FIRST DRIVE: Citroen C4

FIRST DRIVE: Citroen C4

The Citroen C4 range is a slightly odd one these days. Not because the cars are strange – they are, apart from the brilliantly odd C4 Cactus, some of the most “normal” cars Citroen has ever made.

No, what is odd about them is the fact that five cars make up the C4 range – the C4, C4 Cactus, C4 Aircross, C4 Picasso and Grand C4 Picasso – all sit on different platforms. While the two Picasso’s are the most closely related, sitting as they do different versions of the current Peugeot 308 architecture, the rest are all completely different from each other.

Does this matter in any way? Not really, we just thought it was interesting. Anyway, there’s now a new version of the plain C4, boasting the excellent 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo engine we first sampled in the Peugeot 308.

What is it?

A bit of a pick and mix, actually. The new C4 is a mid-life facelift of the old car with an all-new powertrain and a bunch of new equipment thrown in.

What was a range of C4s has now been shrunk down to a single model – a specced-up auto-only car priced at $34,990

For that money you get the brilliant 96kW/230Nm turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine that resides in our favourite version of the Peugeot 3008, as well as that cars equally brilliant six-speed automatic transmission.

At the front, the C4 scores a new nose, with new headlights and LED daytime running lights. While up the back it is a similar story, with new taillights.

The C4 also now comes standard with rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights, keyless entry and start, 16-inch alloy wheels, electric mirrors, cornering lamps, an integrated 7-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and dual zone climate control. Optional extras include an alarm ($500), blindspot monitoring ($1,500), a panoramic sunroof ($1,500), tyre pressure sensors ($250) and 17-inch alloys ($1,000).

Citroen C4 (02)

What’s it like?

Citroen has tweaked the C4 to be more focussed on ride comfort for this incarnation – with suspension changes and extra sound deadening – and it certainly shows.

If you were the cynical sort you might suggest that this was a wise (and slightly cynical) move, as softening up an ageing car and saying it is now focussed on comfort is an easy way to disguise its age, but whatever the reason, it works rather nicely with the C4.

Almost ridiculously comfortable and quiet, the C4 works brilliantly well with the new powertrain in place, with the little three-cylinder turbo being every bit as flexible and eager as it is in the Peugeot.

The C4’s seats are also nicely comfort-oriented, with a pleasant, nicely made interior topping things off nicely.

Citroen C4 (03)

What’s good about it?

The brilliantly capable engine and transmission is a highlight, while the ride comfort and quality interior are also impressive. Basically, the single model of C4 is what Peugeot should have had with the 308 locally – a high-spec model with the best drivetrain.

Citroen C4 (04)

What’s not so good?

The fact that it isn’t on the same EMP2 platform as the 308, which does the ride comfort thing, as well as the handling thing. Despite all the extra equipment and the brilliant powertrain, the price jump over the old model (which started at $25,990 and went up to $31,990) is quite large.

Citroen C4 (05)

First impressions?

Overall the new C4 is a pleasantly comfortable car, with a great engine and transmission. While that seems like a great thing (and indeed, it actually is) the biggest problem for the C4 will come if sister company Peugeot decide to bring in a specced-up version of the 308 with the same engine – it would be a comprehensively better car.

As both brands are handled by the same distributor in New Zealand, this would seem unlikely, however, but stranger things have happened.

For die-hard Citroen fans, however, the new C4 still represents the best C4 the company has done for years. Comfortable, quiet, economical and effortless to drive, the new C4 is light years ahead of the older car, particularly that car’s ancient four-speed automatic transmission.

Models/prices

C4 hatch – $34,990

For the Citroen C4’s full pricing and specification click here.

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