Refined. Lots of equipment. Good looking.
The Citroen C4 has a tough task - it needs to persuade potential Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra drivers to go French. The C4 range starts with the £13,995 1.4 VTR and stretches to the £20,945 2.0 HDi Exclusive.
This past week, I've been test driving a mid-range engine in top specification trim - the Citroen C4 1.6 e-HDi 115 Exclusive. This has an on-the-road price of £20,125, which is favourable against the Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi Zetec S, which costs £19,945 (the Ford has less equipment, lacking cruise control and power folding mirrors).
So should potential Focus buyers give the C4 a chance? Take my hand as we discover the answer.
The Citroen C4 is rather toned down in its styling and it blends into the background rather like a Volvo does. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing will be down to what you want in your car. For me, though, the C4 is a good looking car with plenty of road presence. It lacks the narrow headlights of its bigger brethren, the C4 Picasso, but the C4 hatchback has its own unique style - a chrome grill, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a chrome rear diffuser give it a little bit of class.
To be honest, though, I think the C4 hatchback is a little too boring. It looks like it was specifically designed for rental car companies in a few ways - the characterless rear lights, large arch gap, and lack of tail pipes ensure that there's not much to look at.
The version of the C4 hatchback I have been driving has had a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel engine with 155 bhp and 199 lb /ft of torque. The engine is nice and quiet at low speeds and fairly refined on the motorway - in-gear performance is also good however second and third gear are a little too short in my opinion for a diesel. This engine likes to be revved but the trouble is, it lacks the power to make progress when revved hard.
Thankfully, any gearing issues are made up for by the ride. The C4 hatchback glides over potholes and uneven road surfaces and only becomes unsettled over sudden raises in the road service, such as on country roads.
The driving position is also good. You sit fairly high, but this gifts you with an excellent view of the road and despite the narrow rear window, visibility all-round is pretty good.
The Citroen C4 has a really comfortable interior. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and well-sized and the angled dashboard makes for a stylish place to be. On my car, the steering wheel benefited from silver accents and stainless steel pedals, something which I presume is unique to Exclusive trim. Either way, it contrasts nicely with the silver surround on the air vents and the grey upholstery.
Speaking of materials, the C4 has plenty of soft touch materials, which are all at hand. Lower quality plastics can be found in the foot wells, as part of door bins, and inside the glove box, but for the most part Citroen have hidden these away.
The C4 feels like a classy car.
The standard boot capacity of this car is 408-litres and this can be extended to a highly respectable 1183-litres thanks to the split/fold rear seats.
Equipped with this 1.6-litre e-HDi engine, the Citroen C4 has a claimed average fuel economy of 74.3 miles per gallon. During my standard 150 mile round trip, I managed to achieve 67.4 miles per gallon, which is extremely good.
I was surprised to learn that this version of the C4 also has a CO2 output of 100 g/km, which JUST qualifies it for free road tax.
Trim and equipment
Exclusive trim is the most expensive you can get with the C4. As such, it comes generously equipped.
Standard equipment includes cruise control, climate control, electric windows all round, electric seats, power folding electrically heated mirrors, CD /MP3 /iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, alloy wheels, and front fog lights. The only thing I missed during my test was satellite navigation, which is a £750 extra. Leather seats are a £950 option.
VTR+ is the next step down. This trim does away with climate control for simpler air conditioning, and electric seats are not available with this trim. Power folding mirrors still do come as standard as does Bluetooth , though.
The lowest trim level is VTR. Even with this trim, cruise control and air conditioning come as standard.
Overall, I was impressed with the level of equipment in my test car. It would have been nice for satellite navigation to be standard in Exclusive trim though - it would have made it stand out more.
The Citroen C4 1.6 e-HDi 115 Exclusive offers a good drive. It's brisk in-gear and the engine is refined at speed. The ride is not on par with a Volkswagen Golf's, but this is balanced with the better steering feedback and the excellent grip of the C4. In five-door guise, this C4 is also practical, and it's ideal for the school run or for long commutes.
At £20,125, the C4 is also cost-effective when compared to the competition. The 100 g/km CO2 output is also not bad for a car of this type and the combined fuel economy of 74.3 miles per gallon is fantastic and during my testing I achieved high 60s - much closer to the official figures than most cars I drive.
All in all, the Citroen C4 offers a good driving package. Rivals like the Ford Focus might offer a more fun drive, but the Citroen fights back with a more comfortable and refined experience. I reckon that this car is the best French alternative to a Volkswagen Golf.