The French automaker has been struggling for a while in the crucial compact class in Europe, but the recent refresh of the C4 should lend it some weight – at least in nailing a more comfortable niche position.
Let’s face it, the Citroen C4 will never be a top seller in the segment – after the first three quarters of the year (January – September) the French model is not even in the top ten (13th position) while its Peugeot brother – the 308 – is comfortably fourth behind the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Skoda Octavia. This doesn’t mean the compact car can’t find its own niche – and judging from our review my best guess is the C4 will bode well with those interested in having the most comfortable ride possible, without paying the top dollar for a premium compact entry.
The Citroen C4 has been refreshed recently and the facelift has had a minor impact on the overall aspect of the model, while further technical enhancements are enforcing the model’s credentials. We should remember the C4 also has an interesting internal competitor – the C4 Cactus, a crossover model derived from the hatch that has had a success that surprised even the automaker. But rest assured, the Citroen C4 has enough arguments in this current generation to win the hearts of a certain segment of customers. And that’s reasonable – PSA has a model that sits up front with the big fellas’ and thus the C4 can seemingly establish its own route, eschewing the never ending drive to lift sales. By the way, if you nostalgically remember the quirky previous generation of the C4 compact you might be in for a surprise – recently a top executive declared the C4 Cactus and subsequent interesting designs (the 2016 C4 Aircross concept would be a good example) would reflect more and more on the choices the brand makes – so the upcoming generation of the C4 could have another trump card.
Design, Interior and Gadgets
The C4 facelift has touched the exterior design as light as a feather, with minor refreshes that are mostly visible at the taillights level, which have a changed – 3D-like – design now. Major changes were not in order since the C4 boasts a very serious, solid attitude – rather uncharacteristic for a brand renowned for innovating – not following trends. Well, we can say they tried to deliver a compact car that mirrors the design traits of German competitors, with French flair, of course – and underachieved. The 308 meanwhile has been delivered more in line with the core Peugeot philosophy and the sales results reflect the successful approach. We’re eagerly waiting to see what Citroen has in store for the future – especially given the approach taken with the models derived from the same architecture: the innovative C4 Cactus and odd job C4 Picasso.
In fact, quirky as they may be, these two latter models better reflect the Citroen innovation credo than the utterly understated C4 compact. Nobody says the C4 Cactus and C4 Picasso will be for everyone but that “love/hate” approach has been very successful time and again (just look at the sales numbers of the C4 Cactus or the Nissan Juke back when it first appeared). True, if you want a very comfortable and inconspicuous compact hatchback that will set you apart from the German bunch, the French option is a way to go. The exterior has a plentiful of character lines and still manages to deliver an understated appearance, with the C4 actually treating us to a model that could very well be used as a company car or family aid.
Moving on to the interior, here the changes are more obvious if you opt for the new navigation system eMyWay that uses a 7 inch touchscreen and is actually very close to the infotainment system found in the C4 Cactus. By the way – having a tactile screen is not really the best option in the C4 because the display sits in the same location and at the same angle as the one that employed physical buttons and dials – those are located closer to the driver. The Citroen quirkiness finds its way inside the C4 as well, which has a two-tone lighting setup for the instrument dials that can be varied in color and intensity by the owner. Other than that, the C4’s solid exterior stance is reflected inside the cabin through enhanced visibility front and back and the available interior space.
In all earnest, the C4 might not be the most alluring compact car out there but it’s certainly one of the biggest in the bunch: at 4329 mm long, 1789 mm wide and 1489 mm tall it boasts a 2608 mm wheelbase that compares well to the rivals: the VW Golf, Renault Megane and Peugeot 308 are shorter, while the newer Opel Astra and Nissan Pulsar for example only boast a few more millimeters. Inside there’s plenty of room for five passengers and associated luggage (408 liters is in the middle of the pack – more than in the Nissan Pulsar, VW Golf, Renault Megane and Opel Astra but less than in the Peugeot 308). A special mention goes to the front seats that are evry comfortable and handle well the weight transfer of the body when undertaking a more dynamic driving approach thanks to the anatomic design of the lateral support elements. While the C4 is 100 percent geared towards comfort, the attention given to the front seats is out right flattering – I found many brands to have a sporty hatch that comes with no lateral support from the front seats.
And the seats are also great when undertaking longer rides – the rear bench has not been profiled extensively and this is great news for families with babies – you can fit in one adult (the mother), an infant baby seat in the middle and another – regular – child seat, without impacting the allocated room of each rear passenger. And three adults will have a pleasant trip as well thanks to the extensive leg and headroom.
The new infotainment system with the 7 inch touchscreen has simplified even more the available operations on board the C4 – with the mention that its display sits rather remote in the center stack – and the driver can concentrate on just two areas: steering wheel with its host of commands and instrument cluster and the center stack with the eMyWay infotainment system and climate control zone. In terms of connectivity and features, the C4 is in line with the latest demands: you have the 7 inch touchscreen acting like a tablet, USB, Bluetooth and even applications to cater to all your needs. The system’s only issue is the graphics look pretty basic – it’s an excusable trait on the affordable C4 Cactus but not the biggest idea when choosing the higher priced C4 compact, especially in conjunction with the top trim.
Engine, Transmission and Handling
Depending on the market, you can have the C4 compact with either diesel or petrol engines. As for the former range, the C4 can go as low as 100 hp and surge to 150 hp. We test drove the intermediate option – which boasts the 120 hp Blue HDi engine in conjunction with a six-speed manual gearbox and automatic start/stop function. There’s also a six-speed automatic transmission available across some of the markets. The engine under the hood is the regular 1.6 HDi we have known for years – tweaked and upgraded on a regular basis and now boasting Euro 6 compliance (thus the Blue moniker – hello Volkswagen!). The 1.6 with variable geometry turbo now churns out 120 hp and 300 Nm of torque and has been mated to a six speed manual transmission. This is a setup so common that I found immediately familiar – it’s been used so much that I already know by hard the max torque and power points. This is hardly an advantage because these traits can usually be harnessed when driving sportier – which is almost absolutely out of the question for the C4.
That’s because for one thing the gearbox has both long ratios and a long selector ride – and as always it’s not spectacularly intuitive or precise. The steering wheel also invites you to calmly navigate through the bends and head on to the motorway or the open roads in the wilderness. Together with the suspension setup and the fact that it has excellent sound proofing, the C4 almost makes you pardon Citroen for the fact they’re giving up on the airmatic suspension (the Hydractive III found on the larger C5). It was anyways unavailable on the compact but you wouldn’t notice the difference anyway – the compact is among the few on the market that delivers the feeling that you could drive endlessly without feeling tired.
While dynamic driving is not really an inviting option when handling the C4, alert driving is a go – it will reach 100 km/h in eleven seconds and top out at 191 km/h. That’s faster than a 110 hp Nissan Pulsar (11,5 s with 190 km/h) and Renault Megane (12,1 s with 190 km/h) but certainly slower than its Peugeot 308 (9,6 s with 196 km/h) group sibling that boasts the same technical specifications or the less powerful Golf 1.6 TDI (10,5 with 195 km/h). But since we’re talking here about a regular hatchback, I am fully willing to give up those tenths of a second for the sovereign ride (both in terms of sound and ride comfort). The fuel consumption is an area where the automaker usually excels, with a medium consumption of 3,8 liters per 100 km (unachievable in real world driving regardless of brand). Diesel debate aside, we can say the long ratios will help you achieve great figures when doing interstate driving, while going for the full motorway speeds will have a significant impact mostly due to the weight and aerodynamic impact. That’s because I can finally say I found one of the few real six-speed manual gearboxes in the segment, where the sixth is not just for show.
Pro: sovereign comfort setup, with great soundproofing and long gear ratios for extensive driving. Front seats are both comfortable and enable good road holding. Interior space in the back suitable for family use.
Against: powertrain setup will underachieve if you are a dynamic driver – clumsy gearbox setup, little feedback from the steering and expectedly long suspension travel. Infotainment system graphics still need some work.
Starting price – Citroen C4 Blue HDi 100 BVM5 Live – 15,736 EUR
Tested Version – Citroen C4 Blue HDi 120 S&S BVM6 Shine – 19,704 EUR
Engine: 1.6L four cylinder, diesel, direct injection, variable geometry turbo, intercooler, start/stop (1560 cc)
Power: 120 HP (88 kW) at 3500 rpm
Torque: 300 Nm at 1,750 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Dimensions: length – 4,329 mm, width – 1,789 mm, height – 1,489 mm, wheelbase – 2,608 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60L
Trunk Capacity: 408/ 1183 liters
Weight: 1355 kg
0 – 100 km/h: 11 s
Top Speed: 191 km/h
Fuel consumption: urban – 4,4L/100 km, highway – 3,5L/100 km, average – 3,8L/100 km
Rating: 4.1 / 5