What is it?
Citroen’s all-new C4 family hatchback equipped with the most powerful petrol engine in the range.
On paper it looks promising: we already know a lot about the excellent turbocharged 154bhp, 177lb ft 1.6-litre PSA/BMW-co-developed engine, seen most recently in the DS3.
But unlike the six-speed manual DS3, the engine is only available with a ‘clutchless’ six-speed automated manual gearbox equipped with steering column mounted paddle shifters.
And past experience of the gearbox in other PSA cars says that’s not necessarily a good thing in a segment brimming with quality and many with DSG options.
What’s it like?
A complete mismatch between engine and gearbox. The engine is excellent; there’s plenty of low-speed urgency with peak torque arriving between 1400-4000rpm. It’s also smooth and quiet, matching the new C4’s soft-riding character.
But any hopes of an enjoyable drive are spoiled by the gearbox. Left to its own devices in automatic mode it lurches the car forward under any kind of spirited acceleration and the rest of the time it flicks between being hesitant and indecisive; don’t expect to get into gaps you spot between the traffic at busy roundabouts.
In manual mode, it’s a bit better but not enough for you to want to control your own shifts all of the time as the control never really feels there. The best way to drive this car is slowly and with great consideration.
The rest of the package is good: the soft ride is smooth on the larger 17-inch alloys even over the most scarred Swedish roads. The comfortable cabin is nicely finished and standard equipment levels are generous; the boot capacity is in excess of 400-litres and is class-leading in size.
Should I buy one?
With this gearbox? We’d urge to proceed with caution. You need a very distinct and patient driving style to master it – or tolerate it – or it will almost certainly prove to be a deal-breaker.
Citroen has made a perfectly acceptable car in the segment that rides nicely, is nicely finished and is otherwise a smooth and relaxing car to drive.