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Returning to its strengths, Citroen is back in the lower-medium sector with a quirky higher-riding hatch touting comfort as its key selling point

The Big Test - Citroen C4 - 2021 - Gallery Image 8

On the road

On the road

Citroen certainly cannot be accused of following the crowds with its new lower-medium competitor, either above or below the surface.

That’s because the new C4 is not just a visually interesting hatchback-cum-crossover mix, sitting slightly higher than a regular hatch such as the Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. It’s also the first Citroen to be offered with a choice of petrol, diesel or electric powertrains.

TEST NOTES

1. Unlike some recent Citroen models, the C4 has separate controls for the climate system, rather than running them through the touchscreen

2. There are plenty of stowage spots up front, and the bottle holders in the door pockets are a very decent size.  Rear passengers aren't quite so well catered for, because there is no central armrest

3. The cabin has some neat design touches, such as the protruding vents at either end of the dash

Below the surface, the “ploughing our own furrow” continues, with a focus on ride quality and comfort running through the car as a priority.

The C4, which comes only in five-door hatchback form, has what Citroen describes as an “elevated and assertive stance”, combining, it says, the elegance and dynamism of a hatchback and SUV traits for “added strength and character”.

There’s certainly plenty to take in with the styling, from the double headlight design, foglights with choice of four colours for the housing and the way the angled LED daytime running lights lead into the chrome grille, to the swooping almost coupe-like roofline and the curves of the rear end, with its V-shaped light combination.

The side of the car also gets a small boxy styling detail the same colour as the foglight housing down the cladding that’s designed to emphasise the car’s SUV-style raised height.

Petrol is, in the short term at least, likely to be the dominant fuel choice over electric or diesel. The 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine is available with 100hp (from the summer), 130hp and 155hp output, and we’ve driven the middle of the trio. Transmission-wise, it’s manual, manual or automatic, and auto-only respectively.

Diesel options will rise to two when the 110hp manual arrives in the summer, joining the 130hp auto, although experience of the latter says the petrol is much better than the diesel for refinement, while the cheaper P11D of the petrol will negate the diesel’s two-band BiK advantage for anyone that isn’t doing a big enough mileage to capatilise on the diesel’s 9.1mpg advantage.

Then there’s the electric version, part of Citroen’s new plug-in assault alongside the e-Spacetourer large MPV and its Dispatch van sibling, and the plug-in hybrid C5 Aircross.

The EV powertrain will be available in all bar the entry of the four trim levels, and has already been seen across a variety of EVs from sister brands Peugeot and Vauxhall. It’s a 100kW electric motor mated to a 50kWh battery, which offers an official range figure of 217 miles. But with that car initially predicted to take around 20% of C4 sales, we’ll focus on the petrol that will still be the dominant factor in the model’s volume.

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Context

Context

The new C4 is a different beast from the previous cars to have worn the nameplate, the first of which was launched in 2004 as a replacement for the Xsara.

That first car was available in two very distinct forms, the rounder five-door and the sharper coupe-like three-door (pictured). It was an innovator of a car, deploying the ‘fixed hub’ steering wheel where the central section stayed in position and the outer wheel rotated around it. The benefits were supposed to be improved safety as the airbag could be optimised in one position, and improved visibility of the dash because it was never blocked by the steering wheel spokes.

The car was also an early exponent of lane departure-warning technology

The second-generation C4 was launched in 2010, this time only in five-door form, but the car’s popularity was slightly on the wane and it was dropped towards the end of the last decade, with the more basic C4 Cactus filling the gap until this all-new car came along.

The C4 Cactus, which lives on for now, premiered much of the latest Citroen design language now seen on more models, including the stylish slender daytime running lights above the headlights.

The Big Test - Citroen C4 - 2021 - In context - That first car was available in two very distinct forms, the rounder five-door and the sharper coupe-like three-door (pictured)

What they said

What They Said

“New Citroen C4 and e-C4 make compelling choices for fleet managers and drivers.

“Their smooth ride, refinement, and comfortable, spacious interior make even the longest journeys a pleasure, while the low CO2 emissions, impressive efficiency and fair pricing give them a real edge."

“Citroen offers an unrivalled choice of powertrains in the C-segment – either efficient petrol and diesel engines, or the new e-C4 with zero tailpipe CO2 emissions, standard support for rapid charging up to 100kW, and a WLTP range up to 217 miles.”


Scott Westerby, fleet director, Peugeot, Citroen, DS

The Big Test - Citroen C4 - 2021 - What They Said - Scott Westerby, fleet director, Peugeot, Citroen, DS

Comparatively speaking

The Big Test - Citroen C4 - 2021 - Comparatively Speaking Chart

Need to know

The Big Test - Citroen C4 - 2021 - Need To Know Chart

Like/dislike

Three things we like...

The Big Test - Citroen C4 - 2021 - Three Things We Like - 1 - The daytime running lights are a distinctive styling feature
1

The daytime running lights are a distinctive styling feature

The Big Test - Citroen C4 - 2021 - Three Things We Like - 2 - There’s some neat cabin stowage, including a split-level compartment
2

There’s some neat cabin stowage, including a split-level compartment

The-Big-Test-Citroen-C4-2021-Three-Things-We-Like-3-The-tablet-holder-for-the-passenger-is-clever-but-the-fitting-is-a-£100-option
3

The tablet holder for the passenger is clever, but the fitting is a £100 option

...And one we don't

The Big Test - Citroen C4 - 2021 - One Thing We Dont Lik - Rear visibility is very compromised by the spoiler and the lack of a rear wiper
X

Rear visibility is very compromised by the spoiler and the lack of a rear wiper

Verdict

Verdict

Drive  7/10

The C4 isn’t the car for anyone looking for behind-the-wheel excitement, with comfort very much the overriding quality.

Efficiency  7/10

The petrol is the pick of the range at just 2g/km behind the diesel in most efficient form, and it compares adequately with rivals.

Practicality  9/10

Citroen claims best-in-class rear passenger space, although headroom is a little bit of an issue. Boot space is good.

Equipment  8/10

Some equipment is standard-fit lower down the range than might be expected, such as head-up display in all bar the entry car; that’s an option at best on rivals.

Looks  8/10

There’s certainly a lot going on, but it’s a characterful car that stands out for its styling as much as its high-riding stance against more bland hatchback rivals.

Comfort and refinement 9/10

Comfort is generally excellent, although there is an odd wobble to the ride quality that takes some getting used to. Diesel refinement is less good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cabin  7/10

Plenty of stowage space and the quality is pretty good, while there are some nice design touches.

Infotainment  8/10

Generally simple and clear, although it can take a moment to boot up on entry to the car.

Whole life costs  8/10

Residuals are good for Citroen, although some competitors have lower SMR and insurance costs.

CCT opinion  8/10

It’s refreshing to see Citroen back carving its own path, and pushing the comfort element that fleet drivers will appreciate.

VERDICT 80%

A striking and distinctive new take on the regular lower medium hatchback, the C4 is comfortable and practical, as well as offering a good range of powertrains.

Gallery