Citroën offers a jolt of electric style
But what, exactly? Citroën, as part of the same PSA Group as Peugeot, is currently in crisis and the Survolt is most definitely not headed for production. There had been talk on its debut two years ago that a one-make racing series might be created for it, but that’s now dead in the water. And Citroën as a company doesn’t even seem to be all that keen on electric cars, with company insiders saying that such machines are more or less destined for a city-bound life.
“Back in time it was a new way for Citroën,” says Arnaud. “We had no electric car then, it was before the C-Zero, and we wanted to know what we could do with an electric car. So a race car was the best way to improve the knowledge about the electric systems and, as it’s also a concept car, so it was designed without the need to put it in, say, Le Mans, and go and win it. So it could also be about exterior design. It’s to explore a new way, to test.
“There are some things you can find already on the Citroën and DS ranges and some things you will find in future cars. With it we explore, we try, we understand new ways of design and after, if we are easy with it, happy with it, we can put it into production,” he says.
“OK, let’s try again. Ignition, battery management, fan and power . . .” This time, the whirring noises behind my head take on a faintly different timbre and now the throttle pedal responds to a prod. The surprising, even shocking, thing about the Survolt is the noise. We presume electric cars to be silent, and from the outside they largely are, but inside the Survolt the noise is properly loud, a mixture of water pumps sluicing coolant to the batteries and motors, the rat-a-tat of stone chips pinging off the floor and, above all, the whine of the electric motors. No milk-float hum this, it sounds more like someone’s let a Pratt Whitney jet turbine loose in the boot.
There’s only enough room in the tiny footwell for two pedals and you have no choice but to left-foot brake. Combine that with the lack of gears and it’s very like driving a big, enclosed go-kart. Except for the acceleration.
Hammer the throttle (can we still call it a throttle?) to the floor and the Survolt whines, stutters and then explodes, hurling itself forward on a sub-5.0-seconds 0-100km/h run, about as fast as a BMW M3. You have to be sharp on the brakes because there’s no engine braking and even the brake energy regeneration doesn’t seem to slow you too much. That tiny steering wheel comes alive in your hands, its messages uncorrupted by any power assistance.