Citroën C4 review

[This article was first published on www.parkers.co.uk. Vehicle specifications may vary by market.]

A distinct and interesting family car – with superlative ride comfort

Is the Citroen C4 any good?

The Citroen C4 is a hard car to classify – is it a hatchback? Is is an SUV? In reality, it’s neither, and it’s both. A family car that stands out from the crowd is something that its maker has traditionally been good at, and this one is no different.

While it has styling that stands out from the crowd, which should please Citroen fans, the French brand is hoping that the C4 will also appeal to family car drivers who might be considering a medium-sized SUV. As a result, it combines Citroen’s slender LED daytime-running lights with chunky wheelarches and side cladding, finished off with a coupe-like roofline. It’s a concoction of styles that works well if you have a taste for the unconventional.

Rivals? Well, you could choose from a wealth of compact family hatchbacks or SUVs, but nothing is really close in concept to the Citroen. Of the hatchback contingent, you could be less daring and plump for a Ford Focus, Kia Ceed, SEAT Leon or Volkswagen Golf. Extending the net to SUVs, you might find the C4 on the same shopping list as the Kia XCeed, Toyota C-HR or Volkswagen T-Roc.

What’s is like inside?

It’s an unconventional effort inside, with an all-digital instrument set-up and minimised set of controls that’s limited to a row of buttons underneath the central infotainment screen, but it’s also sombre with its acres of black plastics and a lack of stylised details that made the C4 Cactus feel special even though it was relatively inexpenive.

One notable change is the return of physical buttons for the air-condition controls and multimedia system, plus most of the car’s functions can be operated by voice control, which works very effectively.

Citroen C4 (2021) interior view

What’s it like to drive?

As for engines, there are five options to choose from (not including the all-electric e-C4 reviewed separately) – the excellent three-cylinder PureTech petrols in 100, 130 and 155hp forms, and the four-cylinder BlueHDi diesel rated at 110 and 130hp. Petrol-engined C4s are expected to account for over 80% of sales

All manual models have six-speed transmissions, while the optional automatic is an eight-speeder known as the EAT8. Hybrids don’t form part of the offering.

The suspension system gets Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions as part of the firm’s Advanced Comfort system, with a view to offering the best ride comfort and refinement in comparable cars. As part of this, the C4 also gets seats that incorporate firm springing with memory foam to give more comfort and compliance, and extensive soundproofing.

What models and trims are available?

The C4 model range is easy to understand, and is available in a range of 31 exterior colour combinations, once you take into account the various bodywork highlighting options.

There are four trim levels to choose from – Sense, Sense Plus, Shine and Shine Plus, all of which fall under Citroen’s new fair pricing initiative. LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, a 10.0-inch infotainment system with smartphone connectivity, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane-Keep Assist and dual-zone climate control are all as standard on all models, so even if you go for the entry-level Sense version it won’t feel basic.

Sense Plus adds a head-up display, sat-nav and a reversing camera, while the plusher Shine models gain safety equipment including traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control and blind spot assist. Top-of-the range Shine Plus adds a premium stereo, leather seats with electric adjustment and heating, four USB sockets and wireless smartphone charging.

Citroen C4 (2021) rear view, driving

What else should I know?

How the C4 looks is definitely a talking point. It’s a sleek, tapered design with lots of Citroen’s current and heritage design cues melded together. The firm says it’s highly aerodynamic, which should help it achieve good fuel consumption figures as well as contribute to the car’s overall low wind noise levels at speed.

It gets the interesting variation on Citroen’s split-level lighting arrangement up front, with dark plastic bodywork trims that echo the company’s SUVs. At the back are more split-level lights, together with a rear windscreen bisected by a rear spoiler, a nod to a similar feature on the older C4 Coupe.

Overall it has a dramatic profile, with interesting crease lines pressed into the bodywork. Plus, it’s higher off the ground than a typical hatchback, which results in a slightly elevated driving position. Difficult to pigeonhole, rather like Citroens of old, and all the more interesting for it.

Citroën C4 practicality and boot space

Red 2021 Citroen C4 LED lights

  • Boot space is on par with hatchback rivals
  • Impressive rear-seat room
  • Usefully sized storage solutions

How much space is there?

We’ve listed some of the C4’s more intriguing storage solutions in the Interior section, but it’s worth saying that Citroen has made this a practical and family-friendly hatchback. As well as the usual cubbies and cupholders, there’s ample space for large-format smartphones plus sensibly located USB sockets.

Although the C4 has quite a low and sweeping coupe-like roofline, its headroom is ample for six-footers front and rear. Knee- and legroom are also generous in the rear, which is a benefit of the Citroen’s long wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axle lines) as a proportion of its overall length.

Being slightly elevated compared with its more conventional hatchback rivals, getting in and out of the C4 is that little bit easier, something to bear in mind when slotting young ones into car seats or for those with restricted mobility. One related point is that the door sills are relatively high, too – if you like having the driver’s seat in its lowest position, you can feel your thighs and buttocks brushing over the metalwork at the bottom of the door opening.

Boot space and storage

Sensible in both size and shape, the C4’s 380-litre boot is on par with the likes of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, with a a usefully roomy cavity under the floor for storing smaller items. 

Its rear seats split in the conventional 60:40 manner, although they don’t lie completely flat when folded over, in common with most cars these days. However, when they are folded, 1,280 litres of space is liberated. Many models also feature a ‘ski hatch’ in the rear centre armrest that allows long, slender items to be accomodated when carrying a maximum of four people.

Red 2021 Citroen C4 boot

Is it easy to park?

Curiously, the C4 isn’t as large as it looks suggest, perhaps a visual trick caused by its slightly raised ride height. It’s 4,360mm long so you won’t have much bother comfortably slotting it into typical supermarket or multistorey parking bays, plus – depending on the version – there’s a suite of parking sensors and cameras for further assistance.

All-round visibility is good, with the view out back only slightly restricted by the spoiler that cuts across the rear window. What might pose something of an inconvenience is that there’s no rear wiper to help keep the rear screen clear on days when the weather’s filthy.

Safety

  • Not yet crash-tested by Euro NCAP
  • Two levels of safety systems available
  • All models get extensive driver-assistance tech

As you’d expect for a state-of-the-art family car that is aiming for a five-star Euro NCAP rating, Citroen has ensured that the C4 is well up to the mark. Safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitors, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and a driver fatigue monitoring system.

The two safety packs are Sense and Sense Plus, and the list of features of the Sense are listed below.

  • Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with video and radar assistance
  • Extended traffic sign recognition
  • Citroen Connect Box Emergency and Assistance System
  • Speed Limit Information
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Driver Attention Alert
  • Driver Attention Alert 3 with lane departure detection
  • Forward Collision Warning

Watch: Citroen C4 crash test video



Citroën C4 interior and comfort

Grey 2021 Citroen C4 dashboard

  • Interior is plush, airy and welcoming
  • Interesting design but more usable than previous Citroens
  • Infotainment is boosted by additional physical buttons

How is the quality and layout?

For a number of years Citroen has pursued a policy of fitting very few physical buttons to its interiors, making tasks such as adjusting the climate control an unnecessary faff by using the touchscreen. Now, many of those functions have returned to being physical, with a pleasing action to them that suggests good quality.

The driving position is more SUV-like than you’d expect, and you are perched higher up that you would be in something like a Ford Focus or Volkswagen Golf. Forward visibility is aided by this slight elevation – and although it’s not up there with a more traditional family SUV such as a Nissan Qashqai, this loftier position will appeal to those who enjoy a good view out.

In addition, it’s been well set-up to deal with modern life. There’s plenty of space in the centre console, easily-accessible USB sockets, storage bins between the seats, and a total of 16 compartments result in 39 litres of space in the cabin. Citroen also points out a range of accessories and options that includes a wireless phone charger and tablet bracket that pops out of the dash for the front passenger.

Infotainment and tech

Inside, it gets a development of the all-digital instrument panel and infotainment set-up found in other Citroens – which means extensive use of the touchscreen for many of the car’s functions. The 10.0-inch screen’s display is bright, crisp and easy to read, and is something of a design feature as it sits proud of the dashboard with an irregular shape. Pity that the sat-nav graphics haven’t been given a thorough makeover, though.

While the frameless digital instrument cluster looks simple, it’s on the small side and can be tricky to read depending upon how you have it configured. The rev counter, for instance, must be one of the smallest ever to appear on a car. Better-equipped models also feature a large, colour head-up display system that augments the instrument screen – in reality we think you’ll actually use it as your primary source of driving data.

Red 2021 Citroen C4 pop-out tablet holder

How comfortable is the C4?

  • It’s here that the Citroen C4 excels
  • Soft seats are also very supportive
  • Suspension soaks up bumps impressively

Much of the C4’s interior is finished in soft-touch materials, and comes in a range of tasteful trims that amplify its comfort. Just a pity British-market cars don’t enjoy the wide range of more interesting interior colours – it can look a bit dour.

These plush looks are more than just superficial, with the soft and supportive seats setting up the C4 as one for those who like a relaxing ride.

Despite its large wheels, the ride quality is soft and compliant, and at speed road and wind noise levels are agreeably low, even on rough surfaces. It’s on the motorway where the C4’s refinement is its most impressive, with an overarching sense of isolation making this a very effective way of covering long distances. For that extra luxury, top models are also available with massaging seats.

Also impressive is how quiet the engines are, although the diesel’s slightly gruff engine note lets the side down, which means all of Citroen’s good work elsewhere with the C4 isn’t undone by a clattery motor under the bonnet.

Red 2021 Citroen C4 front seats

Citroën C4 engines and performance

Citroen C4 (2021) driving
  • Available with three petrols, two diesels
  • Manuals and automatics available
  • PureTech 130 hits the sweet spot

The PureTech 130 is an excellent engine and despite its modest engine capacity, it’s punchy enough to result in a really entertaining drive. It’s smooth and quiet at low speeds and revs really strongly when you want to drive quickly. 

At 8.9 seconds for the 0-62mph acceleration benchmark, the manual is half a second quicker than the automatic, but it’s not all about performance – especially in a car that’s not designed to be a hot hatch.

Where the automatic version is smooth and suffers little gearbox dithering where it decides whether to change down or stay in the existing ratio, the manual version isn’t as satifying. Chief culprit is – as is often the case with Citroens – a shift action that feels baggy and rubbery, as though the gearlever had already endured a hard life as a minicab.

Citroen C4 (2021) handling

Handling

  • There’s some bodyroll in corners
  • Light steering makes this an easy drive
  • Tidy handling, despite soft suspension

This is nice and easy because it’s clear that Citroen has honed this car for comfort rather than sporty handling. However, despite its soft suspension that benefits from the Citroen Advanced Comfort programme (which brings you Progressive Hydraulic Cushions for its suspension and Advance Comfort seats), it feels light on its feet in corners and has tidy and accurate handling.

There’s a degree of bodyroll that you’d expect from a car that rides so softly, but it’s nowhere near as roly-poly as Citroens of old, and the overall body control is excellent, so it always feels planted and stable at speed. Whereas the C5 Aircross SUV can lurch and wallow in bends, the C4 rolls a little and tracks the corner smoothly – an excellent effort.

But for those who like a sporty-feeling car, with super-quick steering that keenly turns into bends like a go-kart, this is not for you.

Citroen C4 (2021) handling, view from rear

Citroën C4 verdict

Citroen C4 (2021) rear view

Should you buy a Citroen C4?

Yes, if you’re after comfort and striking looks. There are plenty of family hatchbacks to choose from, and cutting through in this market is very difficult, so you have to admire Citroen for trying something different by creating this interesting hatchback/SUV crossover that genuinely stands out from the crowd.

The state of the art is probably the Skoda Octavia or SEAT Leon but neither of those will turn heads – and that is not the case here. The C4 is a striking-looking car that combines SUV attitude with a convenience of a more traditional five-door package. Its closest rival is probably the lesser-spotted Ford Focus Active, so it will be interesting to see how car buyers take to the C4.

That out of the way, it’s clear that Citroen has built a very comfortable, family-friendly hatchback that’s good-to drive and should be reliable and cheap to run. Shine feels like the trim level of choice, too.

What we like

It’s distinctive inside and out, with an infotainment set-up that’s much better than previous Citroen efforts, and has ample room for for passengers. And, yes, it’s bestowed with the best ride quality available for the money.

What we don’t like

The diesel might be a great long distance machine, but it’s relatively unrefined compared with the petrol model. The handling is squidgy, too, and takes time to get used to – if you’re a keen driver, this won’t be for you.

Book a test drive with the new Citroën C4 now!

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[Source article: parkers.co.uk/citroen/c4/review

 
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