Ahead of launch next month, we got a chance to test drive the new Citroen C3 electric – Here is why we think eC3 has the potential to make Citroen a mass market brand in India
Last Year in Goa when we were attending Citroen C3’s Media Drive, most journalists had questions about the lack of an Automatic Gearbox option on the C3. Stellantis’ Senior Management had confirmed that they intend to bring in an automatic at a later date.
While most of us drew the conclusion that Citroen will bring in an AMT or an AT on the C3, not many of us would have expected that the first automatic C3 in India would actually be on C3’s electric version. Within 6 months of introduction of C3 in Indian market, Citroen has now unveiled the eC3, basically, the electric version of C3. We were invited for a short test-track drive of the eC3, and here are our first impressions of the electric hatchback.
C3 EV Exteriors – Are they any Different?
Aesthetically, the eC3 looks almost identical to the C3. Citroen’s team informed that they have used the same body shell of the ICE powered C3 on eC3, as it helps with costs (economies of scale). So, please don’t get surprised when you find a fuel lid at the rear left of the car. Unlike most conventional EVs, it doesn’t even get a closed front grille, so even that differentiating factor can be removed.
Some of the key changes on its design include the ‘e’ badges on front doors, a charging port on front right fender and lack of a tail-pipe. Citroen also has included some new color options on the eC3, however, in the plethora of color combinations on offer, it wouldn’t be justifiable for the larger masses to remember the differentiation. Obviously, the easiest differentiator on the road, will be the green number plates which the eC3s will carry.
Our opinion on C3’s/eC3’s design hasn’t changed. It is quirky yet it still manages to avoid being classified as polarizing, and over the period of time, grows over you.
What’s on the Inside?
Once you step inside, you get a very familiar cabin (just that of the C3). However, the gear lever is now gone and there is a nice and elegant drive mode selector. Added benefit – more space in the already roomy cabin.
Citroen has turned a little kinder and has added some additional features compared to the C3 – for example, now the cabin gets manual day-night interior rear view mirror. The battery pack is placed under the seats, which has helped the boot to carry a space of 315 litres. Its closest competitor, the Tiago EV offers a space of 240 litres in its boot.
What powers it?
In terms of specs, the eC3 gets a 29.2 kWh battery pack which has a max power output of 57 PS and 143 Nm of peak torque. ARAI certified mileage happens to be 320 kms, however, we don’t think that the real-world range will go beyond 250kms, which is very decent for a car in this category. There is also an Eco mode on offer, which as the name suggests – limits the acceleration and helps with a longer range cover.
The naturally cooled battery pack can be charged from 10% to 80% in just 57 minutes via fast charger. Interesting bit here is not the speed of charge, but Citroen’s claim that you can fast charge your car, every time, and it won’t impact the battery’s life in a negative way. A home charging mechanism via a 15 AMP plug point can charge the car from 10% to 100% in around 10.5 hours.
How is it to Drive?
Once you are behind the wheel, and you push the accelerator hard, expect the car to give you electrifying acceleration, you will realize that you are in the wrong car. For that, it would be more sensible to either get the C3 with a Turbo motor, or invest in an EV which costs twice as much as the eC3.
The eC3 is an extremely practical car which has the potential to become your daily in-city ride. The ride quality of C3 is something which we had praised earlier, and with the eC3, it further gets better. A lower centre of mass (thanks to the floor-stacked battery pack), has enhanced eC3’s ride quality.
Steering feedback is reasonable, brakes do their job well and body roll has reduced (compared to C3). Acceleration is decent, you can do a 0-60 kmph in 6.8 seconds and the top-speed is limited to 107 kmph. All of it makes the eC3 a great city ride. However, we must confess that we could experience the eC3 only on a controlled test track. We are yet to experience how it fares in real-world conditions, along with road’s undulations and city’s stop & go traffic.
Citroen has relatively been one of the late entrants in the Indian passenger car market. Its portfolio currently consists of its flagship – C5 Aircross and C3 – whose sales are slowly catching up. However, at the moment, Citroen’s market share is still low and it clearly has the intent to improve it in coming months. Hence, it plans to have an early mover advantage in the mass-market EV space, which at the moment is dominated by Tata Motors. With eC3, Citroen probably plans to pull off what the 800 did for Maruti Suzuki or first gen Santro did for Hyundai.
C3 Electric has the potential to establish Citroen as a mass market car maker in India. With the eC3, Citroen almost has all the right ingredients, a fresh design, massive space on the inside, a decent set of creature comfort features, promise of a reliable post-purchase experience and segment leading comfort and ride quality. The only catalyst which it now requires for the sales to pick-up is right pricing. Aggressive launch prices might put on a little pressure on their margins, but it might be prudent for Citroen to take the bet and ride on the EV wave in India’s Passenger Car market.