Driving around in the city should be a convenient and smooth affair. There are no gear shifts, no turbo lag, and noise as well. With a linear pedal response, even a newbie driver would seem a smooth driver.
Driving the Citroen eC3
Powering the Citroen eC3 is a permanent magnet synchronous motor that puts out 56 BHP and 143 Nm. Citroen claims that the electric vehicle can accelerate from 0-60 km/h in 6.8 seconds:
We got to drive the Citroen eC3 at the Wabco India Proving Ground in Chennai. The drive was around an oval test track with a couple of chicanes in the middle. But before we get to the driving part, let’s get some of the basics right. There are 3 main components in an EV – the battery, the motor, and the controller/charger. The battery is what stores the energy and the motor is what uses that energy to move the car. The controller/charger converts the energy from the battery into a usable form to power the motor. In more technical terms, the power grid from your house or a charging station is usually an AC current. The lithium-ion battery can store electric energy in DC form. So while charging, there’s an AC/DC converter that will convert the power grid’s AC into DC and store it in your car’s battery. The DC fast chargers that you see usually have the AC/DC converter built in, which is how they can charge your car’s battery faster. The controller typically sits on top of the motor. In the case of the Citroen eC3, the controller and motor are placed under the bonnet.
Get into the eC3, insert the key in the keyhole and crank like you would a normal IC engine car. Yes, the eC3 doesn’t get a push-button start and it does feel a bit odd to crank an electric car. Upon cranking, all you get is a ‘Ready’ signal on the MID indicating that you can drive now. There are 3 transmission modes to choose from – R, N, and D. With a foot on the brake pedal, switch to D mode, and off you go. The car crawls forward smoothly without making any noise. For driving in the city’s bumper-to-bumper traffic, this crawl speed of 7 km/h feels adequate. The build-up of speed is very smooth and linear without any jerks.
Driving around in the city should be a convenient and smooth affair. There are no gear shifts, no turbo lag, and noise as well. With a linear pedal response, even a newbie driver would seem a smooth driver. For someone who’s going to be driving in a sedate manner in the city, the 56 BHP on offer seems adequate. However, it doesn’t feel very quick on its feet and at times might just feel a little sluggish in terms of power delivery. You won’t have issues with quick overtakes and closing the gaps in the city, but don’t expect an electrifying pace here. The only frame of reference we have in this category is the Tiago electric which was more eager to get off the line. The eC3 feels as if it’s missing the urgency that you would expect in an electric car.
The eC3’s mere 56 BHP is more evident at highway speeds. Remember that the kerb weight is ~ 1,300 kg which means that the power-to-weight ratio is merely 43 BHP / ton. The torque to weight ratio is 109 Nm / ton which helps in the initial acceleration. But at high speeds (i.e. high RPMs), you can feel the power deficit a lot more. Remember that single-gear EVs lack the punch in the top end. The progress from 60-100 km/h isn’t quick and you can describe it as just adequate. You also have to remember that the eC3’s top speed is limited to 107 km/h. So, high-speed overtakes aren’t something you should be looking forward to. Best to just stick to driving at 80-90 km/h on the expressway in the middle lane. All in all, the eC3 is purely focused on sedate driving in the city. Given the high kerb weight, low power, and the tuning of the motor, the eC3 is a car that’s not meant to be driven hard.
The eC3 gets an Eco driving mode for extracting more range. However, the difference between Normal and Eco driving modes is close to none. The car felt exactly the same in both modes and there was no indication on the MID that the car was in Eco mode. You do get an ‘Eco’ readout while driving on part throttle, but it disappears as soon as you bury the accelerator. The transmission mode selector from the C5 Aircross facelift is fairly convenient and you get used to it pretty quickly. One major irritant however was the Reverse mode. The pedal response in Reverse was either On or Off and nothing in between. This made reversing smoothly almost impossible. Samurai found this jerky nature to be highly irritating.
The eC3’s 29.2 kWh LFP battery pack is naturally air-cooled and not liquid-cooled as we’ve seen on the Tiago EV and other Tata electric cars. Citroen claims to have tested the car at temperatures from -10 degrees Celsius to 55 degrees Celsius. It will be interesting to see how the battery copes with different temperatures across India. Team-BHP ownership reviews of this car are something to look forward to.
The Citroen eC3 doesn’t get adjustable regenerative braking. There’s only one level of regenerative braking and it’s pretty mild. This is good if your focus is on driving smoothly. However, someone focused on getting more kilometers would prefer a higher level of regeneration.
Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
At low speeds, there’s not much that you can hear inside the cabin. There’s no engine, no gearshifts, and very minimal mechanical parts, so no jerks or vibrations either. Tyre and wind noise started to creep in at 80 km/h.
We didn’t get a lot of time to calculate the drop in battery percentage for a guesstimate range figure. However, as is the case with all EVs, push the car hard and you will notice the range and battery percentage falling at a rapid pace. ARAI claimed range figure is 320 km and hence under real-world driving conditions you can safely assume a 200 km range.
The Citroen eC3 supports DC fast charging and the battery can be charged from 10-80% in 57 minutes. Since the eC3 is also targeted towards the B2B fleet market, Citroen claims that charging at a DC fast charger multiple times won’t affect the life of the battery. While this may be true, there’s not enough real-world data to corroborate the fact. Going by some of the stories on international EVs, charging multiple times on a level 3 DC fast charger (60 kW and above) does have an effect on the long-term longevity of the battery. So, if this is something that bothers you, there’s always the option of charging at home with your simple 15 amp AC wall socket. It will take about 10 hours and 30 minutes to charge from 10% to 100%, but it is the cheapest option. Sadly, Citroen isn’t offering a fast AC wall-box charger (higher wattage) even as an option. This would have brought down the charging time to ~5 hours. There would be additional costs, but since a lot of features / accessories are anyway available as an option on the eC3, a fast AC wall-box charger would’ve been appreciated by some owners.
The eC3 rides on McPherson strut suspension at the front and a twist-beam suspension with coil springs at the rear. You get 15-inch wheels as standard shod with 195/65 R15 tyres. As mentioned earlier, our test drive was limited only to the track which had well-paved roads. Hence we cannot comment on ride quality. This will be updated post our longer test drive in our familiar driving conditions in the city and on the highways. The first impression is that the suspension tune does feel a tad bit stiff, however, we would like to reserve our opinions for the moment.
Handling & Dynamics
Just like the C3, the eC3 feels stable at high speeds. Given that the top speed is limited to 107 km/h, you will immediately notice that the chassis is capable of handling much more. The car doesn’t feel nervous and straight-line stability is good. Carry some speed into the corners and the car holds its line well. The front end feels tight and you can turn in sharply into a corner. There’s little understeer and the only thing holding you back from having fun with this chassis is the powertrain.
The electric power steering unit in the eC3 is very user-friendly. It’s light at city speeds and most owners will appreciate that. A turning circle of 4.98 metres is also tight and the eC3 should be an easy car to drive in the city. It weighs up nicely when you gain speed and feels good to use while driving at 100 km/h.
On the eC3, you have disc brakes up front and drum brakes at the rear. Overall performance is as expected and the car comes to a halt in a predictable manner. We couldn’t try out emergency braking as we were asked not to by the track officials. The pedal has a spongy feel to it, but with time, you will get accustomed to it.
Continue reading the discussion on the Citroen eC3 on our forum.
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