Since being introduced in 2004 as a successor to the Citroen Xsara, the C4 has proved a hit with the public and critics alike, with many of the latter noting the increased quality of the interior and the accurate responsiveness of its handling.
The Citroen C4 started life in only two formats, a five-door hatchback and a three-door coupe, until a sedan variant was brought to market in 2007. The sedan, at a princely 4770mm, is significantly longer than its hatchback counterpart – 510mm longer in fact.
A 2008 facelift saw the C4 lengthened slightly and given a slightly more curved grille, until the second generation was released in 2008, aesthetically characterised by aggressive ‘cuts’ in the body, giving the C4 a distinctly more masculine appearance.
The entire C4 range has been characterised by its extensive use of technology, such as fixed hub driver’s airbags, hydractive suspension, and ventilated disc brakes. This use of technology is considered to be the C4’s major selling point.
All Citroen C4 engines have remained relatively unchanged since inception, with a 1.4L and two 1.6L petrol engines in addition to two 1.6L engines and one 2.0L diesel engine.
The C4 Attraction uses a 1.6L petrol engine, has an automatic 4-speed gearbox, and produces 88kW of power and 160Nm, with a fuel consumption of 6.9L/km – about average for a hatchback of its size. Acceleration is perhaps not an outstanding feature of this model, with an acceleration time of 100km/h in 13.9 seconds.
For roughly the same price, buyers can opt for a 5-speed manual gearbox which is not as economical in terms of fuel consumption (using 6.9L/100km), although it manages a more impressive acceleration time of 100km/h in 12.2 seconds. Both of these engines can be noisy at speed, but this car was conceived as a small ‘run-around’ and serves that purpose very well.
All C4s in the range are renowned for their excellent suspension, which lends itself extremely well to a smooth ride. The ultra-responsive ‘hydractive’ brakes serve their purpose enormously well, allowing the car to slow down from a run to a crawl with impressive smoothness.
The Exclusive Turbo Petrol model – as its name suggests – is the jewel in the crown in terms of power and acceleration, producing 115kW of power and a torque of 240Nm. With a 6-speed EGS gearbox, the model can do 100km/h in a fast 8.7 seconds, and it is surprisingly economical for a car of such power, using 6.4L/100km.
Steering is more responsive than on its C3 cousin, for example, and it is great for manoeuvring into tight spaces in urban environments, again serving its original purpose as an inexpensive ‘run-around’ very well. It must be said though that steering still perhaps leaves a little to be desired in terms of cornering on some models, although steering on the Exclusive is sharp in comparison.
The first-generation 4x4 C4 was used by Sébastien Loeb to win the World Rally Championships consecutively in 2007, 2008, and 2009, which some believe speaks volumes about the engineering prowess with which the C4 is produced.
On all models, the C4 is equipped with the requisite power steering, central locking as well as cruise control, driver and passenger front-side airbags, air-conditioning with a particulate filter, and an immobiliser. All models also come with Bluetooth and a USB hub for mp3 compatibility.
The Exclusive trim – found on the higher-end models – includes all of the previously mentioned kit, plus climate control, automatic windscreen wipers, and Citroen’s Blind Spot Monitoring System. That’s not all – the Exclusive trim goes further into luxury territory with massaging front seats, customisable colours, and ‘guide me home’ headlights.
As with other modern Citroen models, the C4 dashboard has all of the car’s controls laid out in logical fashion, utilising the refreshing mixture of analogue and digital. The cabin found in each C4 is very spacious across the range. The cabin in the hatchback variant, feels very open even in the rear, which has more than enough room to seat two tall adults. The boot is also impressively large for a car of the C4’s size, with 380L of space that may be expanded to a very large 1183L with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats pushed down.
Some Australian reviewers have said that the Citroen C4 is not the best or most economical small car on the market, with that accolade often being given to the lesser-known Mazda3, which is less expensive. However, what is great about the Citroen C4 is that it has a charm to it that sets it apart from the Mazda, VW Golf (which has better handling on corners), or Ford Focus (which has better drive trains).
If this sounds a little too ambiguous, consider this: The C4 is spacious, comfortable, and affordable. It performs and handles better than many of its Citroen brethren and a good many of its rivals.