The all-new Citroen C4 is not the best small car on the market. The Mazda3 is cheaper, the Ford Focus has better drivetrains, and the Volkswagen Golf is far superior in the handling department. Yet, despite all this, the Citroen C4 is a lovable little car that will be perfect for plenty of Australian new car shoppers.
The second-generation Citroen C4 replaces the trailblazing Mk1 model, which hit the scene in 2004 and made a name for itself as a four-time World Rally Championship conqueror (with a little help from Sebastien Loeb).
Despite being one size larger than the Citroen C3, the C4 is actually the least expensive passenger vehicle in Citroen’s Australian MY2012 line-up.
The sharp $22,990 entry price makes it $1000 cheaper than the new base (although well-equipped) C3 petrol, and a whopping $4000 less than the old entry C4.
For that starting price, you can choose from two different models. The first is the C4 Attraction. Powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine with 88kW of power and 160Nm of torque, the Attraction is teamed with a four-speed automatic transmission, making it one of the most affordable small autos in Australia.
Citroen didn’t have one at the local launch for us to sample, although with a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 13.9 seconds, it’s unlikely to be the most inspiring drive. It uses fuel at a rate of 6.9 litres/100km – about middle of the road for a small hatchback.
The Attraction is lightly appointed from a standard features perspective, missing out on alloy wheels, rear power windows, trip computer, steering wheel controls and Bluetooth. Fortunately, it offers a comprehensive safety package (six airbags, ABS, EBA, electronic stability control and traction control) as well as cruise control with speed limiter, front electric windows, six-speaker audio system with auxiliary jack and an automatic rear windscreen wiper.
Your other $22,990 option is the five-speed manual Seduction. It features the same engine, but its gearbox reduces fuel consumption by 10 per cent (6.2 litres/100km combined) and also helps wipe 1.7 seconds off the auto’s sprint time.
Stepping up to the mid-spec trim level adds 16-inch alloys, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming, trip computer, multi-function steering wheel and power rear windows, as well as an automatic handbrake, fog lights with cornering function, dark tinted rear windows, leather steering wheel and cruise control with three memory settings. For $24,990, you can get the Seduction equipment level with the four-speed auto.
The naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine lacks urgency low down. It does its best work around the 4250rpm max torque level, but at those speeds the engine has a whiny sound that makes it difficult to enjoy spirited spurts. When driven, as intended, like an urban runabout, it’s more than adequate, and teamed with the manual gearbox it’s also impressively efficient.
Also available in Seduction spec is a 1.6-litre diesel engine. For $26,990, the 82kW/270Nm HDi unit pairs with a six-speed manual transmission. Combined fuel use is a neat 4.6 litres/100km, while its 0-100km/h time of 11.2 seconds makes it feel much faster than the petrol.
Citroen also offers an e-HDi version of the powertrain, incorporating a number of micro-hybrid technologies that cut fuel consumption and emissions by up to 15 per cent: start/stop system, dual-function starter/alternator for reduced weight and start-up rumble, regenerative braking, and engine shut off at low speeds.
The e-HDi unit is only available with a semi-automatic six-speed EGS (electronic gearbox system). There’s no clutch pedal, so you can drive it like a regular automatic, or change gears using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The $27,990 Seduction e-HDi is the most fuel efficient model in the range, returning combined figures of just 4.2 litres/100km. Both Seduction diesels also score special 16-inch Michelin low consumption tyres.
Sitting at the top of the new Citroen C4 line-up is the Exclusive trim level. The $31,990 Exclusive HDi and $32,990 Exclusive e-HDi are mechanically identical to the Seduction models, although as they are fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, they miss out on the fuel-saving Michelin tyres. (Michelin doesn’t make 17-inch low consumption tyres yet. Edward Rowe from Citroen’s Australian distributor Ateco Automotive said they were under development and would be added to the local C4 range, but could not provide information on timing.) As a result, combined cycle fuel consumption rises marginally to 4.7 litres/100km for the manual and 4.4 litres/100km for the EGS.
The final option is the $31,990 Exclusive turbo petrol. This model gets a turbocharged 1.6-litre engine with 115kW and 240Nm. It’s paired with the six-speed EGS and hits the sweet spot between performance and efficiency: 0-100km/h in 8.7 seconds, 6.4 litres/100km combined. Unfortunately, Citroen didn’t have one at the launch for us to test either.
The Exclusive trim (which effectively costs $5000) takes the C4 to luxury levels. Included is climate control; automatic wipers, lights and dimming rear-view mirror; Blind Spot Monitoring system; massaging front seats; customisable instrument colours and polyphonic sounds; ‘guide me home’ headlights; folding door mirrors with LED lights; LED reading lights; footwell lighting; frost alert; rechargeable boot torch; centre-rear armrest/ski flap and 17-inch alloy wheels. It’s a serious level of equipment and makes the C4 Exclusive competitive with any other small car for the price.
The HDi engine emits the expected clatter upon start-up, but smooths out to become brilliantly refined and quiet. It’s zippy around town and on open stretches of road (with 270Nm available from 2000rpm) and is an engine you can genuinely enjoy.
One nagging feature about both manual models is the pedals. The clutch has an unnecessarily long travel, and takes some getting used to before you find the sweet spot for smooth take-offs. The brake pedal has a spongy feel to it early before the brakes suddenly jab in, again making smoothness more difficult than it should be. The pedals are all positioned fairly close together too, so best leave your Ugg boots at home.
The C4’s ride is quite floaty, which can be either good or bad depending on your disposition. You don’t feel every bump in the road like you do in cars with sportier suspension tunes. Instead, the C4 tends to bounce you over them and place you down gently on the other side.
Despite the soft ride, the C4 sits flat when pushed around corners. The steering is light, making it a dream in tight car parks and urban traffic but a little less responsive when cornering.
Few Australians are likely to buy the new Citroen C4 based on its driving dynamics, however. The C4’s trump card is the way it looks. Styling is subjective, but personally I think it’s the best looking car in its class. It’s a standout from all angles, from the assertive front end to the curvaceous rear, and all the delicate and dramatic contours in between. The Exclusive’s 17-inch ‘Phoenix’ alloy wheels are quite brilliant to look at (although presumably much less fun to clean).
The interior is also one of the most expressive and stylised of any small car. It’s a significant departure from the generic grey tones that are ubiquitous in today’s cars, and lifts the interior ambiance to a new level. The Exclusive’s front seats feature five different materials, including two tones of leather, velour, cloth and a thick corduroy-style carpet. It’s a crazy combination, but it gives the C4 a wonderfully comfortable and homey feel that you simply don’t get from many other cars. Fans of the old model will notice the unique fixed-hub steering wheel has made way for a conventional wheel, saving 3kg.
The cabin itself has a spacious and open feel to it, and the back has just enough room to seat two six-foot adults. The 380-litre boot is larger than most small cars, and expands to 1183 litres with the 60:40 split-fold rear seats down. Attraction and Seduction get full-sized steel spare wheels, while Exclusive gets a space saver.
It’s easy to find your place in the driver’s seat, and front and rear visibility are both very good. The large digital speed readout facilitates quick glances and means you can spend more time with your eyes on the road. The centre console switchgear is attractive and simple to use, and pairing Bluetooth devices is intuitive.
The glove box looks larger than it actually is, and the seat massage function is a bit of a gimmick. It reminds me of being kneed in the lower back by a pesky back-seat passenger – hardly a soothing experience.
All Citroen C4 models are covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty and three-year roadside assistance and need to be serviced annually or every 10,000km.
Above all else, people will buy the Citroen C4 for one reason: because it’s not a Mazda3, or a Ford Focus, or a Volkswagen Golf. It’s something different. It looks amazing, gives you a great feeling when you’re sitting inside, and performs well enough on the road. If you’re in the market for a small car but don’t necessarily want to blend into the crowd, have a drive of the new Citroen C4. It might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Citroen C4 manufacturer’s list prices (excluding government and dealer charges):
- Attraction petrol four-speed automatic – $22,990
- Seduction petrol five-speed manual – $22,990
- Seduction petrol four-speed automatic – $24,990
- Seduction HDi six-speed manual – $26,990
- Seduction e-HDi six-speed EGS – $27,990
- Exclusive turbo petrol six-speed EGS – $31,990
- Exclusive HDi six-speed manual – $31,990
- Exclusive e-HDi six-speed EGS – $32,990
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