Citroën revealed a lot more than a highly stylish, lightweight and very promising new hatchback with its C4 Cactus this week – it also launched a new brand character for its mainstream Citroën C-line models, from C1 to C5.
Citroën boss Frederic Banzet admits that its classier, more stylish and largely successful DS range, which has so far found 410,000 buyers, has ‘cast a shadow’ over the rest of the Citroën range.
But the DS models account for only 18 per cent of Citroën sales, the C-line cars making up the balance. Enhancing the appeal of the cars that make up the bedrock of the range is vital, then.
There are four elements to the new character. The first is design, and the signature will be "simplicity, pure lines and a non-aggressive character", says styling chief Alexander Malval.
Malval admits that even he had doubts over whether this approach would work for higher end C-line models such as the C5 replacement, but having experimented with the theme he’s now confident that it will work. The key lies in the curvature and visual tension in the car’s bodywork, he says.
Comfort is the second key element, in both the physical and intellectual sense. C-line Citroëns will have a comfortable, pliant ride, and their support systems will be easy to use, the aim being to create a low stress, relaxed and friendly atmosphere on board.
So although technology is another one of the key elements, it will be included only if "it’s useful and adds something", says Banzet.
The scope to control the car’s running costs is the final element. To achieve this budgetary control, Citroën will enable its cars to be paid for with a regular monthly all-inclusive outlay, or the means to pay for their use by the mile.
The company is aiming to ensure that its cars will be 10-15 per cent cheaper to run than their competitors, too. All of which should produce mainstream Citroëns of much clearer, more appealing character than today’s C4 hatchback, which has to be the blandest model in today’s line-up.
In fact, the recalibrating of the C-line brand began with the recent arrival of the new C4 Picasso, although the Cactus is the most radical embodiment of the values that will characterise these cars, as Citroën’s brand strategy chief Julien Montarnal explains: "Design and creativity are an absolute hallmark. C-line is pure, optimistic. It has technology, but it’s useful, intuitive and facilitates daily life. It’s about technological intelligence."
Montarnal also talks about well-being, which "stems from space, light, practicality and ease of use".
And the C-line is also about "reasonable budgets – not the cheapest, but the best value for money." The C4 Picasso "meets these criteria" and "is a precursor to this repositioning", he says.
"For the Cactus, we asked what really counts for customers? The world is changing – economic and ecological pressures are the backdrop. The methods by which we make phone calls, or make coffee, have changed, for example. But there aren’t any car-makers who have adapted to this new world. We had to do it because we’re Citroën."