We try the Citroën C4 with its new three-cylinder 1.2 turbo petrol engine. Does it make the C4 a more competitive family hatch and a better buy?

What is it?

It’s Citroën’s answer to the Ford Focus in the hotly contested family car class, now featuring Citroën's small turbocharged three-cylinder Puretech petrol engine following last year’s facelift.

The 1.2-litre engine develops 128bhp and 170lb/ft torque and is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox. While the 0-62mph time isn’t exactly blistering at 10.8sec, it's at least competitive, and this engine is also economical and emits low CO2 emissions.

We’re testing the Flair trim, which comes with a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment screen, auto lights and wipers, automatic dual-zone air conditioning, front and rear electric windows and rear parking sensors.

What's it like?

Ironically, considering the name of this trim level, the C4 lacks flair. It fails to evoke the passion and intrigue of older Citroëns, which at least entertained us with dollops of eccentricity. 

Power from the 1.2-litre engine comes from low down in its rev range making the C4 keen to get off the mark, although it runs out of steam quite quickly afterwards. Power delivery is smooth and linear, however, and the engine has a rorty note, which is surprising and pleasing.

The C4 fails to iron out road bumps as well as other Citroën models, and becomes quickly unsettled over larger bumps and broken road surfaces. The handling, too, is below par with more body lean than rivals. Push it hard and the grip gives way to plenty of understeer reasonably quickly, and there's little feedback offered through the inconsistently-weighted steering. Not Focus-rivalling stuff, then. 

Gear changes are often clumsy too, as the gearbox is notchy; it can take several attempts to engage the gear you’re after. Furthermore, the brake pedal feels vague and the clutch biting point can take some getting used to, so driving smoothly requires some concentration. Wind and road noise are only noticeable around the driver’s window at speed, but creaks and rattles can be heard from the dashboard, particularly on bumpy roads. 

Up front, the cabin is dominated by a large steering wheel and dark, hard plastics. True, the front and top of the dashboard have some soft-touch materials, but there isn't an air of real quality. Flair trim's 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system is well sited at the top of the dash, enabling you to look away from the road for the least possible time when using it. It's neither high-resolution enough, nor responsive enough to worry the best units, though. 

Drivers will appreciate the generous amount seat adjustability and lumbar support offered on Flair trim. The seats are quite comfortable and supportive and there is plenty of head room. The inclusion of a central armrest is useful, too, but it may be set too far back for some.

In the rear, space is at more of a premium. There is very little leg and knee room and taller passengers will struggle for head room. A slim but tall transmission tunnel also means middle seat passengers have nowhere comfortable to put their feet.

At the very back, the C4's boot is a competitive size with a flat floor and a low lip height, aiding loading and unloading. There are useful straps and hooks for your cargo and a full-size steel spare wheel stored under the boot floor.

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Should I buy one?

This new 1.2-litre engine adds some appeal to the C4; private buyers will appreciate the official fuel economy figure of 58.9mpg on the combined cycle, while CO2 emissions are just 107g/km meaning BIK tax is only 16%. However, overall, the C4 remains well short of the class best. 

There remain many better choices in the family car class, namely the Skoda Octavia for its huge space and superb practicality, or the Ford Focus for its considerably more impressive ride and handling mix. While this is probably the best C4, it isn't the best family car. 

Matthew Griffiths

Citroën C4 1.2 PureTech 130 Flair 

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £18,510; Engine 1199cc, petrol; Power 128bhp; Torque 170lb ft; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1205kg; 0-62mph 10.8sec; Top speed 124mph; Economy 58.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 107g/km, 16%

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Tancred1967 14 March 2016


The C4 has been ignored by Citroen and it's a great shame. I had one in 2010 when the new style first came out and thought it was a great car - refined, economical and comfortable. Of course it's outdated now and there is none of the high-tech option stuff that the Peugeot 308 has. I reckon it will soon be discontinued.
Winston Churchill 11 March 2016


Bullfinch 11 March 2016

Puretech, Blumotion, Skyactiv [sic]

Do buyers really fall for this meaningless babble?