THE 2016 CITROEN C4 RANGE CAME IN FOR A RANGE REJIG LAST YEAR WHICH SAW THE DIESEL VARIANT DROPPED AND A SOLE ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION COMBO SPECCED FOR THE TWO-MODEL RANGE.
Prices also rose substantially thanks to the addition of new features and equipment, taking the C4 well into the high $20k region in its base form.
The high-grade C4 Exclusive tested here, at $33,900 plus on-roads, comes nicely packed with sunroof, sat-nav and a host of premium features, but is getting close to the entry point of the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series ranges.
It also sits in the middle of Peugeot's excellent 308 range of 13 variants.
So, the C4 is in its twilight years now, does it still have something to offer? More crucially, is the premium pricetag of this model justified?
Vehicle Style: Five-door small hatch
Price: $33,990 (plus on-roads), $36,490 as-tested
Engine/trans: 96kW/230Nm 1.2 litre 3cyl turbo petrol | 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.9 l/100km | tested: 8.2 l/100km
Citroen's rationale behind the C4's high price point is that it's pitched primarily as an upgrade model for existing C4 owners. The company doesn't expect it to sell by the truckload, but should you have a look?
It has a few things going for it, not the least the roomy interior and appealing surfaces inside, the 'cushy' comfortable ride, as well as the very full feature list. It also has a nice dollop of French style and a unique personality (that's 'a thing' with a Citroen).
In fact, any Citroen will get your friends talking.
The 3-cylinder 1.2 litre turbo petrol engine is a very neat unit, with a meaty 230Nm of torque on offer, and the six-speed auto has enough ratios to get the best out of it. We are not quite convinced by how it works however.
Quality: There were some minor quality qualms on our tester with the glovebox latch not sitting flush with the glovebox lid and some other misaligned cabin plastics, but, broadly speaking, the C4’s cabin looks more upmarket than most small hatches.
The entire upper dash is soft to the touch and stamped with an aesthetically-pleasing leathergrain pattern, while the leather-mix upholstery on our tester had a reasonably authentic grain and feel.
Full leather trim is a $2500 option, even on the C4 Exclusive. Is it worth it? No.
Comfort: The seating position is good, if a little high for front seat occupants. The seat cushioning however lacks under-thigh support.
But if you like an upright posture when you’re behind the wheel, it’s not too bad. The view ahead though the expansive windshield is good, and the small quarter-windows at the base of the A-pillar allow you to see ‘around’ the pedestal-mounted wing mirrors.
Thanks to the Exclusive’s standard panoramic glass roof (with fully opaque roller blind), the back seats have an airy and open feel. The rear bench is mounted high to give a good view outside, and headroom is acceptable despite the intrusion of the glass roof.
All three rear seats get their own height-adjustable headrests too, and the low centre tunnel and generous width of the centre seat means three adults can realistically fit in the back.
Rear legroom isn’t too bad either and there’s a fold-down centre armrest too, but we’d like to have seen a set of face-level air-vents for the backseaters.
Equipment: Priced in the mid-$30k region, the C4 Exclusive packs a fair amount of equipment as standard.
Besides the 7-inch colour touchscreen media display, 8GB onboard music storage, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control and reverse parking sensors that it shares with the base Seduction grade, the Exclusive gets some fairly upmarket features to set it apart from the small hatch crowd.
There’s the massive panoramic glass sunroof we mentioned before, a massage function for the driver’s seat, keyless entry and ignition and blind spot monitoring.
A reversing camera and front/rear parking sensors are also standard, as are dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers and Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity.
Storage: There’s 380 litres of seats-up cargo space in the C4, which is about par for the small hatch segment. To help maximise the utility of that space, there are four bag hooks to help secure your shopping, a small netted enclosure to the side for small items and a removable self-charging torch on the passenger side.
A ski port is built into the 60/40 split rear seatbacks, and dropping them gives you enough room for 1183 litres of cargo (if you stack it to the roof).
However, as is usual for a PSA product the glovebox is next to useless. Rather than relocate components to the other side of the cabin when engineering the RHD model, Citroen has elected to keep them in place and chop the available storage space in half.
Don’t even bother opening it.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The 1.2 engine comes with three cylinders and 96kW of power, but with 230Nm of turbo-enhanced torque it punches above its weight when it comes to car-pulling oomph.
Driven with a bit of alacrity, it has no trouble moving the C4 along briskly, even at highway speeds. It’s just a shame the six-speed transmission doesn't work nearly as well.
There’s just one transmission available for the C4 now, and though it’s a conventional hydraulic six-speed automatic, its calibration leaves a lot to be desired.
Its shift mapping is unpredictable. It’s either too reluctant to kick down or too eager to hold onto low gears. It will also lurch away from standstill if you put in anything more than a small amount of throttle.
And if you want to make a speedy getaway, such as when turning into busy, fast-flowing traffic, the slow response of the C4 means you need to pick a wider gap than you normally would.
How Citroen managed to make a conventional automatic feel like a single-clutch automated manual, we'll perhaps never know.
We’ve experienced this engine in other Peugeot-Citroen products (it powers the base model Peugeot 308), and it’s quite a good unit. The updated Peugeot 208 also proves that PSA’s engineers know how to calibrate a six-speed hydraulic automatic, so it’s puzzling why the C4’s transmission feels so lacklustre.
What’s more baffling is the huge disparity between the C4’s claimed fuel consumption and our real-world result.
Citroen claims just 4.9 l/100km on the combined cycle, but our week-long test (which comprised a fairly even mix of highway and urban driving) saw an average of 8.2 l/100km.
Refinement: There’s a fair bit of three-cylinder grumbling from up front when the engine is under load, but it settles down to a gentle thrum when in motion. Road noise is certainly present, but not overly intrusive.
The start-stop system is also overzealous, shutting the engine down the instant you come to a halt - a constant pain in slow-moving traffic. That’s not helped by the vibrations kicked out by the three-pot as it constantly stops and starts and most will probably reach for the “eco off” button - negating the fuel economy benefit of having that system.
Ride and Handling: The highlight of the C4 experience, by far, is its supple suspension. This car fears no speedbump, such is the compliance of its comfort-biased suspension.
A plush ride doesn’t ordinarily equate to good dynamics, but after some initial body roll the C4 tracks cleanly through corners with surprisingly good grip.
The Michelin Primacy tyres are a good choice for this car, with a pretty even compromise between roadholding, noise and comfort.
Braking: The brakes are grabby to the extreme, and it takes a disciplined foot to stop smoothly. It’s something you’ll eventually get used to, but while we appreciate responsive brakes the C4 could afford to turn down the initial bite of its stoppers.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.89 out of 37 possible points. Note, this rating is unchanged from the 2011 C4
Safety features: Safety kit includes six airbags (dual front, dual side impact, full length curtain) as well as electronic stability and traction control, rear park sensors, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, and hill start assist.
Blind spot monitoring, an automatic electric park brake, front park sensors, and a reversing camera are included on Exclusive while a reverse camera can be added to Seduction for $1000.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 6 years/unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Under Citroen's capped-price servicing scheme, the cost of the first six services (which cover the first six years/90,000km of ownership) are fixed. Pricing for the C4 is as follows:
- 12 MONTH/15,000KM - $455
- 24 MONTH/30,000KM - $735
- 36 MONTH/45,000KM - $525
- 48 MONTH/60,000KM - $805
- 60 MONTH/75,000KM - $530
- 72 MONTH/90,000KM - $995
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Golf 110TSI Highline ($32,990) - It’s not laden with as many toys as the C4, but the Golf is one of the segment leaders when it comes to quasi-premium hatchbacks.
With a high quality interior, excellent ergonomics and a drive that’s pretty hard to fault, the Golf 110TSI also has more power, more torque and better performance than the Citroen. And while its seven-speed twin-clutch auto isn’t perfect, it does a better job than the C4’s six-speed. (see Golf reviews)
Ford Focus Titanium hatch ($32,690) - Ford’s sharp-handling Focus is another turbo small hatch, with a beautiful ride and eager, responsive performance.
The interior feels tighter than the Citroen’s and with 132kW and 240Nm the Ford’s 1.5 litre outguns the C4’s 1.2 litre inline three. Its conventional six-speed auto is also much easier to live with. (see Focus reviews)
Peugeot 308 Allure ($31,842) - The C4’s French cousin might have fewer toys to play with, but it’s a better car on the whole. A more up-to-date interior, more power, more torque and lower purchase price make us lean toward the Pug. (see 308 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Although loaded up with some fancy features like massage seats and that huge glass roof, the Citroen C4 Exclusive is compromised by its on-road performance.
It is certainly comfortable, it offers one of the best rides in the small hatch class, but we think you may need to check out the six-speed automatic before you buy - it could become a chore if living with it day-to-day.
It's at the top end of the price spectrum for its segment yet it doesn't quite manage the premium feel its price suggests. How expensive is it? Well for just ten dollars more than the car we tested, you could hop into a base model Audi A3.
It's difficult to recommend, especially when cars as polished as the VW Golf and Peugeot 308 are better vehicles for less money.