging which takes 57 minutes to go from 10 to 80 per cent. Uniquely, Citroen says constant DC charge cycles will not affect battery life. There is 3.3 kW of AC charging that takes 10.5 hours to top up. The charge port placed on the front left fender is a convinent touch, although to save costs the fuel filler has been deleted only sealed.
Citroen eC3 motor, regen, driving impressions
A 57PS and 143 Nm electric motor powers the Citroen eC3. This is some way less than both the petrol C3s but the EV moves more encouragingly than the numbers suggest. That crisp electric torque is somewhat dulled by the 1.3-tonne kerb weight but there's still enough here to make the eC3 feel perky at low speeds. We drove the eC3 at the WABCO proving grounds near Chennai on a perfectly tarmacked, simple circuit but EVs do well in traffic with easily accessed performance and the electric Citroen shouldn't be any different. The 0 to 60 kmph time of 6.8s seems achievable.
Power builds in a progressive manner but you do notice it losing steam at around 80 kmph. The eC3 still trudges along to its 107 kmph top speed but faster overtakes will need some thought. We also noticed that the car needs some time to react to a heavy, abrupt dab of power but we hope this bug will be sorted out by the time the eC3 goes on sale.
There is also an Eco mode that limits torque to 120 Nm and gives you a 10 to 15 per cent range boost but this drop is only really apparent under heavy acceleration. It should be perfectly usable as a default drive mode on a commute.
You can't choose regen levels in the eC3, which would have been the better way to do it, but the variable system does work naturally. There's quite a bit of regen at low speeds that brings the eC3 down to a 7 kmph crawl although you will need the friction brakes to stop. This then progressively reduces as speeds rise to give you a sense similar to engine braking so first-time EV users won't be caught out. There's also quite a seamless switch between the regen and physical brakes that makes hard braking less eventful than it needs to be.
We can't tell how this electric C3 rides in regular Indian conditions but on track, the substantial, well-engineered feel that comes through in the ICE version seems to have been retained. It's still got nearly that same well-judged steering feel and still handles in that progressive, predictable manner that makes it quite easy to use in traffic or here around corners. The added weight is apparent of course but like most EVs, the low centre of gravity does counter that effect to an extent.
Citroen eC3 exterior, interior, features
You'd be hard-pressed to spot the Citroen eC3 from the ICE version. The naturally-cooled battery needs a grille just like an ICE so the only differentiators are the new dual-tone paint options and the small E badges that dot the fenders. The C3 was always a good-looking car but a bit more to differentiate it from the EV may have been appreciated by prospective owners. There has been a 10mm drop in ground clearance to 170mm.
It's nearly the same with the interiors. You now get black upholstery that will be easier to keep clean than the ICE's version's white but the big differentiator is the toggle shifter. It seems very similar to the one in the facelifted C5 Aircross and is quite a hefty, tactile one to use. The lack of a Park mode can be an issue as seen with some other EVs but things have improved marginally with the instrumentation too. It's still the small LCD one but you do get a small bar graph to show the motor's function, equivalent to the missing tachometer in the ICE versions. Other than this there's still no extensive trip computer.
The space in front remains much the same as the standard C3. The battery pack has been placed aft of the front seats so you do sit in a more crouched position at the back given the high floor, with thigh support now a touch compromised. But this is the norm for many EVs and the Citroen manages this better with its fairly comfortable bench. Usefully, boot space hasn't been compromised. It's still 315 litres with a spare wheel provided for good measure.
There have been some minor additions to the features list like a suite of phone-based connected-tech features, driving stats and a day/night inner rear-view mirror. But we would have liked to have seen more, especially since this really is one of the C3's handicaps. So you still get the 10-inch screen with wireless phone pairing but a start/stop button, powered mirrors, as well as a rear camera, are some things Citroen could have added to what will be a more premium offering still.
Citroen eC3 verdict, expected price
The Citron eC3 carries on in the mould of the C3. It's got a sound EV powertrain, useful range for a city runabout and the sense of space and comfort that Citroen does so well with the ICE version. We would have liked more equipment again but we hope Citroen gets the pricing right, our hope is a sub-Rs 10 lakh entry price, to fully capitalise on the fairly sparse playing field the Citroen eC3 has to itself in the EV space.
Starts Rs 5.71 Lakhs