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First look: C4 is Citroen’s new Golf beater

Boring is banished: The C4 swings to the extreme left of its dull Xsara predecessor. Shown is the C4 Sport concept car.

Citroen wrestles with Renault for Europe’s style crown, as the C4 proves

22 Mar 2004

CITROEN has revealed details of its forthcoming C4 in the form of a rally car-style concept.

The centerpiece of the French marque’s Geneva motor show stand, the C4 Sport rips the wraps off the three-door hatchback version of the next front-wheel drive Citroen small car.

And its key dimensions also reflect those of the production C4, barring the extra-wide wheel arches:Length 4286 mm
Width 1790 mm
Wheelbase 2600 mm
Height 1400 mm
Track 1597 mmPictures of the production-ready C4 will be distributed in the weeks leading up to the C4’s world debut at this September’s bi-annual Paris motor show.

Besides the three-door C4, they should also include a five-door hatchback and four-door wagon variations.

European sales will begin in November. Pending enough production capacity, Australian Citroen dealers should have the C4 in time for a 2005 Melbourne motor show debut next March.

Mirroring the current Xsara range, a three-door 1.6-litre “coupe” and two (1.6 and 2.0-litre) five-door hatchbacks will be the first locally bound C4s.

A replacement for the Xsara-based Picasso may also appear in prototype form at this year’s Paris event, but that car – to be known as the C4 Picasso – will not go on sale in Europe before the second half of 2005.

It is believed Citroen Australia distributor Ateco has already put its hand up for this second generation Picasso compact people-mover.

Continuing supply shortages for right-hand drive models have scuppered any chances for a local debut for the current (1999-vintage) Picasso, with the UK taking the lion’s share of production.

Last year Citroen strongly hinted at what the new C4 Picasso will look like with the Frankfurt motor show C-Airlounge concept car. In Europe, brave design seems to be delivering dividends, as the 1998 Ford Focus and 2002 Renault Megane demonstrate.

33 center imageAnd so the C4 represents a thorough departure from the conservative Xsara, especially as it has struggled since its 1997 release against the big-selling Focus, Megane, VW Golf and Opel Astra.

Citroen will not make this mistake again and it must be heartened by the cautiously styled new generation Golf’s disappointing sales start in Europe.

Front-on, the C4 heralds Citroen’s new corporate face with a pronounced double-chevron badge flanked by headlights of an unusual boomerang design.

This is also expected to feature on the company’s belated replacement for the 1989-1999 XM big car, the 2005 C6.

Deep windows, a curved roofline, fin-like tail-lights and a concave-style two-part tailgate further set the C4 apart stylistically.

One interior innovation will be a single-spoke steering wheel (a knowing nod to the epochal 1955 DS) with a fixed centre boss.

This development is for an optimum airbag shape normally a symmetrical style is essential to accommodate all possible steering wheel angles.

The production C4 is based on the Peugeot 307 platform (the 306 underpins the Xsara) and features similar suspension, although much of the tuning and detailing is unique to the Citroen.

The aforementioned 1.6 and 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines will be new and there will also be improved versions of the essential-for-Europe diesel units.

As usual, power and torque will top today’s 93kW 1.6 and 102kW 2.0 petrol engine outputs, while lower fuel and emissions tolls are also expected.

The word is there will also be a hot-hatch C4 replacement for the 124kW 2.0-litre Xsara VTR Coupe.

The C4 Sport certainly suggests this, although its rear spoiler, flared wheel arches and massive wheels are show-car frippery. Everything else is pretty much production-ready.

Citroen says it displayed the C4 Sport to reinforce the firm’s commitment to rallying.

It is also keen to exploit its bold visual heritage after decades of subdued design.

The last truly quirky Citroen small car was the front-wheel drive air-cooled GS of 1970.

Exceptionally aerodynamic but debilitatingly expensive to build, it never sold to expectations.

Nor did the futuristic, DS-displacing CX of 1975, forcing a bankrupt Citroen into the arms of its archenemy Peugeot compatriot soon after.

From then, the conservative Peugeot influence filtered down through to the 1991 ZX (unseen in Australia) and current Xsara.

Meanwhile, Citroen has reportedly registered all C1-9 alphanumeric permutations.

Here is a run-down of what they will probably be attached to:
  • C1: 2006 joint Citroen/Peugeot/Toyota “B-Zero” low-cost sub-B mini car built in a new plant in the Slovak Republic
  • C2: 2003 C3-based three-door hatchback
  • C3: 2002 five-door supermini in the mould of the Peugeot 206
  • C4: 2004 replacement for the Xsara small car (see above)
  • C5: 2000 replacement for the Xantia mid-sized (D-segment) hatch and wagon a high-performance C5 featuring Activa active hydro pneumatic suspension, an Audi Allroad-style 4WD makeover and an all-new 2.7-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine with 164kW of power and 440Nm of torque
  • C6: 2005 replacement for long-dead XM large/luxury car
  • C7: 2006 rumoured sports car range, possibly echoing elements of 1970s Maserati-powered Citroen SM
  • C8: 2002 large people-mover shared with Fiat, Lancia and Peugeot
  • C9: 2006? Sport utility vehicle in the mould of the Volvo XC90, again shared with Peugeot.

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