You might not expect a car as compact as the C4 to have much of the laid-back, long-striding rolling character of a classic big Citroën, but even when armed with only a mid-range 1.2-litre petrol engine, it manages some.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox feels like it’s geared just a little on the long side, to the benefit of cruising economy and refinement rather than acceleration and responsiveness. Even so, the car makes respectable progress thanks to the 169lb ft of torque that the engine provides. While there are clearly faster hatchbacks your money could buy, this one avoids feeling slow.
It does so, at least, provided you avoid using Eco driving mode, which dulls the engine response quite markedly and also makes it very reluctant to downshift at all, and very keen to shift up. The mode is useful only if you want to explore the outer limits of the car’s potential for economy on a long, quiet cruise.
We selected it during our touring economy testing (indicative of a UK-typical 70mph motorway cruise) and we were impressed with the 56.4mpg that resulted. But the penalties that it imposes on drivability will mean most drivers avoid it in daily running.
In Normal and Sport modes, the gearbox shifts a lot more intuitively. There’s no kickdown switch at the bottom end of the accelerator pedal’s travel – and, just as we discovered recently in the related Vauxhall Mokka, there’s no way to select a gear manually and to be sure that the car will hold that gear under maximum load, which is an annoyance at times.
Thankfully, it doesn’t hunt around too much for a ratio when you apply some power. Shifts come slightly lazily and not always as smoothly as they probably should, but decisively enough. And just as in other applications, the little Puretech turbo engine works away industriously and affably. It’s a little ill-mannered when cold and also when revving hard, but it settles down nicely when cruising.