Judging by its looks, the answer to that question remains unclear. After all, the aforementioned models were all high-end cars and the C4 is just a mid-size car with an average price tag. In a way, Citroën's true new flagship model is the "9" of its upmarket sister brand DS.
With a more traditionally lined model at DS, Citroën can afford more freedom. The C4 therefore has a high shoulder line and large wheels, giving the new model something akin to an SUV. At the same time, the basic shape of the bodywork has been copied from its illustrious predecessors. The C4 is neither a hatchback nor a sedan, but something in between. In details, even the classic models can be recognised, such as the kink at the XM's rear door.
Because of its slightly higher build, the C4 also has a slightly higher entry than usual. Next, occupants "land" in seats made of two materials: a soft base fabric that provides comfort, with a firm material underneath for shape. Even those with no understanding of cars or ergonomics will immediately notice that Citroën has put a lot of work into seating comfort. However, do not expect an adjustable seat length or variable width; that is too expensive for a car in this segment.
Rear space is adequate, but no more than that. In particular, the sloping roofline makes for moderate headroom in the rear. In this respect, the low headrests cause more hindrance than convenience.
The boot is above average, but certainly not the largest in this segment. Very pleasing are the many storage compartments in the cabin, including a handy drawer above the glove compartment where, for example, a tablet computer can be stored. By then putting it in a cover developed by Citroën, it can be safely used by the co-driver while driving. A film makes the screen invisible to the driver, while the holder keeps the airbag free.
Judging by the specifications, the C4 offers all the luxury and safety features that can be expected from a modern car in this segment. The difference is in its presentation. Behind the steering wheel is an unusually small display. By opting for simple, but extremely elegant, "graphics", this display is nevertheless easy to read. The driver can choose from a variety of layouts, with which the display really adds value over traditional clocks.
Most functions are controlled via a central display screen that adopts the same charmingly simple style. During the test drive, all features functioned properly, including voice controls (fixed commands in a fixed order) and support for Apple CarPlay / Android Auto. The standard audio system has a civilised, neat sound and therefore never disappoints.
Comfort 1.0: PureTech 130
In the distant past, Citroën sought comfort in advanced technology, but that came with a hefty price tag. That is why Citroën now opts to refine existing technology. Without using electronics, the suspension reacts differently to large than to small bumps in the road surface. In this way, a unique balance between calmness at long distances and stability at high speeds has been found. Tyre choice also plays an important role here: the C4 has tyres with relatively large cheeks, which also provides extra suspension comfort. If desired, the C4 can be thrown through bends at high speed, but this is not at all rewarding.
The "PureTech 130" petrol engine in the test car barely makes itself heard. The performance of this 130 hp / 230 Nm power unit is more than adequate. Comfort is only disturbed by the automatic transmission, which sometimes noticeably changes gears. With this combination of quirky suspension and a modern petrol engine, Citroën offers above-average comfort within a limited budget. However, it is not exceptional or revolutionary, like the Citroëns of the past.
Comfort 2.0: ë-C4 electric car
To make a real difference, new technology is needed! And that is why Citroën is introducing the "e-C4". In addition to the petrol- and diesel-engined variants, there is also an electrically powered C4, and with it Citroën is taking big steps forward. Although the petrol engine does its job quietly, there is a difference between little vibration and no vibration. Similarly, there is a difference between sometimes noticeably changing gears and making shifting completely unnecessary.
The e-C4 has a 50 kWh battery and a 136 PS / 260 Nm electric motor. This same powertrain is also used in significantly smaller models from Peugeot and Opel. It is therefore logical to expect the much larger C4 to perform moderately. However, because comfort comes first, this does not apply. While many electric cars impress with lightning-fast acceleration and brutal deceleration (to recover energy when releasing the accelerator), Citroën opts for tranquillity. The e-C4 is merely decisive, opting for agility even more than other electric cars.
Only when the sport mode is chosen and when driving in B mode (as opposed to "D"), the e-C4 responds eagerly to the accelerator pedal and recovers considerable energy when releasing the throttle. However, the latter is insufficient for one-pedal drive.
According to official measurements to the WLTP standard, the e-C4 can travel 350 km on a full battery. During the test drive in adverse weather conditions and with intensive use of the heating and accessories, it was 320 km. Charging can be done at home at the socket, at a public charge point (11 kW over 3 phases) or at a fast charger (100 kW). During fast charging, the C4 displays the charging speed in kilometres per hour. This is less scientifically sound because it depends on driving style, but is more telling than abstract kilowatts or amps. At a 350 kW fast charger, the test car (with a beta version of the software) initially managed to charge at 370 km/h, but this soon dropped to 300 km/h.
Because of its higher weight (+ 300 kg) and lower centre of gravity (the batteries are built into the floor), the e-C4 has very different handling to the C4 with combustion engine. Here, too, the electric version has an advantage. The "Progressive Hydraulic Cushions", as the shock absorbers are called in Citroën jargon, come into their own better due to the higher weight. The C4 does not hover above the road surface as the Citroëns of yesteryear did, but it does respond with a certain delay that makes the compact e-C4 feel much larger and more stately than it actually is.
Is the new Citroën C4 as revolutionary as famous models of the past? Yes, but in its own way. The higher-end models find their successor at Citroën's upmarket sister brand DS. This gives Citroën the freedom to choose a unique style (something in between sedan, hatchback and SUV) and outfit.
The C4 with petrol or diesel engine offers the promised comfort thanks to the seats, equipment, sound insulation and the character of the chassis. The engines are modern, but no more than that. Within the limits of budget and mechanical engineering, Citroën thus offers maximum comfort.
By opting for electric drive, the C4 can offer comfort version 2.0. The electric drive provides more serenity, comfort and agility than an internal combustion engine can ever offer. In doing so, the extra weight of the batteries is not a disadvantage, but rather provides more tranquillity and grandeur. The range of 350 km (320 km in the test) is more than enough for daily driving, without having to recharge at every stop and with the necessary reserve for peace of mind. However: this is true of almost every electric car. The difference is in character. Many electric cars showcase their technology and deploy that as their main selling point. With the e-C4, electric drive is instead a means of taking comfort to the next level.
- Idiosyncratic design
- Modern, rich equipment
- Particularly comfortable
- Poor headroom in the rear
- View in interior mirror obstructed by bar over rear window