Citroën is no stranger to electric power. Back in the mid-1990s, it produced electric versions of the Berlingo, and sister company Peugeot built an electric 106 and before that a re-chargeable 205. Nearly 20 years later, the world has caught up, and in a climate of spiralling fuel prices, buyers are now beginning to take electric vehicles seriously.
The Citroen C-Zero is effectively a rebadged version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (which has been put into the annals of history) and Peugeot iOn (which Peugeot keeps on its books in a similar vein to Citroën). It has a 66bhp electric motor fed by lithium-ion batteries mounted midships, and is capable of a heady 80mph. A full recharge takes seven hours from a household electricity supply which is good for a range of around 93 miles.
Naturally, the exact range depends not only on how the C-Zero is driven, but also when and where. On a cold night, with the main beam and air-con turned up, the charge will be depleted far quicker than if it’s all turned off, but buyers will quickly learn to factor such events into their journey planning.
The C-Zero doesn’t compromise on the things that make city cars useful. It has plenty of space for four occupants, four doors and decent boot. The narrow track means its can squeeze through gaps in traffic and all-round visibility is excellent and the rear-mounted motor means it has a tight turning circle.
As for its level of standard equipment, well its very much on par with a fossil fuel burning city car, with its electric power steering, tyre pressure monitoring system, automatic headlights, folding mirrors, and air conditioning.
Despite the narrow track and tall body, the C-Zero has decent body control thanks to a low centre of gravity. The soft springs offer a good ride, and the steering is unexpectedly sharp and responsive.
Don’t expect sports car-like performance, but the electric motor has plenty of pickup from rest, making darting through traffic easy. Acceleration up to 30mph is rapid, but above this it needs to be worked hard and the additional pace will certainly harm the vehicle’s range, while its 0-62mph time of 15.9 seconds is somewhat sedate.
Citroën says there is still anxiety among buyers about the lifespan and cost of batteries, so it is offered on a four-year, 40,000 mile contract for £299 a month, excluding VAT. The plan includes the cost of leasing the car and battery, full servicing and maintenance, a two year vehicle warranty and a five year drivetrain warranty.
By comparison, the C1 city car can be leased from £119 a month, making the C-Zero a costly, if clean, alternative.