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Car reviews - Citroen - C4 - hatch range

Our Opinion

We like
Magic carpet ride, styling still fresh, hugely improved transmission, well-matched engine, spacious cabin
Room for improvement
Interior rattles, numb steering

Citroen logo6 Aug 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

BEFORE it quietly slipped out the back door for a little snooze from the Australian market, the Citroen C4 was available here with a combination of diesel and petrol engines and manual or automatic transmissions.

For its return, though, and in-line with an ongoing model-line restructure, Citroen has not just rationalised the range to one variant in two different spec levels, it has significantly modernised its drivetrain.

Into the bin have gone both the 1.6-litre naturally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines along with the diesel, and in their place is just one engine – the same 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder as found under the bonnet of the Peugeot 308.

With 96kW and 230Nm on tap, the baby three-pot pumps out a surprisingly adequate performance with imperceptible turbo lag, a comforting three-cylinder soundtrack and decent responsiveness.

Even when revved out to its limit, the PureTech engine note is not intrusive, with the added sound insulation measures for the 2015 version keeping the cabin serene. Not that we needed to rev the little donk, with peak torque available from 1750rpm.

With a host of up-to-the-minute engineering features such as aluminium/copper alloy cylinder head, sodium filled valves, 200-bar direct injection, variable flow oil pump and idle-stop, the PureTech 130 engine is a big step up in technology for the C4.

Its automatic transmission is another big step into the present day with a six-speed torque-converter trans replacing the previous four-speeder.

While it might not be up to the silky and turbine-smooth operation of some premium brands with up to nine ratios at their disposal, the six-cog box is a huge improvement and well matched to the likable engine.

We were happy to see steering-wheel paddle shifters absent in the C4. While some manufacturers see the manual-option paddles as a necessity in anything with an automatic transmission, we don’t. The auto handled everything we threw at it intuitively.

Manual selections can be made with the gear lever in manual mode, but – call us pedantic – the direction for up and downshifts is counter-intuitive. How many times do we have to say it? Irrespective of whether it is for a super-mini or a supercar – make it pull back for up and push forward for down.

Barreling along some poorly maintained roads around our nation's capital, the C4 ironed out even some serious imperfections. Large potholes couldn't provoke negative traits such as bump-steer or tram-lining, and cabin noise was consistently low.

That said, carrying some pace in the C4 is no chore with good body control, thanks to the comfort-focussed chassis and in faster corners, the body initially leans before settling with confidence-inspiring grip.

Even in wet weather the Michelin Primacy ST rubber found good levels of grip and only the vague, over-assisted steering detracted from an otherwise involving drive.

Compared with the previous version, the 2015 C4's interior and exterior dimensions are unchanged, which is a good thing because Citroen has found generous spaces and comfort within the parameters of a small car.

Getting comfortable in the driver's seat took a couple of gos, but thereafter we found all five spots offered a relaxing place to spend some kilometres.

The addition of a new 7.0-inch touch screen has lifted the interior quality feel and while some of the surrounding trims and buttons feel a bit cheap, we liked the high-quality feel dashboard, which features a weirdly likeable and almost organic design.

A few odd rattles and an irritating squeak from the adjustable steering column let down the interior quality, but the massive panoramic glass roof as standard in Exclusive versions is a great feature.

Covered by a proper blind – not a flimsy fabric one as is the case with some rivals – the uncovered roof adds an even greater sense of air and volume to the interior.

Citroen is quick to point out that the C4 is not a warm or hot hatch, and is instead engineered with a devoted focus on the company's unique selling proposition – comfort. In this regard, we say Citroen has hit the nail on the head with the C4.

While some manufacturers may try to make a small hatchback cater for every type of owner with just one model or variant, Citroen has recognised that comfort and convenience are a premium for many over tyre-shredding performance.

Its level of specification is fairly reflected by the price for both the Seduction and Exclusive, and for those looking for a practical and relaxing hatchback with European styling that is standing the test of time, the C4 is well worth a look.

Add to that Citroen's customer satisfaction-boosting six-year warranty, roadside assistance and capped price servicing and you are looking at a comprehensive package.

We can’t help feeling the small hatch is a little unloved by Citroen Australia.

With a bit more of a concerted promotion and publicity campaign, the comeback C4 could do way better than Citroen is asking of it, preaching to the unconverted.

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