It looks the same, but Citroen’s updated C4 is having another shot at sales success with a high-tech new three-cylinder engine.
Base price: $34,990.
Powertrain and performance: 1.2-litre turbo petrol three-cylinder, 96kW/230Nm, 6-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 4.9 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 10.9 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4329mm long, 1502mm high, 2608mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 380 litres, fuel tank 60 litres, 16-inch alloy wheels.
We like: Accomplished and entertaining powertrain, classy cabin.
We don’t like: Still an old soldier in the market, too expensive.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? Citroen is a brand that struggles in New Zealand: around 400 cars per year. Despite ambitious plans for growth and model expansion, if the marque is going to gain some momentum it’s going to have to start with its core model, the C4 hatchback.
It’s been tricky to get the C4 right for New Zealand. It’s a much older car than its Peugeot equivalent, the 308, and to date it’s been hamstrung by an ordinary engine and old-tech four-speed gearbox.
The facelifted model featured here is a serious attempt to make the C4 more relevant. Styling changes are few (new headlights are the most obvious) but under the bonnet there’s the acclaimed 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission from the 308.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Given that C4 is part of a wider family that also includes the Peugeot 308, the Citroen has been repurposed as the comfort-oriented choice. So along with the new engine, the suspension has been made softer and there’s a lot more sound-deadening around the bonnet and door seals. Even the seats are more cushy.
The engine is familiar from the Peugeot range and it’s a beauty. There’s no need to worry about dropping 400cc and a cylinder compared with the old model: the new mill has 8kW more power and 70Nm more torque (at just 1750rpm), as well as achieving 4.9 litres per 100km in the Combined cycle. The powertrain is high energy when you want it to be, but also impressively refined.
The rest of the dynamic package isn’t quite as accomplished. The current C4 dates back to 2010, so it’s no match for its sister 308 in terms of handling and strength. Citroen’s answer to that is the C4 is now focused on comfort, which is terribly convenient but also not totally ridiculous given the brand’s heritage.
No fancy self-levelling suspension or other high-tech trickery for the C4, though. It’s a thoroughly conventional family hatchback underneath, with light steering and a compliant ride. If you want to go fast around corners, a DS3 might be more in your line.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? It’s conservative, but the C4 cabin has always seemed to offer a touch of class, with soft-touch plastics and an interesting (but not overt) range of textures. Nice chunky steering wheel as well.
If you insist, you can even have the customisable-colour instrument panel from the DS4, although oddly it comes packaged with a blind-spot warning system for $1500.
The big change for the cabin is the addition of a seven-inch touch-screen from the 308. It features satellite navigation and all the usual audio and Bluetooth functions, although the C4 has a more satisfactory setup than its sibling with physical shortcut buttons for the likes of climate control adjustment. On the 308, you have to go fishing in the touch-screen system to find such things.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? One of the big issues facing C4 is its price of $34,990. Especially when you can make it more expensive still by adding larger 17-inch wheels (pictured) for $1000, blind-spot monitoring ($1500), tyre pressure sensors ($150) and the obligatory Peugeot-Citroen glass roof ($1500). Pearlescent paint is $750 and even an alarm is extra at $500.
None of this is world-first stuff, but tick a few boxes and you could turn the C4 into a $40,000-plus proposition.
Even at $35k it’s a likeable but expensive offering. A new powertrain and increased equipment levels have brought the C4 more up to speed, but given tis comparative age it needs to be cheaper.
Blind spot warning: $1500
Lane guidance: No
Cruise control: Yes
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Parking radar: Yes with camera
Self-parking technology: No
Head-up display: No
Satellite navigation: Yes
Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Heated/ventilated seats: No
Power seat adjustment/memory: No
Leather upholstery: No
Power boot or tailgate: No
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40