The C4 can be a curious and quite strange car to drive, or a more competent and inoffensive one, depending on where it’s operating.

In an attempt to make it easy to operate around town and to engineer in some extra-relaxing urban comfort, Citroën has tuned the power steering (quite gently geared anyway, at 2.8 turns between locks, and commanding a 10.9m turning circle, which is pretty large for a smallish car) to feel really light around town and at low speed. It requires very little physical effort when manoeuvring, but also gives you very little to push against when you’re sweeping around a traffic island or changing lanes on the gyratory, making the car feel unusually flighty.

I’d like to think there are route nationale roads in France that the C4’s suspension works on really well, but it might be wishful thinking. On craggier and less gently undulating UK B-roads, you have to adopt a gentle pace to get a flavour of it

It’s all the harder to become used to because above 30mph much of the weight that the steering has been missing duly materialises. At an unhurried 45-55mph cross-country potter, the car is much easier to place. It can roll and loll a little on a B-road even at this speed, but it generally goes where you expect it to and keeps control of its body. Go faster and the car’s gathering long-wave body movement gets unsettling; and it clearly doesn’t have the dynamic versatility of the class’s really well-rounded dynamic operators.

Choose your speed carefully and, out of town at least, the C4 can be agreeable enough, then. It doesn’t respond receptively to being hurried, and those relatively skinny tyres don’t produce much outright lateral grip when you do, although the car’s electronic stability control acts pretty subtly, and effectively, to counteract understeer when it inevitably presents, so the C4 remains stable in most circumstances. But it’s not a car to easily take to, to gel with, or to enjoy driving in anything more than a fairly disinterested way.

Comfort and isolation

Much of the success of this car’s positioning rests on its refinement; and it is a quiet-operating car in objectively measurable terms, when the surface is smooth. Tested in comparable conditions, our test car proved 1dB quieter than an equivalent Volkswagen Golf 1.5 e-TSI at both 30mph and 50mph, and 2dB quieter at idle and 70mph. Those skinny wheels and tyres and the hydraulic mountings in the suspension will have made sizeable contributions to that, as will the aerodynamic body design.

The car doesn’t feel particularly calm or especially comfortable in subjective terms, though. There’s an agreeable lope and float about the ride over longer-wave undulations taken at just the right speed (namely, that 45-55mph cross-country gait).

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But there’s not quite enough rubber-footed isolation about the secondary ride to complement that sense of glide to really set this car’s ride up for glowing praise.

The axles clump and reverberate a little over sharp ridges and drain covers in a way you just don’t expect them to with that suspension specification, while at greater speeds body control can deteriorate to a point where you certainly wouldn’t call what results comfortable.

Assisted driving notes

Citroën’s trim name for the basic C4 – Sense – hasn’t been chosen by chance. Active safety is intended to be one of this car’s key differentiators, and even entry-level cars get a radar-based autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system, a speed limit recognition system and a driver monitoring system. If you want a fully up-to-date camera-based AEB system that will work at night and detect cyclists and pedestrians, though, you will need a Shine-spec car; while Citroën’s Highway Driver Assist system (which combines adaptive cruise with a lane-keeping aid) is the preserve of range-topping Shine Plus.

Highway Driver Assist is a bit flaky, dropping in and out with inconsistent lane markings; and since it requires only a dead hand on the wheel to work and doesn’t always keep you engaged on the motorway, that can be problematic. The speed limit recognition system shows the current limit in the head-up display but won’t adjust the car’s speed automatically.

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