Citroen C-ZERO (2011 - 2018)


Electric 5dr Hatchback

reviewed by Flying Red on 27 October 2013
Overall rating
How it drives
Fuel economy
Tax/Insurance/Warranty costs
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Good at what it does but needs a different mindset

Established motoring journalists haven't really got their heads around electric vehicles yet. Of course they aren't suitable for a fast drive across Europe. Nor would you buy one to throw around a track or twisty B roads. To be honest, the technology isn't appropriate for traditional car enthusiasts at all!

Electric cars make most sense for drivers who make short journeys within a 35 mile radius of home. The cost of charging the battery is around £1.50, which gives a cost per mile of around 2p. Compared to a Hyundai i10, for 750 miles each month, the fuel cost saving works out at £100 per month at current prices. If you generate your own electricity from solar PV then the saving will be even higher.

Researching this purchase carefully, I ploughed through loads of unfounded online scaremongery about battery failure and high replacement costs. Citroen warrants the traction battery for five years from new and the manufacturer claims that it will lose approx 2% range per year. So, at 10 years old, range will still be 80% of the car's new capability.

The evidence from 3 million Priuses over the past 16 years is that the probability of failure is low. As we now know, the ongoing maintenance costs of petrol and diesel engines are substantial with injectors, cam belts, DPFs, DMFs, etc all failing prematurely and costing four figures to replace.

So what's the C Zero like to drive? Surprisingly normal. There's no engine noise, so it's quiet at low speeds. It rides well and keeps up easily in traffic. You quickly adapt driving style, influenced by the eco read out and range remaining indicator. Reading the road ahead, keeping the car moving by anticipating traffic signals and gaps and using the car's regenerative braking all help to extend the range. Adopting a 'hypermiling' mindset means that handling and roadholding are irrelevancies. The pleasure comes from seeing the range remaining read out increasing as the miles go by!

Speaking of range, it's like driving a petrol car with a quarter tank. However, there's no need to watch out for cheaper petrol prices or waste time queueing at filling stations. Plugging in at home for an overnight charge a couple of times each week couldn't be easier.

Unlike conventional cars, whose engines produce waste heat, the cabin heat comes from the traction battery. This means that range will be reduced if the heater or a/c is left on a high setting. We are learning that using it in short bursts to demist the screen is effective and heated seats are far more efficient than using the car's heater.

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