Citroëns have always been quite exceptional cars for me, not onIy the “big” Citroëns, but also the compact cars, beginning with the GS. In the early days of my career as a car journalist, I vividly remember the stylish GS as a test car. Indeed, not only the boxer engine, also the suspension and styling where totally of another league.
I also recall fondly a very fast trip to the Frankfurt Motor Show, with a 1,6 litre petrol engined C4, the generation prior to the Cactus, driving totally relaxed at speeds between 160-180 km/h in pouring rain on the Autobahn, showing superb GT qualities in total comfort. But also the 1,9 litre Diesel versions were extraordinary. I remember the used red BX and the used dark blue Xantia, both of which I drove as long-term test cars for Autokrant. They offered excellent performance, GT panache and comfort, combined with exemplary economy.
But now let’s turn our nostalgic hearts to the present day C4. To tell you right away, it continues the tradition with its equally unique suspension, Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® and Advanced Comfort seats. It has the same unique personality and character as its predecessors, and even a lot more. Just read on…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
With the new ë-C4 and New C4, actually Citroën’s new-generation compact hatchback, the iconic brand is targeting this time the still very important (European) hatchback market. This C4 has a rather elevated posture, not unlike we see with Asian competitors like amongst others the Toyota CH-R, with the same quite busy styling language.
Citroën says that it wants to combine the dynamism of a hatchback with SUV design forms for added character. With its sloping rear window and spoiler, Citroën says, the rear end draws its inspiration from the 2004 C4 Coupé with its original two-piece rear window topped by an aerodynamic spoiler.
Sliding behind the wheel, we are pleasantly surprised by a restful and uncluttered simplicity, indeed every effort has been made not to distract the driver unduly. The instrument cluster is a superb example of less is more: small dials for water temperature, revs and a digital speed indicator are the only things to attract your attention. The designers have kept these indicators rather small, and indeed your eyes should rather focus on the road and the large colored head-up display. Restful and efficient!
In the centre, at the top of the dashboard sits the ultra-thin borderless 10-inch touchscreen, which is of course the nerve centre of the vehicle’s controls. The controls of the dual-zone automatic climate control – thankfully also physical for immediate access to change the settings – have chrome dials and gloss black push buttons.
One finds easily his way in this C4. There is also an elegant guilloché metal automatic gear lever. It has the three usual positions (R, N and D) that are backlit for clarity. There are also two backlit push buttons: P to activate Parking mode, M to activate manual driving mode (for conventional engine versions) or B to activate the “Brake” energy recovery mode for the electric version. The console also incorporates the electric parking brake and a driving mode selector that has three settings on automatic transmission versions: Eco, Normal, Sport.
Smooth diesel power combined with a fluent 8 speed automatic…
Indeed, we drove here the BlueHDi 130 S&S in combination with the EAT8 Auto gearbox. Here we again were impressed by what a modern 1499 cc four valve turbocharged diesel engine (still) has to offer in terms of velvety power delivery and sheer economy, all this in paired with a state of the art transmission.
Starting from cold, the once so familiar diesel clatter is totally absent: this engine runs smooth, virbationless and silent right from the word go. At speed, it is totally inaudible, and very unobtrusive indeed at urban crawling speeds. The transmission is ideally mated to the engine’s torque characteristics. Indeed, the unit has ample pulling power, developing 300 Nm at a low 1700 rpm. Performance therefore leaves nothing to be desired: it will accelerate smoothly in 10,6 sec to 100 km/h, further to an impressive top speed of 206 km/h. Revs are kept low due to the high final gearing of the transmission, providing very restful high speed cruising. Indeed, maximum power of 96 kW or 130 HP is developed at a very sedate 3700 rpm.
So this C4 has everything in house to excel as a fast “grande routière”, and on top of that there is a truly astonishing fuel economy: we reached an average during our test of merely 4,4 l/100 km!
The C4 is equipped, as standard, with the Citroën brand’s innovative suspension system featuring Progressive Hydraulic Cushions®, which were first introduced on C4 Cactus and C5 Aircross SUV. The suspension setup offers supreme comfort and a “magic carpet ride” effect, according to Citroën. Indeed, comfort is truly top notch. Not less than twenty patents were filed in the development of this suspension system. Its operating principle is simple: the Citroën Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® system adds two hydraulic stops – one for compression, the other for decompression besides the classic metal springs and shock absorbers. The suspension works in two stages, depending on the stresses it encounters.
For light compression and decompression, the spring and shock absorber control vertical movements together with no assistance required from the hydraulic stops. However, the presence of the hydraulic stops means the engineers have greater freedom to tune the setup to achieve the fabled “magic carpet ride” effect, which gives the impression that the car is gliding over uneven road surfaces.
Indeed, with major impacts, the spring and shock absorber work together with the hydraulic compression or decompression stops, which gradually slow the movement to avoid jolts at the end of the range. Unlike a traditional mechanical stop, which absorbs energy, but then returns part of it as a shock, the hydraulic stop absorbs and dissipates this energy. Clever!
The C4 is also quiet: particular attention has been paid to acoustic insulation, with a focus on running and aerodynamic noise. Special attention has been paid to the insulation around the engine block.
…is also found in the seats
The special foam on the surface of the seat, thickened by 15 mm, offers softness and support from the first contact. The new high-density foam at the core of the seats holds the occupants in place during long journeys. The seats are also pleasantly wide and generously dimensioned.
The front seat passenger is also spoiled…
A Smart Pad Support Citroën™ is a World Premiere on New ë-C4 and New C4. It is a retractable system designed to hold a tablet computer. It is solid, functional and directly built into the dashboard. It enables the front passenger to make the most of the time spent on-board. Ideal to put your co-pilot at work to read for you the stories and information about the towns or the regions you travel through, which you have prepared on your IPad or tablet prior to your voyage of course…
The Dashboard tray itself is a large sliding drawer with a cushioned action, positioned in front of the front passenger. It has a special anti-slip surface to store personal items or hold a tablet in place in complete safety. Just great!
Of course there is an open wireless charging area for smartphones, which comes combined with two USB sockets, one of which is Type C.
Infotainment and connectivity galore…
The 10-inch touchscreen, with a capacitive screen that needs only be touched with the tip of a finger, allows the driver to configure the vehicle, access the multimedia system, telephone, air-conditioning and navigation. It also features voice recognition.
Wireless charging for smartphones allows a wide range of Qi-compatible devices to be induction-charged using a charging mat incorporated into the centre console. The wireless transmission of electrical energy is based on the principle of magnetic induction. Connect Play, using the Android Auto and Apple CarPlay™ compatible Mirror Screen function are installed of course.
ConnectedCAM Citroën® is an independent camera system integrated into the base of the rear-view mirror. It uses full HD and GPS technology. The camera allows you to take a photo or video of the outside scene in front of your vehicle, with the corresponding data stored on the integrated 16 GB memory card. Thanks to the WiFi connection, the data recorded by the camera can be transferred to a smartphone to be shared via e-mail or social networks. ConnectedCAM Citroën® continuously films the road in front of the windscreen and automatically saves the recordings in the event of an accident.
As well as driving aids…
The new ë-C4 and New C4 are packed with driving aids – no less than 20 latest-generation technologies in all. That is as many as on C5 Aircross SUV, which is the benchmark for driving aids at Citroën.
Practical and spacious…
The C4 has a wheelbase measuring 2,670 mm – one of the longest in the segment – delivering the “Best in Class” knee room in the rear at 198 mm. The 1,800 mm exterior width easily accommodates three people in the rear – providing 1,380 mm of width at the shoulders and 1,440 mm at the elbows. Headroom in the back is a bit restricted for the tallest among us though.
With a 380-litre boot and a low, flat loading sill (715 mm), the C4 is at the heart of the segment. For added convenience, a two-position floor allows the boot to be divided into compartments and provides a flat floor when the rear seating is folded down. For even more practicality in everyday life, hooks are present to hang bags, while a ski hatch allows particularly long objects to extend into the cabin.
Last but not least we tell you here that this Citroen C4 is built at its Madrid plant, and Stellantis has spent €144 million in upgrading the factory and designing the new C4.
We also had a short drive with the electric ë-C4, and we tell you soon about our driving impressions… stunning indeed!
In terms of driving comfort, long-legged cruising performance, and last but not least exceptional economy and smoothness, this C4 truly stands in a class of its own. It is one of the most harmonious cars we have come across lately. Its 1,5 litre 130 HP diesel showed us again how formidable these engines have become, offering a useable range of well over 1,000 kilometers.
This C4 breathes originality and character, even more so in the interior, and we can tell you this: just slide behind the wheel of this one, and you will notice, Citroën driving is addictive, and this feeling grows further with every meter you drive it…
Hans Knol ten Bensel