5
Comfort-focused family hatchback is tested in its fanciest trim and with its most expensive powertrain

What is it?

A year ago, we road-tested the new Citroën C4 – the French brand’s family hatchback, now with a strong but not overwhelming hint of crossover to it – and awarded it a bang-average three stars.

That car was in fancy Puretech 130 Shine Plus auto specification, meaning it had a 129bhp turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, an eight-speed torque-converter gearbox and the fanciest of the four trim levels (Sense, Sense Plus, Shine and Shine Plus).

This one that we have here now is a Puretech 155 Shine Plus auto, meaning it’s essentially the same car but with a more powerful (153bhp) version of the same engine. 

What's it like?

What are the differences between 130 and 155? Well, apart from the obvious, you will get from 0-62mph a tad quicker (8.5sec, compared with 9.4sec), do 1.5 miles fewer to the gallon (according to the official WLTP tests) and pay your Citroën dealer £1000 more up front.

Its residual value after three years is predicted to be about £500 better too. If you’re getting it on a PCP finance deal, it will cost you an extra £19.40 per month over 48 months. 

Is it worth that? Perhaps, if performance really is your utmost priority. But if you’re seriously considering a modern Citroën, it probably won’t be, given the French firm’s unashamed focus on comfort and refinement over dynamics. Personally, I’d rather treat myself to a few pints at a concert each month.

Our road testers concluded last May: “There’s a certain relaxing, efficient, long-striding classic Citroën vibe about the car’s character, but here, the real pity is that the C4 doesn’t better deliver on its potential. Although refined in quite particular ways and circumstances, the car’s comfort and isolation levels disappoint at other times; and so many of the tactics that Citroën uses in an attempt to make it more easy to drive just make it less dynamically versatile and intuitive in a broader sense.”

I’m quoting that because I couldn’t have said it better myself. If you’re going to major on comfort, you have to make damned sure that the car is unquestionably relaxing to drive, absolutely more so than fellow class-members that don’t intentionally major on it. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, Citroëns never seem able to get there.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be quite so blatant were it not for the ghosts of last-century Citroëns. Whereas those cars employed innovative hydropneumatic suspension, to give them the genuine sensation of gliding over road imperfections, the realities of modern volume car-making restrict the likes of the new C4 to mere rubberised bumpstops.

Look, it’s a bit better than the old C4 Cactus, but frankly I would rather put up with the sometimes overly firm ride of something like a Ford Focus than try to ward off queasiness from constant pronounced pitching and rolling. And the C4 still has steering that’s about as confidence-inspiring as England footballers in a penalty shoot-out. Perhaps you feel differently, and that’s fine; just don’t expect to be floating around on a cloud.

The gearbox is equally lackadaisical. Faster to the NSL than the 130 the 155 may be, but it would be quicker still if the gearbox didn’t dither for so long.

At least the engine itself is nice, with enough performance to make all everyday driving scenarios easy. It has good flexibility and real-world economy broadly in line with its lab-derived claimed figures. It even sounds okay. The PSA Group-developed Puretech unit didn’t win a mantlepiece’s worth of Engine of the Year trophies in the past few years for nothing.

Back to top
 

Should I buy one?

So there are some things to commend the C4. It’s also keenly priced, at a time when the middle-class families at whom these kinds of cars are aimed are all suffering fiscally Almost exactly on par with the recently updated Focus in equivalent form, actually.

It’s practical, too, with a good amount of space in the rear (plus rear windows that actually open, unlike on the old C4 Cactus) and a hatchback boot that’s big enough for baby-buggies and/or your weekly groceries. Good-looking? To our eyes, yes, as it taps into the SUV trend that the public loves without becoming uglified.

But inherently relaxing to drive, it ain’t.

Join the debate

Comments
11
Add a comment…
wonderwombat 11 May 2022

You're joking right? I mean you say "the car’s comfort and isolation levels disappoint at other times" without elaborating in any way, and yet the one vague criticism underpins the mood of the rest of the review. And really that criticism is a lie in the first place. The C4 has truly excellent comfort and isolation levels, as confirmed by my own test drive, and by almost every other reviewer out there. Yes, the 130 engine is a better match for the suspension than the 155, but to say "inherently relaxing to drive, it ain’t" is untrue and totally misleading. I guess Autocar is still clinging to the notion that we buy cars for country-lane blasts.

 

Rick Maverick 11 May 2022
wonderwombat wrote:

You're joking right? I mean you say "the car’s comfort and isolation levels disappoint at other times" without elaborating in any way, and yet the one vague criticism underpins the mood of the rest of the review. And really that criticism is a lie in the first place. The C4 has truly excellent comfort and isolation levels, as confirmed by my own test drive, and by almost every other reviewer out there. Yes, the 130 engine is a better match for the suspension than the 155, but to say "inherently relaxing to drive, it ain’t" is untrue and totally misleading. I guess Autocar is still clinging to the notion that we buy cars for country-lane blasts.

 

Wholeheartedly agree! 

 

 

xxxx 9 May 2022

Ok, so comfort levels disappoint, awful steering, looks like it was battered to death with the ugly stick and given a black hole of Calcutta interior look so as to hide it's dulless which is at the opposite end of the exterior style which look like something from the 80's. Still the engine is fine. 2 and half stars says it all.

Rick Maverick 11 May 2022
xxxx wrote:

Ok, so comfort levels disappoint, awful steering, looks like it was battered to death with the ugly stick and given a black hole of Calcutta interior look so as to hide it's dulless which is at the opposite end of the exterior style which look like something from the 80's. Still the engine is fine. 2 and half stars says it all.

 

"2 and half stars says it all"

 
Yep, it reflects the sour opinion of an individual.  
scrap 9 May 2022

Autocar is right to point out that comfort is more than a cushy ride.

Great steering, for example, is relaxing, because it's intuitive and your brain doesn't have to constantly second guess how your inputs will affect the car's trajectory. Taking this level of stress out of the equation makes a big difference on longer journeys.

Ive owned 2 cars with great steering, including my current one. It makes everything more pleasurable and relaxing, and more than makes up for a slightly crashy ride. 

Andrew1 9 May 2022
I've owned Citroens and have driven many rental vehicles deemed as not having good steering. It's nonsense. They are simply setup differently. It takes a while to adapt, but once you learn it, it always does the same thing in response to the same input.

Moreover, if that wouldn't be the case the car would not be allowed on the roads.

The best example is when I switched from a C5 with a 2l engine to the same C5 but with the 3l engine. Initially it felt as if steering had a mind of its own. It turned out it was hydrolic (so, in theory, more precise), vs the electronic in the 2l version. After a week or so I didn't notice anything unusual anymore.

So it's quite the opposite - it's the reviewer that is too lazy to adapt to different steering setups.