Citroen C-Zero: Coming to a campus near you

Citroen has launched its first all electric car of the modern era in the guise of the C-Zero. Despite a worldwide reputation for innovative engineering and design, the French car-maker has opted to buy-in the design and technology from renowned Japanese firm Mitsubishi.

The C-zero has already found a niche as a campus vehicle for universities and local authorities, but I wanted to find out how it would perform on the road as a daily driver in a variety of road conditions.
This is an expensive car. To make the £26,000 price tag more palatable, Citroen are pushing their contract hire option asking for £245 per month over 4 years. This makes it suitable for local car hire companies who can cover the cost by renting the car out, but, to me, it still sounds like a lot if Citroen really want private buyers to take up their offer.

For some time now, I had been looking forward to driving this quirky, futuristic car, but I’m afraid the experience was tremendously underwhelming. The interior falls far below the standard of the rest of the Citroen range and with a price that matches the very well appointed DS5 premium saloon the C-Zero will have to find other areas in which to excel, to win customer orders.

The 49kw electric motor delivers a similar feel to a 1-Litre petrol engine, such as you might find in a Fiat 500 “Twin-Air” for example. Yet despite all the theoretical excitement that an electric motor should provide, the little Fiat provides a far higher quality of car, with a lot more fun, for around half the price.

The C-Zero’s comfort zone is the city streets. This is not a car for nipping along country lanes, or cruising down the motorway. I had high hopes for this car, but the high sides, ruined the fun. Rather than enabling drivers to experience, once again, the joy of guilt-free driving, the C-Zero zaps out all the enjoyment, and replaces it with concern about the vehicle’s dynamic stability.

On the motorway the C-Zero will keep up with the faster moving traffic, but at the expense of Range. Despite a predicted 60 mile range on a full charge, I could only manage 38 miles before losing confidence and cutting short my test. I wished I could have been full of praise of this little car, particularly as the Citroen Glasgow dealership staff were excellent and I have been so impressed by the new DS line-up which is already selling in breathtaking numbers. But, sadly, Citroen have revealed something about their attitude towards zero-emissions motoring. The C-Zero should help them avoid punishment from the EU regarding the average emissions of the company’s output but, at that price, it simply cannot sell in the volumes it would have to before it could be considered an economic success.

We will need to wait and see if the electric and hybrid concepts from Citroen’s own design team come to fruition before we can take seriously Citroen’s efforts to launch a chart topping zero-emission’s vehicle.

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