Next to its rivals, it’s hard to recommend this dated automated-manual version of the new C4

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.

There’s an excellent engine hidden behind the gearbox, but it seems such a strange decision to mate it to this gearbox.

Next to exceptionally talented rivals from VW, Ford and now Alfa Romeo, it’s hard to recommend this dated automated-manual version of the new C4, especially with all of them having DSG options or equivalent on the way.

Citroën C4 1.6 THP

Price: £20,500 (est); Top speed: 134mph; 0-62mph: 8.7sec; Economy: 44.8mpg; CO2: 148g/km; Kerb weight: 1275kg; Engine, type, cc: 4 cyls, 1598cc, petrol; Power: 154bhp; Torque: 240lb ft; Gearbox: 6-spd automated manual

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Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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comment8 23 September 2010

Re: Citroën C4 1.6 THP

The double clutch transmission used by VAG is not proprietary and was developed by Borg-Warner. There is no reason why other manufacturers including Citroen could not adopt it. One then has to ask why they have not. Could it be the recall of all US cars fitted with the box due to 3000 incidents including accidents that were reported by VAG to the NHTSA. The fix takes place under a service notice in most other markets. Could it be the poor performance of the box in urban conditions, particularly when mated to twin charge engines where careful driving, shunt and surge a la automated manual have been widely reported by owners but ignored by the media? Could it be the expense of the box which easily rivals that of a conventional auto? DCTs have been adopted by those manufactures game enough to take it on because of its benefits in official fuel consumption tests over a conventional auto. It is not however as efficient as an automated manual. Anyone contemplating buying a DCT car, particularly a used one should undertake some research. They are very complex, not particularly reliable and very expensive to replace. Just carry out a Google search with the words vw dsg. The top 6 searches are problems, transmission problems, recall, faults and reliability. One also wonders where the motoring press have been whilst all this has been going on.

david RS 22 September 2010

Re: Citroën C4 1.6 THP

Long live the double clutch!

Or a good manual gearbox...

jelly7961 22 September 2010

Re: Citroën C4 1.6 THP

Beggars belief! If it's even half as bad as you say how on earth did it get into production? I just don't get it - the car appears promising in so many other respects.