Citroëns set somehow always a benchmark in their class – and the new C4 makes no exception to this rule.
We took the C4 trough its paces on a drive to the French Hautes Alpes, in albeit sunny but wintery conditions, to the “Croisière Blanche” Rally which started off at Orcières.
What a fast, smooth, relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable drive it was, with the C4 showing masterfully its unique character. Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
We took the car to the French Hautes Alpes, to the Rally "Croisière Blanche" in Orcières...
Our test car came with the e-HDI 110 hp Diesel engine mated to the 6-speed EGS automatic gearbox, and was fitted with the “Exclusive” trim. It is a smooth and refined combination indeed.
The Diesel engine is equipped with a Stop & Start system, featuring a second generation reversible alternator.
An “e-booster” system allows instantaneous and almost totally silent engine restarts in just 400ms - twice as fast as a manual key restart and 30% faster than with a reinforced starter. It does not cost much energy either: the electronically controlled alternator uses regenerative braking to recover energy.
The EGS gearbox has optimised gear ratios, and the system even stops the engine before the car comes to a complete halt - from 5mph during deceleration.
It all works indeed very fine in practice, just flick the elegant lever into “A” and let the gearbox do the rest.
The instrumentation is also in a class of its own... and you can even select the colour of the instrument lighting!
One can also select the gears manually through the paddles left and right of the steering wheel, and indeed there are a delight to use, certainly on mountain roads, hairpins and passes. The box reacts promptly and very smoothly indeed. The gearbox change control system makes very good use of the torque characteristics of the smooth running Diesel engine. The out-and-out performance figures do not tell the whole story, the car is actually much faster than the naked figures tell you. From 0 to 100 costs a mere 11,2 seconds, but it is the completely effortless way in which these figures are achieved which is even more important, as is the way the car behaves at speed. That is were the real forte of the Citroën comes in.
A benchmark suspension and roadholding.
One would swear it is a hydropneumatic suspension which lives in the C4, when one drives over our winter-ridden autoroutes, pot holed city roads and routes secondaires. The car floats smoothly over it, but the steering wheel in your hands tells you with precision where the car is going. This combination of smoothness, true comfort and steering precision, which immediately tells you that the car is able to take fast and long bends at incredible speeds, is the unique experience of driving a Citroën.
This C4 has pseudo McPherson suspension at the front, and a flexible transverse beam at the rear, but this suspension is finely tuned to the engine characteristics and power, and so the result is simply amazing. Soft, gentle, yet very positive when cornering hard, but never too harsh or uneasy at any speed, on any road, in any circumstance. More does not have to be said. But you will drive hundreds of kilometres at a stretch without effort at very high moyennes, and leave the car without feeling tired.
The cruise control knobs are located in the steering wheel centre... so easy to reach!
The car is an excellent motorway cruiser, with a cruise control which can be programmed with your favourite cruising speeds; top speed is around 190 kmh, and the car will cruise with no effort at all at speeds up to 170 kmh. Of course the C4 stays extremely frugal with the 110 hp Diesel engine, and we had a test consumption of a mere 5 litres per 100 km.
A refined cabin with a quality feel…
The excellent seats, the good seating position and ergonomics also keep you feeling fine on the open road or in hours of city driving.
Quality and sophistication are indeed evident throughout the new C4’s cabin, with full attention paid to the flush assembly and feel of the materials used. The dashboard and fascia are finished in soft-touch materials with pleasant chrome detailing on the controls and vents. The round dials light up in blue, but you can even choose other lighting colours to suit your mood!
The new C4’s four-spoke steering wheel feels substantial, with soft-touch leather, satin chrome inserts and an impressive array of functionalities - including audio, telephone, speed-limiter/cruise control - all positioned at the driver’s fingertips. Indeed a delight to use on long trips…
The gear selector on EGS gearbox is small, tactile and elegantly trimmed in leather. It fits snugly in your palm, and what’s more, you hardly have to use it.
All elements of lighting in the cabin have been finely tuned to each other creating a sophisticated and modern environment.
Front and rear LED reading and courtesy lights were standard on our “Exclusive” model, they cast a clear white light, whilst somewhat more mood lighting lights the footwell and centre console.
The interior is of course full of practical amenities. We appreciated very much the raised centre console which offers a large refrigerated and illuminated compartment that can be closed with a sliding shutter.
Able to hold up to four 0.5-litre bottles(!) , this feature sets again the standards in its class…and we were indeed able to house our Nikon D40 camera in it, easy at hand for those shots when travelling.
Each front door storage compartment can accommodate a 1.5-litre bottle and miscellaneous A4-size documents.
Rear occupants also benefit from extensive space and storage with generous amounts of leg and headroom, which allows up to three adults to sit comfortably during longer journeys.
Each rear door incorporates a storage compartment large enough for a 0.5-litre bottle and a paperback sized book. One also finds front seat back pockets for additional storage and handy drawers positioned under the front seats.
With a capacious 380-litre boot - increasing to a maximum 408-litre VDA capacity (under the parcel shelf and utilising the under-floor storage compartment) - the new C4 offers the biggest boot in its class. The practical cubic dimensions and the low sill ensure ease of loading and optimal use of the available volume.
When you wish, the split/folding rear seats can easily be tumbled forward to create additional load space up to the front seat backs.
The Citroën market researchers have found that customers in this segment want a vehicle that is beautifully designed, but not ostentatious; a vehicle that is contemporary, but not overtly trendy or flamboyant.
Maybe, just maybe, they could have conveyed the car more character and flamboyance, but that is a personal opinion of course. As the car truly stands out when you drive it, we do not see the same superlative(s) in the exterior styling of the car. But maybe we have come to expect too much here.
The sculpted lines and black rear spoiler indeed do reflect the model’s optimised aerodynamics whilst the upper side panel and roof have been laser-welded to remove assembly joints, creating an unusually sleek and smooth roofline.
Glossy black B-pillars, a blackout treatment on the rear side windows and stylish chrome detailing complete the premium look, which the car indeed has.
The distinctive front end features a sculpted bonnet that curves out towards the sides with incisive headlights that flow into the side wings and the imposing new twin chevron grille, which indeed is quite beautiful.
The sweeping side profile showcases two intersecting style lines and steeply raked quarter windows to underline the dynamic looks. At the rear, the new style chevrons and an original lighting signature highlight the clean lines of the tailgate and emphasise the model’s design.
The new C4 is offered in a choice of ten body colours, carefully selected to complement the model’s form, with a range of sculpted and stylish alloy wheels sized between 16” and 18”.
The conclusion? Well, we can only repeat: drive this car, and you will see that it also sets new standards for you and for what you believed cars of this class should be. It is indeed, in a class of its own, that of the double chevron…
We are keen to drive the C4 with one of the petrol engines, which, as you may know, are co-developed with BMW. I drove the “old” C4 with such a 1,6 litre petrol engine to the Frankfurt Salon last year, and was deeply impressed how masterfully the car behaved on the high-speed Autobahnen… so I look forward to the new one!
Hans Knol ten Bensel