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First drive: Citroen guns for Euro rivals with C4

C4 explosive: Top-spec Exclusive variants of Citroen’s new small car come packed with technology.

Keen pricing, generous spec and high tech to make Citroen’s new C4 hatch a player

12 Oct 2011

THE second generation of Citroen’s small-segment C4 has arrived in Australia priced from a keen $22,990 plus on-roads – a drop of $4000 compared with its predecessor – and available in three specification levels with two petrol engines, one diesel engine and manual or automatic transmissions.

Entry to the new C4 range is exactly $1000 more expensive than base variants of the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, and lineball with French rivals in the shape of sister brand Peugeot’s 308 and the Renault Megane.

The new C4 is Citroen Australia’s opening salvo in what is shaping up to be a busy year for the niche French brand. It has confirmed all members of its local line-up will undergo a refresh for the 2012 model year.

The C4 range opens with a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre petrol engine – in either the base Attraction variant available solely with a four-speed automatic transmission or the higher-spec Seduction with a five-speed manual.

An extra $2000 adds the four-speed automatic to a Seduction specification petrol, with 1.6-litre diesel power available from $26,990 with a six-speed manual or $27,990 in fuel-sipping e-HDi guise featuring a six-speed robotised manual ‘EGS’ transmission.

From $31,990, flagship Exclusive variants get an EGS-only 1.6-litre turbo-petrol unit, or a diesel manual for the same money. An extra $1000 adds the EGS transmission and e-HDi badge.

33 center imageCitroen has taken a step back from the award-winning original’s flamboyant styling – especially that of the three-door – to now reserve design flourishes for its premium DS models.

However, the comparatively conservative new five-door still has an assertive, almost aggressive look while the previously wacky interior has been tamed down in favour of a step upmarket – with plenty of technology on offer in top-spec Exclusive trim.

Importer Ateco Automotive’s general manager for Citroen in Australia, Miles Williams, said the new C4 “adds a new maturity to the original car, a new standard of technology and comfort, a new level of value for money and, as such, is more than well placed to repeat the success of its predecessor”.

Ateco is keen to restore C4 sales to levels reminiscent of its predecessor, which in its heyday from April 2005 launch until mid-2008 regularly achieved triple-figure monthly volumes – peaking at 162 units in August 2007.

The new model is expected to reverse the sales tail-off that hit the C4 amid the global financial crisis, after which it was rare for more than 60 examples to find homes each month.

Ateco believes there is a “growing desire for image, style and ability, rather than just basic transport”, citing the example of a growing preference here for the Mazda3 over Toyota’s Corolla.

As befits a new European car, all C4s benefit from a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, in which the C4 attained 90 per cent for adult protection, 85 per cent for child protection and a class-leading 97 per cent for its safety assistance features including speed limiter, electronic stability control (ESC) and seatbelt reminders for the driver and all passengers.

In addition to ESC, the C4’s standard safety kit includes six airbags, anti-lock brakes, emergency brake assist (with automatic hazard light activation under hard braking) and traction control.

Blind-spot monitoring is available on Exclusive variants and Citroen claims this is a first for this technology in the small-car segment.

The petrol manual Seduction variant – which shares its entry-level pricing with the lower-specified but automatic Attraction – compares favourably with well-specified Euro rivals like the Ford Focus Ambiente hatch (which lacks alloy wheels) and Renault Megane Dynamique (which also gets automatic wipers and headlights) while being clearly ahead of the low-spec Volkswagen Golf 77TSI.

However, the steel-wheeled, auto-only C4 Attraction’s specification is quite sparse and, like the aforementioned Golf variant, lacks equipment like Bluetooth and steering wheel controls. The C4 does trump the Golf in having standard cruise control but the German car has rear electric windows and a trip computer.

All C4s get air-conditioning, a six-speaker sound system with auxiliary input, and the aforementioned cruise control (with speed limiter), while Seduction spec adds 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, USB, automatic handbrake, foglights (with cornering function), trip computer, exterior temperature display, rear privacy glass, leather multi-function steering wheel and ‘favourite’ speed memories for the cruise control.

Top-flight Exclusive variants are a technology showcase, featuring blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, massaging front seats (with electric lumbar adjustment), colour-customisable instruments, selectable polyphonic alert chimes and dual-zone climate-control with three intensity settings plus engine-off operation for up to eight minutes.

The spec sheet goes on to include 17-inch alloy wheels, ‘follow me home’ headlights, folding door mirrors with LED lights, interior LED reading lights, automatic wipers, self-dimming rear-view mirror, part-leather upholstery, illuminated footwells, 12-volt rechargeable torch in the boot and a centre rear armrest with ski hatch.

Storage is a C4 strong point, starting with a generous 380-litre seats-up boot capacity – close to the class-leading 385 litres offered by the Focus and Kia Cerato hatches – and 1183 litres with the rear seats folded.

All variants have drawers under the front seats, a ventilated glovebox, front and rear door bins, a compartment in the central fascia and map pockets on the rear of the front seats, while EGS-equipped Exclusive variants have a refrigerated compartment in the centre console capable of storing four 500ml drink bottles plus an adjustable front armrest with storage.

EGS automatic diesel versions of the mid-spec Seduction and flagship Exclusive variants incorporate ‘micro-hybrid’ fuel-saving technology, which like Volkswagen’s BlueMotion Technologies combines idle-stop, regenerative braking and low-rolling-resistance tyres to reduce improve urban-cycle fuel efficiency by up to 15 per cent.

Citroen has also helped fuel economy – and agility – by putting the C4 on a diet, meaning that although it has grown in size (50mm longer at 4330mm, 20mm wider at 1790mm and 30mm higher at 1490mm) and packs more features, is has gained little extra weight.

For example, switching to laser welding on the roof and doors saves 2kg and the new steering wheel is 3kg lighter than the previous model’s distinctive fixed-hub unit, meaning a new EGS-equipped diesel C4 weighs 1290kg against the equivalent previous model’s 1293kg.

The result is combined-cycle fuel economy of 4.2 litres per 100 kilometres and CO2 emissions of 109 grams per kilometre (compared with 4.6L/100km for the six-speed manual). Extra-urban fuel consumption is claimed to be as low as 3.8L/100km.

Like other models from PSA Peugeot Citroen, EGS-equipped diesel C4s are branded e-HDi to advertise the fuel-saving abilities of the transmission. The reduction in fuel use on the urban cycle is most noticeable, dropping from 5.8L/100km to 4.7L/100km, while the combined figure drops from 4.6L/100km to 4.2L/100km.

Recognising that a significant proportion of a vehicle’s lifetime carbon footprint comes from its manufacture and eventual destruction, Citroen claims the C4 is 85 per cent recyclable and uses recycled plastics, natural materials and other non-fossil-based products for 15 per cent of its polymer components – a record for PSA Peugeot Citroen.

The entry-level 1.6-litre petrol engine requires 95 RON premium unleaded and produces 88kW of power and 160Nm of torque, resulting in 0-100km/h in 12.2 seconds for the manual and 13.9 seconds for the automatic. Combined fuel consumption ranges from 6.2L/100km (manual) to 6.9L/100km, with CO2 outputs of 143g/km and 159g/km respectively.

The Exclusive-only 1.6-litre turbo-petrol is the performance leader, completing the 0-100km/h sprint in 9.6 seconds. It also requires premium petrol and produces 115kW/240Nm, returning combined consumption of 6.3L/100km and CO2 output of 145g/km.

Diesel models put out 82kW/270Nm (increasing to short bursts of 285Nm during overboost). Combined fuel consumption and CO2 emissions vary depending on the wheel size and transmission, ranging from 4.2L/100km and 109g/km (16-inch/EGS) to 4.7L/100km and 122g/km (17-inch/manual).

Citroen will fatten its C4 line-up in Australia – which also includes the Grand Picasso people-mover – late next year when it introduces the Mitsubishi ASX-based C4 Aircross soft-roader to boost the brand’s presence in our growing compact SUV market.

Citroen C4 pricing (before on-road costs):
Attraction 1.6 petrol (a) $22,990
Seduction 1.6 petrol&nbsp $22,990
Seduction 1.6 petrol (a) $24,990
Seduction 1.6 HDi&nbsp $26,990
Seduction 1.6 e-HDi (a) $27,990
Exclusive 1.6 turbo petrol (a) $31,990
Exclusive 1.6 HDi $31,990
Exclusive 1.6 e-HDi (a) $32,990

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