Our first drive of the new Citroen C4 uncovers a crossover with eye-catching looks and a focus on comfort.
Citroen has left behind the dull styling of its previous C4 family hatchback and delivered an all-new, third-generation model with rakish good looks and plenty of French flair which will arrive in Australia mid-November this year. We go for a drive in the UK to see what buyers can expect ahead of its launch.
It will come in just one trim level with one drivetrain option and the highly-specced car is anticipated to cost around $40,000, though that is yet to be confirmed by Citroen Australia.
The coupe-SUV design of the latest C4 helps it stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace, while it brings a renewed focus on the comfort and innovative tech that Citroen has become well known for.
The C4 sits on the widely-used Stellantis/PSA Group CMP platform which has mostly been employed for smaller cars such as the Peugeot 208. Citroen has been rather clever in utilising this simpler, cheaper architecture to help cut costs, while making sure the C4 benefits from the longest possible wheelbase to maximise interior space.
There are plenty of rivals ready and waiting to take on Citroen’s new family crossover hatch, from the equally striking Toyota CH-R to the quasi-SUV styling of the Mazda CX-30. The Skoda Karoq will serve those with more traditional tastes, while those with a bigger budget may wish to look towards the more upmarket Audi Q3 Sportback or BMW X2 ranges.
Power options for the C4 are pretty straightforward with a single 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine available in 74kW, 95kW or 114kW form. It is the most powerful 114kW version that will arrive in Australia and in just one specification, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A standing start to 100km/h is achieved in 8.5 seconds, before hitting a top speed of 0-62mph is dispatched in 8.5 seconds, before topping out at 210km/h.
Citroen has chosen to prioritise comfort for the third-generation C4, and a key piece of tech that helps to improve the ride is the use of hydraulic dampers, which are designed to more effectively deal with big bumps in the road and lessen any impact felt in the cabin. The system works well and you really notice the difference, compared to standard family hatches, when driving around town and taking on the scarred tarmac often found along urban routes.
What isn’t so great when driving the C4 is its overly-light steering which lacks any feel or feedback. Coupled with quite a bit of body roll through corners, you couldn’t say that the C4 is a particularly fun car to drive. However, its ride quality really is good and in fact, at around 1300kg, the C4 is quite a bit lighter than most of its rivals which benefits comfort – an area Citroen feels it can target to convince customers away from more dynamic rivals.
Interior quality is a bit of a mixture – not up to the standard of the very best in the class, but just about passing muster. You won’t find lots of soft-touch materials in use around the cabin, but Citroen has done a decent job of ensuring a reasonable level of perceived quality.
The C4 comes with a large 10-inch screen as standard, and best of all there are physical buttons for the air-conditioning controls. This is something that some Citroen models don’t have, and fiddling with them on the touchscreen is annoying, so we’re glad that real buttons are making a comeback.
The touchscreen is large and looks smart, and has great functionality; everything you need is here, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which work well on the big display. The screen could be more responsive to inputs, though. A head-up display is also standard, allowing the driver to view key information such as speed limits and nav directions without taking their attention away from the road.
The C4 has a bigger footprint than a typical family hatchback: 76mm longer and 45mm wider than a Volkswagen Golf. With overall dimensions of 4360mm (length) and 1834 (width), the C4 is comparable to the Toyota C-HR, being just 30mm shorter and 39mm wider than its Japanese rival.
There’s enough leg and headroom for four six-footers to sit in decent comfort, although squeezing an extra passenger in the middle rear seat would perhaps be better when undertaking shorter journeys. The C4 is perfectly adequate for family life, although you might want to consider its bigger C5 Aircross sibling if you need more space.
Interior storage is good with useful door bins and assorted cubbies, while there’s a variable-height boot floor for a little extra versatility. In our overseas test car, you can even specify a dash-mounted tablet holder for the front passenger, which folds away when not needed. All Citroen C4 versions have a 380-litre boot capacity, which lags behind the Mazda CX-30’s 430 litres of load space.
While yet to be scored by ANCAP, when tested under the latest stringent procedures by EuroNCAP, Citroen received a disappointing four-star rating (out of five) for safety. The industry body scored the C4 at 57 per cent for pedestrian protection and 63 per cent for its safety assist functions – raising an issue with aspects of the car’s automatic emergency braking system. It should be noted that these tests are more rigorous than ever and, overall, the C4 remains a safe car.
The C4 certainly benefits from lots of standard safety kit, with an Active Safety Brake function, Speed Limit Information, Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Alert 3 with lane departure detection and a Forward Collision Warning system. Other features include active blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control and a head-up display.
Standard equipment is yet to be confirmed locally, but gear available includes 18-inch alloy wheels, auto LED headlights, rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and start function, wireless smartphone charging and electrically adjustable heated front seats. We anticipate most if not all of those features will come to the Australian-spec model.
The Citroen C4 is a good family hatchback, but our first impression suggests it’s not the best option for those prioritising practicality, efficiency and a degree of driving fun. Its funky coupe-crossover styling will attract some buyers, however, and the ride comfort is very good indeed – particular if you prioritise that over sharp handling.
Citroen will announce specification and pricing close to the model’s November launch in Australia.