Citroen C-Zero review

The Citroen C-Zero is spacious and affordable, but its limitations make it incredibly restrictive

£20,520
£17,020
Electric

Pros

  • Quick from 0-30mph
  • Ideal for city driving
  • Surprisingly spacious

Cons

  • Poor real-world range
  • Slow to reach top speed
  • Rivals offer more value

The Citroen C-Zero is designed to be a small city runabout for low-mileage drivers. However, a combination of limited range and slow charging times ensure that you won’t be able to push the boundaries of this brief as an owner.

Introduced in 2010 as part of a joint project between Citroen, Mitsubishi and Peugeot, the C-Zero is virtually identical to its sister cars the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Peugeot iOn. All three have the same top speed, all three complete 0-62mph in the same amount of time, and all three weigh the same: only the badges really set the cars apart.

Given the on-the-road price – £16,995 after applying the Government’s £3,500 plug-in car grant – the C-Zero is one of the cheapest electric cars you can buy.

However, it’s priced like that for a reason. Citroen quotes a range of 93 miles (a figure derived from the now-discontinued NEDC testing process) from its 14.5kWh battery, but in the real world you should expect this to drop to around 60 miles. Citroen also says the C-Zero can be charged from flat to 80% capacity in just 30 minutes at a dedicated fast-charging station. But be aware that a full charge from a normal household socket will take “between six and 11 hours”, in the words of the French manufacturer.

The C-Zero comes with two charging connectors: a standard one that plugs into a port on the driver’s side of the car and a ‘quick charging’ one located on the passenger side. Delivering 66bhp, the Citroen C-Zero has a top speed of 81mph and will do 0-62mph in 15.9 seconds. These figures make it seem quite leisurely, but at town speeds – the 0-30mph region – the C-Zero is actually quite brisk. That makes it ideal for urban driving and you’re unlikely to drive it on roads that expose its lack of high-speed performance anyway.

While the C-Zero might be sprightly around town, it’s not what you’d call agile. The steering is vague and the body leans in corners, forcing you to make turns at quite sedate speeds. Nor is there much choice when it comes to specification. There’s only one trim level, and only one optional extra: remote-control heating/cooling and charge programming are bundled together and cost £450.

Standard kit includes automatic headlights and 15-inch alloy wheels, while a leather steering wheel, a 12V socket and camel-cloth-finished seats can be found inside. A DAB digital radio is fitted, and Bluetooth is available for smartphone connectivity. A USB port is also provided for in-car charging.

Thanks to its tall roof, the C-Zero is deceptively spacious and will comfortably seat four adults while carrying a week’s shopping in the boot. However, there are none of the driver aids - autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist or even a reversing camera - common in more modern cars. 

The Citroen C-Zero can count the likes of the Volkswagen e-up! and Smart EQ ForFour EQ among its rivals, while the Renault ZOE is also a viable alternative if you’re able to stretch to a more expensive if much more grown-up small car. 

The Volkswagen e-up! offers more range – delivering up to 99 miles on a single charge – although it costs more than the C-Zero. The BMW i3 delivers around 124 miles of real-world range (rising to over 200 miles in Range Extender form), though you’d have to weigh up the additional flexibility against the fact that the C-Zero is roughly half the price.

You could also consider the Renault Twizy quadricycle, which undercuts even the Citroen C-Zero on price and delivers nearly as much range. However, you’d relinquish the practicality offered by the C-Zero’s boot and four-seat layout.

Despite the low starting price and low running costs (a full charge will likely cost around £2), the Citroen C-Zero is hard to recommend. Its 60-mile range is a big hindrance, even for occasional use, and more recent arrivals on the electric-car market are far more capable than the ageing C-Zero. It might work in a two-car household for weekly shops, the school run and perhaps a short commute, provided you can charge it regularly.

For a more detailed look at the Citroen C-Zero, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.