“It may not be the most fun car to drive, but the C4's class-leading comfort and practicality are appealing.”
While the Citroen C4 may not be as exciting to drive as the Ford Focus or as upmarket as the Volkswagen Golf, but it is one of the most family-friendly mid-sized cars in its class to buy. That's because Citroen focused on making the latest C4 more stylish, more comfortable and more practical than ever before, not on trying to outpace its rivals. And many motorists will undoubtedly find it hard to pass up the C4's big boot, sensible dimensions and comfy driving experience. The C4 definitely looks more stylish than its predecessors and will doubtless turn heads when it drives by. It comes in three specifications: VTR, VTR+ and Exclusive. The interior is very practical but compromises have been made in the back for rear-passenger space to create that bigger boot. It also doesn’t have as much equipment as the Focus and Golf, but the range of engines is decent and you can get Citroen's e-HDi micro-hybrid system, which improves performance while lowering CO2 emissions at the same time. Equipped with an automatic gearbox as standard, the e-HDi engine returns fuel economy of 74mpg and CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km. The 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine sits at the top of the range, with its superior speed and acceleration.
Having been set up with comfort in mind, the C4 leans fairly heavily as it goes round corners, and thanks to the light steering, the driver doesn’t get much feedback. This means it's not much fun to drive on winding roads, as the steering isn’t precise enough to feel fully in control to drive at speed. However, driving on the motorway is a different story, with barely any wind or road noise audible inside the C4, and the diesel engines proving to smooth and quiet. You can choose from six engines – three petrol and three diesels – including an e-HDi micro-hybrid. You can get a 95bhp 1.4-litre petrol and a 1.6-litre petrol in a standard and turbocharged version, the latter able to go from 0-62mph in 8.7 seconds. The top-spec diesel is the 2.0-litre, which matches the performance of the fastest petrol engine in the range but is a much better choice for its excellent fuel economy. Our main advice would be to opt for the manual gearbox, as the automatic is slow to change gears and makes the drive a bit jerky.
For comfort, the C4 beats all its rivals hands down. Its ride is very comfortable, easily smoothing out most imperfections in the increasingly bumpy UK roads. It's very quiet on the road, with the petrol engines barely audible when idling, and the diesels being nearly as quiet as well. The C4 is even more hushed on the motorway, making it very relaxing for long-distance journeys with barely any wind or road noise. The only real downside is that the rear seats are somewhat cramped, which is a shame given how comfortable the C4 is as a whole. You can even get a massage function for the front seats in top-Spec Exclusive models – even if it is really just a gentle pushing at the bottom of your back rather than an actual massage. There are also a few too many buttons on the steering wheel, which can make basic functions a bit confusing at times.
Citroen has been working hard to change its bad reputation for reliability, and the quality of its cars has noticeably improved in the last few years. This C4 definitely feels better constructed than many past Citroens and should join other recent stablemates the C3 and DS3 with no major faults reported so far. And the C4 is certainly safe – securing the full five-star score from the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, thanks to its six airbags and electronic stability control fitted as standard. There's also Citroen's eTouch function, a ceiling-mounted panic button that automatically calls the emergency services, giving your location via SMS and connecting you to an emergency operator if you have an accident. If you’re unable to press the button, the system is triggered by a large impact. We told you Citroen had been working hard.
The C4 comes up trumps in this area, too. The boot offers 408 litres of luggage capacity with the rear seats up, expanding to a total load space of 1,300 litres when the seats are folded flat. Even with this decent-sized boot, there's still plenty of room inside for four adults to sit comfortably. Longer journeys might be more problematic if two grown ups are sat in the back because of the limited legroom, but at least headroom is generous. If you go for the e-HDI model with an automatic gearbox, it comes with a refrigerated storage compartment in the centre console, just ahead of the gear lever, which can easily fit four 500ml bottles inside. There are also lots of small storage areas dotted around the interior for stowing away any loose odds and ends.
Value for money
The whole C4 range offers a high level of standard equipment. Starting at the base model, the entry-level VTR comes equipped with air-conditioning, electric front windows and door mirrors, daytime running lights, emergency brake assist, cruise control and a CD player with aux socket. Go up one spec to the VTR+ and you’ll also get 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather handbrake and steering wheel, electric rear windows, wing mirror-mounted kerb LED lights, hill start assist, front fog lights, remote central locking, and MP3, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. And if you want the interior to feel a bit airier you can also add a panoramic sunroof as an optional extra. At the top of the range, the Exclusive model is equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome detailing, front seats with electric lumbar adjustment and massage function, front parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, and Citroen's eTouch emergency assistance panic button system. Citroen like to say that the resale values for C4s are second only to Volkswagen Golf in the used car market, but the reality is that Citroens depreciate pretty steeply in our experience, so you should try and haggle to get a good deal when buying new, especially as many rivals still give more for the same price.
Citroen is a French manufacturer, so it's no surprise that the C4 range is full of economical diesel engines. The most frugal 1.6-litre e-HDi now emits a tax-busting 95g/km of CO2 and 74mpg thanks to some clever fuel-saving technology. That makes it pretty cheap to run overall. Efficiency in the other models in the range is also impressive – the most powerful diesel model, the 148bhp 2.0-litre, returns 56.5mpg. Of the cheaper-to-buy petrol models, the 155bhp 1.6-litre THP is the fastest C4 on offer, going from 0-62 in 8.7 seconds, but even the most efficient 1.4-litre petrol engine manages to return a maximum of 46.3mpg – a decent figure but much less than the diesels. Insurance and servicing should also prove reasonable.