Citroën isn’t short of iconic cars on which it might base a modern ‘retro’ car design, but resisting the impulse as it has for so long is a real compliment to the leadership of its design team. And it continues to resist.
This car isn’t some doe-eyed pastiche of a 1970s classic, but rather something genuinely interesting and unusual in a fairly homogenised hatchback class. It’s alternative but cohesive; rich in visual intrigue, but not fussy or overwrought.
A raised ride height, high bonnet and beltlines and plenty of chunky plastic cladding around the wheel arches and sills give the C4 much of the presence of a compact SUV. It has the large, bold features to match: the big Y-shaped headlights, for example, and the scallops in the bonnet. If the frontal styling looks odd to begin with, that could be because Citroën has been opting, for a while, to construct the ‘faces’ of its cars from their slim grille and LED daytime- running light strips rather than from their headlights (which so typically stand in for the eyes of any car).
The C4’s headlights sit low and look a little awkward at first, but as you get used to them, you ascribe them less prominence. At the rear, meanwhile, the long aerodynamic-looking roof and the angular spoiler are redolent of the Robert Opron-designed GS, but not in a forced or contrived way.
The C4 uses a mix of the relatively simple and the new in its chassis and suspension. It is based on Stellantis’s Common Module Platform. It’s typically used for slightly smaller, B-segment cars – but then the C4 Cactus before it did the same thing, no doubt achieving a little cost-saving and better economies of scale for its maker. In this case, adoption of that platform has also allowed for there to be an all-electric version. (Had Citroën chosen the more expensive Efficient Modular Platform of the C4 Picasso and C5 Aircross instead, it would have been limited to a plug-in hybrid.)
The decision has little impact on mechanical layout or suspension configuration: combustion-engined C4s use front-, transverse-mounted three- and four-cylinder powerplants that drive the front wheels, and they have strut-type suspension at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, just as they otherwise probably would.
But the detail of the car’s rolling chassis specification is where it diverts from the hatchback norm. The car runs long enough springs to provide more than 150mm of ground clearance (a lot for a standard hatchback) and to make room for 18in wheels that are standard across the range and wrapped with unconventionally sized 195-section, 60-profile tyres, which have been chosen with efficiency and ride comfort in mind.