Citroen on Tuesday unveiled its new electric e-C3 SUV, a low-cost model starting at 23,300 euros ($24,540) aimed at taking on Chinese carmakers in the affordable electric vehicle market.

The EV from Citroen, part of the Stellantis auto group, will be assembled in Slovakia and launch in the second quarter of 2024. It is the same size as the current C3 city car, but less rounded and slightly taller.

Its price tag does not include state subsidies of up to 5,000 euros.

"This is the most important launch for the Citroen brand in at least 10 years," Citroen General Manager Thierry Koskas told reporters. "This is a new way of breaking market conventions. A European electric car at 23,000 euros? There isn't one.”

The average European electric city car costs around 30,000 euros.

To go lower, Stellantis is reusing its simplified "Smart Car" platform used in India, which differs from the four EV platforms the group has under development.

The EV also has a limited range of 320 km (199 miles) using cheaper LFP battery technology imported from China.

The basic trim, which could qualify for the French government's 100 euro-per-month "social leasing" affordable EV program, lacks an infotainmeant screen but still allows a mobile phone to be connected.

Citroen's Koskas said the carmaker had no desire to make the new C3 a "technological Christmas tree" but had not skimped on what mattered.

"It has comfort attributes and electrical attributes that are at the best level,” he said.

The EV, for instance, includes the soft suspension that Citroen has usually reserved for larger models.

Europe is bracing for an influx of lower-cost Chinese EVs, so Citroen has plans to go further.

The brand plans a cheaper electric C3 at the beginning of 2025 – starting at 20,000 euros – with a reduced range of 200 km, Koskas said.

Citroen's C3 last year accounted for 11% of the city car market in Europe. Since the first generation of the model in 2002, more than 5.6 million have sold.

Unveiled in the immense Hangar Y in Meudon, where airships were assembled at the end of the 19th century, the car also inaugurates the brand's new design, including a new logo that harks back to its origins.

($1 = 0.9495 euros) (Reporting by Gilles Guillaume, writing by Nick Carey;)