The presentation of the new C3 was a real milestone in the segment of versatile electric saloons, as Citroën has succeeded in offering an affordable electric car without sacrificing style, range or comfort. If the C3 has the advantage of being the first electric city car to be offered for less than €25,000, the competition will not be far behind, especially the future Renault 5, its main French rival, which is due to be launched in 2024. The opportunity to organise a first virtual confrontation between these two B-segment electric saloons.
Although Citroën and Renault are both entering the B-segment electric saloon market, the two French brands are pursuing very different strategies.
Indeed, Renault is playing the nostalgia card to the hilt by reviving its old legends with a new R5 that follows the lines of its glorious predecessors to rekindle the nostalgia of customers for the first Renault 5. Citroën, for its part, continues a modern line of three generations of the C3, which has just overtaken the 2CV as the brand's best-selling model. The brand has chosen to adapt its C3 to the current period and, after a third generation tinted with an SUV, the new generation assumes to be almost one.
However, both aim to democratise the electric car by being offered below €25,000, a bar that Renault had initially set at €20,000 during the presentation of the R5 concept, in 2021, but that the diamond brand probably did not know how to hold for its next electric city car.
If Citroën has not communicated much about its new C3 before its launch, the brand is sticking to its target and even manages to offer its new electric saloon from €23,300, which is well below the price of the car. R5 base that Renault announces at around 25,000 euros, which may suggest above, because if it were below this threshold, the brand would have made a point of shouting it from the rooftops. In terms of base price, Citroën therefore has the upper hand over the future R5, even if it is difficult to make a final judgement given the lack of information on the equipment of the base R5, despite Renault's strong communication.
However, the latest information already allows us to see that both the C3 and the R5 seem to be equivalent in terms of autonomy and batteries, but that the small Citroën has two advantages:
The first is that it will be available from May 2024, while the future R5, which will be presented in February, will only be available from October 2024 with a 52 kWh battery only to start. However, the announced price of €25,000 refers to a version with a 40 kWh battery that will not be launched immediately but a few months later. Citroën therefore has a clear advantage with the C3, which will be the only electric saloon in the B segment under €25,000 for a few months.
The second advantage is more technical and concerns autonomy. Citroën has chosen a 44 kWh LFP battery for its new C3 with a range of 320 kilometres, while Renault has announced NMC batteries with 40 kWh for a range of 310 kilometres and 52 kWh for a range of around 400 kilometres. The basic version of the R5, which will really be competing with the new Citroën C3, will therefore have a slightly lower range, even though the new C3 is clearly ahead for technical reasons. NMC batteries, due to their chemistry, cannot be charged to more than 80% too often, as this could damage them, whereas LFP batteries, including those in the new C3, MUST be charged to 100% and accept this perfectly without any problem. This means that the real range of the new C3 is 320 km with a 100% battery, but that of the future R5 is not 310 km because it assumes a full battery that can only be charged to 80%. There is therefore a 20% charge delta between the C3 and the R5, which gives the Citroën a clear advantage, since the real autonomy of the R5 with a battery charged to 80% can be estimated at 248 km, i.e. a difference of 72 km in real autonomy in favour of the new C3.
I will come back to the LFP batteries in a moment, which give the new Citroën C3 other advantages. The latter is therefore well ahead of the future R5 and has solid arguments, particularly in terms of significantly greater real autonomy at a significantly lower price.
Two different saloons
The new C3 is clearly a B-segment saloon with strong SUV accents. With a length of 4.02 m, the new C3 clearly meets the expectations of customers in this segment, while the future R5 with a length of 3.92 m is on average 15 cm shorter than its competitors and thus 10 cm shorter than the C3. This may suggest that the future Renault saloon will be less spacious, even though its wheelbase of 2m53 is 1cm shorter than that of the C3, and therefore its boot capacity may be smaller. But again, the lack of information prevents us from making a final judgement. However, with a height of 1m52 compared to 1m58 for the new C3, the latter could give a greater feeling of space with more headroom, which will have to be verified once all the information has been communicated.
Two electric saloons from the B-segment, but two different visions, since the C3 is more of an SUV, even if the future R5 is indeed a saloon. On the one hand, the C3 focuses on comfort and well-being on board, particularly with its standard double hydraulic suspension or the Advanced Comfort seats on the Max version, but also with its C-Zen Lounge concept and the Citroën Head-Up Display. -The head-up display, simple and technological, gives you a clear view of the road ahead.
Renault seems to be opting for a more technological vision with the future R5, which will be equipped with a personal assistant called Reno with fuzzy contours or even V2G technology, which will allow various devices to be charged directly from the car battery or even transfer electricity from the battery to the house or vice versa. This superior technology will also result in a higher selling price to the detriment of the R5, although it is important to note that the prices of so-called L.O.A. offers could wipe out this price difference.
To sum up, Citroën is once again shaking up the market with the first truly affordable electric car in the B-segment, without sacrificing autonomy, comfort or equipment. But the competition is coming fast and the future R5 will undoubtedly be formidable, but the C3 has solid arguments, starting with a lower price, greater autonomy and first-class comfort that promises to be the best in its category. Launched first, the new C3 will have the advantage of novelty and firstness, Citroën will have to know how to cultivate this in order to reap the fruits of a success that this C3 intends to continue.