Unmistakable looks, great comfort, reasonably frugal if you drive carefully
Doesn't like being driven fast, interior ultimately a little dull
What is it?
This is the third generation of the Citroen C4 hatchback – the first version in 2004 was the quirky looking family car that turned into a dancing Transformer robot in its telly ad, the second one in 2010 was all shiny chrome and bland anonymity. The latest car, launched in 2020, stands out a bit more, but possibly not for the right reasons.
But really, what is it?
It is a good question – it’s still a hatchback, but slightly taller. Not tall enough to be an SUV, and too sleek of boot to be a crossover. Someone in Citroen marketing might try and call it a coupe of some description, but if you hear them do it they need to be slapped on the wrist and told to stop.
The C4 sits on the same Stellantis EMP1 platform as the Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa, which must be stretched to breaking point in this format. That means teensy tiny engines, and in the e-C4 electric version (which we’ve reviewed here) the same e-motor and 50kWh battery set-up. There’s a longer, weirder version of the C4 called the C4 X, which has a growth on the back that some have described as saloon-like in appearance.
Is the C4 comfortable?
That’s Citroen’s thing, isn’t it. And the French carmaker should be applauded for not pursuing the same ridiculous notion of sportiness that plagues other vehicles on the market and inevitably means a brittle ride and obnoxious acceleration. Eventually we all get to the age where we want something a little more supple and soft riding, it’s just some of us reach that age sooner than others.
The seats are comfortable, you can tell Citroen’s put a bit of effort into those. You’d enjoy a nice long journey in the C4. The C4’s niche styling makes it a more comfortable car to live with, too – it’s that little bit higher to get in and out, and in theory the extra ride height offers a bit more travel in the suspension. The ride gets better with speed – it’s not quite happy over speed bumps and urban decay, but the faster the road the jollier the C4’s suspension seems to feel.
How does it drive?
The C4 is a solid drive – it’s not like Citroens of the recent past, with finger light steering and a numbness from your hips forwards. The handling is reliable and direct without being thrilling, but you at least always have a sense of where the nose is. The steering rack is actually fairly well geared for around town, with a decent lock.
The petrol and diesel engine options are all well suited to the ‘comfortable’ Citroen’s relaxed gait, although the automatic gearbox option is a little nervy for our liking, not always sure what gear it wants. The jerky, hesitant stop-start doesn’t help matters either, but you can start to adapt your driving around these things.
What engines are there?
In the ICE version of the C4 you get the choice of a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol in two states of tune, or a 1.5-litre diesel. The 99bhp/151lb ft petrol is only available in the entry spec and does 0–62mph in 10.8secs, while the main act is the 129bhp/170lb ft version of the motor with an 8.9secs 0–62mph time (0.5secs slower with the auto box). The diesel motor has the same power output as the beefier petrol, but offers 221 lb ft of torque and takes 9.5secs to get to 62mph.
The petrol versions all offer somewhere around the 50mpg mark in terms of official consumption (low 40s in practicality) while the diesel motor is rated around 55mpg.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
It's good to find a hatch that isn't like all the rest. The comfort and quietness proposition is met, and there's plenty of interest in the design. It's also better to drive than Citroen's previously advertised ‘comfort' cars, having found some new accuracy in its steering and straight line stability. That predictable behaviour itself reduces fatigue.
It’s probably not the most practical family car, all things considered, but those looking for something that’s consciously different and stands out from the same old same old that’s found elsewhere will be happy enough.