Diesel, petrol and full-electric powertrains are offered with the new C4

One criticism you cant level at Citroen is that their design is lacking a certain je ne sais quois. Those critics who would have you believe hatchbacks look the same nowadays clearly haven’t been introduced to the all-new C4. With expectations high, we tested the stylish French car in the predicted big-selling ‘Sense’ guise.

I MIGHT CANCEL MY GOLF ORDER

If you’re an existing hatchback owner, or have decided the time has come to upsize to one, and styling is the be-all and end-all, then this could be the car for you. For pure theatre there’s nothing else quite like it right now. To some, this might be a tricky car to pigeonhole but the raised ride height and chunky protective body cladding suggest this is a rival to the Focus Active from Ford – but that’s where the similarities end. Whereas the Blue Oval lacks character and charisma, the overall look of the C4 is funky, fun and full of visual intrigue. Even for our liking, the swooping coupe-cum-SUV rear end is a tad fussy but chances are this French fancy will attract more supporters than detractors during its lifetime.

LOTS COMES AS STANDARD       

The entry-level ‘Sense’ model sits on two-tone ‘Aeroblade’ rims that strike you as being a pain to clean come that time of the week where you have to reach for the bucket and sponge. Apart from that, there are few distinguishing features that set it apart from the other three models in the C4 line-up. All of them have the same scalloped clamshell bonnet, thin grille and slim daytime running lights, raising beltline and tail-gate-integrated wing that impairs your field of vision in the rear-view mirror. LEDs are deployed in the fog lights and over-sized headlights, although you do grow accustomed to the latter over time. As for colours, the palette is pretty limited at seven, with ‘Iceland Blue’ metallic (£545) and our test car’s rich ‘Elixir Red’ premium metallic paint (£700) two of the choices that should make it onto any shortlist.

IS THE INTERIOR A WINNER?     

You won’t be bowled over by it but neither will you be left feeling disappointed. The majority of the car’s functions are operated via the 10-inch touchscreen that is let down by sluggish response times and a menu heavy approach, so the freedom to link up your latest Apple or Android smartphone and circumvent the factory software altogether is a real blessing. Just as welcome are the physical knobs and switches which are suitably grouped together on a ledge of their own to modulate cabin temperature, and the easy-to-read if a little low-key digital driver’s display. Should you need adaptive cruise control, keyless entry, adjustable heated front seats and wireless phone charging ‘Shine’ is where they are at, but despite missing out on these, the cabin – which is well-made if a tad hard in places – doesn’t feel the poorer for it on ‘Sense’ versions.  

PRACTICALITY IS MIXED

The C4 may be inspired by a crossover but it isn’t an out-and-out one at that, so there are limitations to interior dimensions and practicality. Everyday usability is helped, however, by lots of oddment space in the front at the base of the dash and lower console, as well as a hollowed out compartment that reveals itself when the centre armrest is lifted. Passengers in the front seat are well catered for because on top of the traditional glove box there is a pop out tray above it that can accept a mobile phone, tablet device, maps or important paperwork. Also built into the dash is a tablet holder that securely holds an iPad, so they can watch a film or TV programme on a longer journey. Pretty clever stuff. As for space in the back, this is on a par with the Focus Active as head, shoulder and leg room are all on an even keel. Both cars also share a point as far as boot volume goes; there is little to separate them as they are both in and around the 380-litre ballpark.

HOW DOES THE C4 DRIVE?         

Citroen is at pains to explain what this car is – and what it isn’t. What you won’t experience is a hatch that enjoys being hustled down a road and thrown into corners as the C4’s springs and dampers have been specifically calibrated for comfort. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you figure out what does and what doesn’t work for the C4; jabbing the wheel results in head-roll whereas deft inputs into the steering wheel means you can expect to go around bends as quickly as the next car. From a ride perspective, the ‘Advanced Comfort Suspension’ knocks the edges off sharp surfaces and coarse Tarmac impeccably. Engine-wise, ‘Sense’ is available with one diesel and one petrol. What the petrol lacks in power it more than makes up for thanks to its three-cylinder layout as this serves up useful torque to get up-and-moving pretty sharpish. Refined at revs and punchy, the PureTech powerplant pulls eagerly across the rev range, with progress aided by a smooth 6-speed manual transmission.

PROS AND CONS   

+ Funky appearance       
+ Excellent equipment   
+ Supremely comfortable            
Infotainment not the best         
Body tends to wallow 
Rivals have bigger boots

ADVANCED COMFORT SUSPENSION: Citroen makes no apologies for the fact its cars are engineered to waft you and your passengers along on each and every journey. To achieve this, the suspension relies on hydraulic dampers to mop up the jolts and judders often caused by road imperfections and, on the round, it’s a terrifically well-judged set-up, although the C4 has a tendency to wallows through bends.

INTERIOR: The inside of the C4 may not be as adventurous as the outside but it functions well and as a family car has all the tech you’ll need. Standard equipment includes a 10-inch touchscreen with sat-nav and smartphone connectivity, a 5.5-inch driver display and automatic air conditioning. Quality is commendable and thought has been given to the seat upholstery as it features the unmistakable Citroen ‘chevron’.

STYLING: The C4’s been on our roads for less than 12 months but Citroen recently updated the range meaning the previous 18-inch wheels on ‘Sense’ models were replaced with a new ‘Aeroblade’ design. Apart from that, the appearance is bold and fresh, with the front using LEDs in the main headlamps and fog lights, while the stubby rear end melds aspects from a coupe and an SUV to achieve a rakish profile.

PRACTICALITY: There is decent leg and head room for two adults sitting on the bench in the rear but a third would prove a squeeze so shorter journeys it is, then. Access to the 380-litre boot is a doddle as the aperture is so wide; a good shape and adjustable floor that completely eradicates the load lip are also plus points. Despite this, the C4 is well-beaten for space by similarly styled rivals such as the CX-30 from Mazda.

SPECIFICATION

Price: £21,860 (as tested) 
Engine: 1.2-litre, 3cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 99bhp/151b ft    
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive         
0-62mph: 11.3 seconds    
Top speed: 114mph       
Economy/CO2: 54.8mpg/136g/Km 

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