2023 Citroen E-C3 electric car first drive review | Worthy Tata Tiago EV rival?

We sample the Citroen E-C3, the French carmaker's first crack at an electric car in India at a testing facility. Here’s all you need to know about it
The Citroen E-C3 gets a 29.2kWh battery
The Citroen E-C3 gets a 29.2kWh batteryShot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

Within days of the Mahindra XUV400 launch and the almost immediate price revision of the Tata Nexon EV comes the Citroen E-C3, an electric car that slots in between the Tata Tiago EV and Tigor EV. We get a brief run in the Citroen EC3 at a proving ground on the outskirts of Chennai, bookings of which start this weekend while the launch is slated for February.

Those days are long gone when having an EV in the portfolio was enough, the segment matters, the value proposition is even more under scrutiny and we also now have plenty of reference points to judge electric cars. So how has Citroen India fared at its first crack at an EV in India? How much of a step up if any is it to a Tata Tiago EV? Read on to find out.

2023 Citroen E-C3 styling

Citroen India has with the E-C3 expressed a clear statement — the EC3 will look no different compared to the C3. Except for the powertrain swap from petrol to electric, a few electric badges, a charging lid on the front fender and green number plates, there is no way to tell one from another. You even continue to get a grille like the petrol car, and it is functional too, but more on that later. On the design front, there is nothing different to write about. It continues to look good though, a happy design like Citroens are usually, in this increasingly aggressively designed automotive world. The colour combinations make the Citroen EC3 stand out and the stance gives it that borderline SUV look. Move to the side of the E-C3 and you will notice a black bar under the side skirt. It’s the battery of the E-C3 jutting out. The battery pack reduces ground clearance by 10mm compared to the C3, which now stands at 170mm. It is the only physical change to the C3 that is visible. You will notice that even the fuel filler cap hasn’t been replaced to a full panel, which is instead sealed shut.

2023 Citroen E-C3 interior and features

In the interests of keeping development costs to the minimum, the interior of the Citroen E-C3 follows the same approach. The two interior packs - orange and grey - are both carried forward to the EC3. The difference on the inside is the drive selector and the details on the instrument cluster that show the state of charge in the battery, the range and how efficiently you are driving. It even carries forward the key that you need to ‘crank’. Twist the key and the Citroen EC3 silently comes to life. The display is the same as before, which is a good thing. It’s wide and well laid out, works well for the E-C3 and the colour combinations work very well. The cabin is comfortable, the seats are supportive and the driver’s seat gets height adjustability to give you a good driving position. In the rear, the E-C3 like its petrol cousin offers good shoulder room for three adults to fit comfortably, however, unlike the ICE C3, this car gets a higher floor so you sit knees up in it. It isn’t the most comfortable place to be in if you travel long distances as a result. The long wheelbase though, 95mm more than a Tata Punch at 2540mm, creates excellent interior space, and continues to remain a USP for the E-C3. Even the boot at 315 litres is large for more than a weekend’s luggage. But is spending a weekend out in an EV a challenging thing?

2023 Citroen E-C3 performance, motor and range

Development on the E-C3 began 4.5 years ago alongside the ICE car. This was very early into Citroen’s entry into India and back then the EV landscape was a lot different from what it is now. That sets the premise into what comes next - the performance figures. The E-C3 makes only 56bhp of power, making it the least powerful electric car in India. It is 18bhp down on the much smaller and lighter Tata Tiago EV, however what the E-C3 lacks in power, it makes up in torque, making 143Nm, a good 29Nm more than the Tiago EV. The difference is that torque matters more in an EV, which you will notice when you drive the Citroen EC3. It doesn’t feel desperately underpowered and will reach triple digit speeds easily on its way to its 107kmph top speed. Driving with such a heavy foot will put a strain on the battery though and deplete range rapidly. If you do feel like giving it the beans, 0-60kmph comes in a claimed 6.8 seconds compared to 5.7 seconds in the Tata Tiago EV. So the Citroen E-C3 isn't going to win any drag races.

Citroen India states 320km on a single charge on the MIDC cycle, compared to 305km on the long range Tata Tiago EV. In the real world, they say it will be closer to the 240-250km mark. We will have to wait and see how it does in the real world though. While the Tiago EV isn't a direct rival, the Citroen EC3 comes closest to the Tata hatchback in the absence of an electric powertrain in the Tata Punch.

Anyway, back to the battery, this is an air-cooled battery, which is why you don’t see the front grille closed out in the interest of aerodynamics. The cells are LFP prismatic batteries, not cylindrical cells like most EVs. Citroen India claims that these carry higher energy density. With a more basic thermal management system, how this 29.2 kWh battery performs in the real world in our harsh weather conditions will have to be seen. What does show a lot of promise on the reliability front is the E-powertrain. The entire unit comes from BYD, the Chinese car and battery company we knew very little about just a few years ago. But BYD is at the forefront of EV tech, even selling all major EV components to other manufacturers now. In fact BYD was the first to claim that its cars can take DC charging all the time. Citroen India now is the first mass-market EV manufacturer to claim this, which will be hugely popular among fleet operations where long down times are loss making for companies. This is also good news in the B2C space if you are an individual owner who wants to drive long distances. When you can use fast charging all the time, you can plan for longer road trips without much worrying.

Citroen E-C3 motor
Citroen E-C3 motorShot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

2023 Citroen E-C3 ride and handling

When cars with limited range are driven on a proving ground, you get to know little about how these cars will perform in the real world, especially on the ride quality front. What does seem to have improved over the petrol Citroen C3 is that the E-C3 feels more planted and stable around corners. The added weight which is almost 300kg more than the petrol car and the low CG of the battery makes the E-C3 more surefooted around bends. To cope with the added weight, we presume the soft suspension setup of the C3 might have been tuned and made a bit stiffer, but details on this are unclear as of now. How this has impacted the ride quality and comfort in the cabin will be answered in due course when we test this car in the real world.

Citroen E-C3 on the test track
Citroen E-C3 on the test trackShot by Abhishek Benny for evo India

2023 Citroen E-C3 price and verdict

The Citroen E-C3 will be launched in February and bookings open this weekend. You get two variants with plenty of customisation options for a car in this segment. We expect prices to start from Rs 10.5 -11 lakh ex-showroom for the E-C3 to have a shot at success considering it is a much larger car compared to the Tata Tiago EV and packs in a larger battery. Should you buy one? Well, first impressions are promising, although it does feel like it comes up short on the features front as well as battery tech. I reserve my judgement until a more comprehensive test on regular roads.

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