Having trouble finding the appropriate car for your family – when you’re for whatever reason coerced into getting just one car that will fulfill most, if not, all needed duties? For many Europeans one of the most sensible decisions would be to go for a compact sedan.
It’s arguably not the best-looking car out there – the three-volume proportions do have a tendency to look way better when the designers have ample centimeters to work with, which is why fullsize sedans most definitely look sleeker than they should. But for years, and now times haven’t changed that much on that page, emerging markets in Europe only had the option of a sedan, which mixes most of the traits needed for the title of sole family car – ample interior space for five passengers and large boot for the luggage associated to those five persons. It’s easy, hatchbacks weren’t the best choice for the entire family, while station wagon’s weren’t always the natural choice since you’re not going on trips with the whole family every day. Given the time that has passed since the last financial crisis, we can say for sure the options have started becoming limited for those looking for a sedan on a budget. It’s the way the world goes round – we’re not at a tipping low point in general, so models such as the Ford Focus or Opel Astra sedan have become superfluous, while others have abandoned the European continent altogether, such as the Chevrolet Cruze. That’s not to say there isn’t enough choice both for budget-conscious buyers and those that believe a sedan is the perfect choice even in the hatchback-heavy compact segment. But we’re not going to speak of regular models – some even with near-premium traits – such as the sporty Mazda3 SportSedan, the high-tech Renault Megane, the more powerful Hyundai Elantra or the gasoline-only Toyota Corolla. Instead we’re going back to the basics – models that were created for the emerging markets in Europe and other regions, but also gained access into the “good world” of western Europe because… well, because of available demand.
The crisis may well be in the past, but consumers have learned to adjust their habits then and some haven’t gone back to the old ways of spending more on the same thing just because it has a shinier badge. PSA – which at one moment was on the brink of collapse – is just like that consumer, learning an important lesson that Renault has been teaching for years with its Dacia brand. Ok, even the French competitor has dismissed the budget moniker on Dacia, calling it a smart choice, but we all know that models such as the Citroen C-Elysee (seen here), its sibling Peugeot 301, the Skoda Rapid or the Fiat Tipo Sedan have all been created with one strategic move planned – offer the ride that takes you from A to B. Everything else in between is a matter of choice – though living in 2017 does mean that even affordable models do come with lots of creature comforts as well as some of the latest technology. The C-Elysee has been around for some time now – in some markets it even comes as a facelift for the second generation – so we’re not going to dive way too deep inside. But we’re going to accent some important points.
Design, Interior and Gadgets
Take the 301, the C-Elysee, the Rapid or the Tipo – all of them are exponents of the classic sedan type (ok, the Rapid is a fastback, but still comes in three volumes) and all of them won’t be winning any design awards anytime soon. Instead, the C-Elysee perspires dependability and solidity when seeing the exterior – qualities that are worthwhile when the consumer chooses the car from the financial standpoint first and foremost. The recent update has done a good job hiding its affordable, don’t invest much, roots – with new headlights, lower and upper grille as well as LED daylight lights integrated in the fog lights housing. Since we’re dealing with a facelift, only minor tweaks have been bestowed on the side and rear – mostly bringing new alloy designs and a different signature for the taillights. With additional fake chrome elements, the C-Elysee also tries to play the upper scale card, which could differentiate it from the Tipo or the Rapid – both fairly mundane options. I really can’t say the C-Elysee is going to inspire a more upscale feel, but it’s at least fresh and not as budget-oriented as before – at least in terms of styling. It does have a successful career to follow up though – with major sales success in China, Turkey or Algeria and even a motorsport career, having won three consecutive FIA WTCC Manufacturers’ championship titles already. The example we tested also arrived sporting one of the two new available colors – Lazuli Blue, the other being Steel Grey.
Moving inside is where the budget-conscious build becomes apparent prominently – and that’s a bit unfortunate since the exterior appearance landed a solid design with a more upscale feel. The main giveaways are the ones the driver will find – not necessarily the passengers: the steering wheel’s one-axis adjustment or the odd central tunnel placement of the electric window buttons. You can live with them if the budget for your car was the one that directed you towards the French sedan – otherwise you might want to look a bit further up the price ladder. The updated C-Elysee does come with more technology for the high-tech buyer that lives within us all in this day and age. You can have the Connect Radio – a reworked, more responsive than before 7″ touchscreen, controlling everything: telephone via Bluetooth, multimedia – complete with Android Auto & Apple CarPla, as well as apps via the Mirror Screen, the audio function (obviously) and even has support for voice recognition technology. Pay more and you’ll get the Connect Nav, a new 3D real-time navigation system and market-dependent there are even more connected features, such as real-time traffic status updates and alternative routes from TomTom, hazard alerts on the map and a USB update function. You can say anything about the C-Elysee’s budget orientation, but we couldn’t find any negative aspects when discussing interior space. Recognized as one of the most spacious models in the segment, the C-Elysee is great both as a family car, with enough space in the rear to jam a child seat, jumper seat and fortunately still have room for the mother/father-in law (so they won’t sit in the front passenger seat) to entertain the kids. Or alternatively it can be used as a company car, with enough leg and head-room for three adults on the back seat. Interestingly, the C-Elysee also features one of the most comfortable front seats in the segment – they’re not doing great all in terms of lateral support, but instead are great partners for longer journeys, particularly thanks to the long bottom area, with great leg support. And let’s not get started about the trunk, with 2/3 rear bench for cargo extension – at 4,41 meters in length the C-Elysee is more compact than both the Rapid (4,48 meters) and the Tipo Sedan (4,53 meters), but still comes very close to their trunk capacities. The French sedan has 506 liters, the Italian machine arrives with 520 liters and the Czech fastback is the absolute champion at 550 liters.
Engine, Transmission and Handling
If you’re going after a budget compact sedan, the choice is clear – use it mostly in and around town, racking up few kilometers per year, then save the initial buck and get the gasoline version. If you’re going to do longer, more constant trips, then the diesel investment is well worth the initial price premium (but you better rack many kilometers per year). The diesel choice for the C-Elysee is the ubiquitous 1.6-liter Blue HDI motor from the PSA Group – one that has been around in like forever. Its NVH levels are, unfortunately, coming from that age as well – the C-Elysee is vibration free, but the harshness and noise levels are some of the worst I’ve ever encountered. You can live with them, even start to like the diesel grunt if you’re into “manly machines” but it’s clear the cost cutting severely impacted the noise insulation department. The same can be said about the suspension feel – the C-Elysee is on the comfort side, so it tends to show that when driving a little wilder, but it’s also “vocal” when encountering potholes. It’s true that with a budget car, it’s better to hear the suspension and see it endure without any faults the worsening roads of Europe – rather the other way around.
Since we touched the subject of comfort, let’s elaborate. Given the family-oriented approach that is usual for Citroen models we weren’t expecting anything else from the C-Elysee. The steering is comfortable and assisted to the point of not delivering anything from the road, while the gear-shift lever comes from the old-school Citroen, with a murky decision-making process. No chances to deliver any type of dynamic driving, since anyway the gears have been engineered for efficiency both in the city and on the highway. This is one of the reasons it suffices to have the five gears – and I wonder yet again how come some automakers when adding a sixth gear manage to mess up the ratios so badly the transmission ends up less efficient than a more affordable counterpart… City driving is business as usual in the C-Elysee, the compact dimensions enable it to cope with most urban scenarios – though we do feel that even at this price level there’s a dire need to introduce start/stop technology. This is one of the main reasons why the C-Elysee doesn’t end up close to the factory average of almost 4 liters/100 km. But at least we can compare it to its competitors – the 90 horsepower Rapid has the same 3.9 l/100 km rating, while the 95 hp Tipo is less efficient at 4.1 l/100 km. In terms of actual performance, the C-Elysee does come first, sprinting to 100 km/h in 10.7 seconds to the Rapid and Tipo’s 11.7 seconds. Top speed stands at 183 km/h, whereas the Tipo does 180 and the Rapid pans out at 185 km/h.