Citroen C4 Coupé 2.0 HDi VTS

6 Nov, 2006 (All day)

For: 
Punchy engine, sporty styling, high-quality cabin, low-set driving position, good body control, big dealer network
Against: 
Firm ride, small boot, tight rear headroom, lacks cabin stowage, poor ergonomics, not as well equipped as rivals

Calling the three-door version of your family hatch ‘Coupé’ might seem like wishful marketing, but in Citroen’s defence, the two versions of its C4 are substantially different. The Coupé’s arching roof­line and large rear window give it a unique profile, while the tailgate is unique to the three-door.

It’s a distinctive and attractive car that proves Citroen has lost none of its design flair, and interior space is certainly better than in a real coupé. Rear passengers benefit from the large glass area and headroom is marginally better than the Astra’s.

Leg space is tighter than in the Civic, though, and the cramped 314-litre boot is 171 litres behind the Honda. On the plus side, the C4 is the only one of this trio to have a full-size spare wheel.

As with the Honda, the driving environment has a modern look, although the cabin feels noticeably cheaper than either of its rivals. The quality of plastics isn’t good – in places they seem brittle, while the fit and finish of the switchgear and trim are a long way from matching the Honda. Overall, though, the C4 is a pleasant place to spend time.

The unusual fixed-hub steering wheel has a range of controls located on the static centre, while the digital rev counter sits above it. A dashtop central screen displays speed, while the small audio screen and heater switches are lower down. Ergonomically it’s not perfect, as the controls are rather scattered and there’s a lack of cabin stowage, but more importantly the central armrest obstructs your elbow when changing gear. The slack gearshift is also rather flimsy.

While the seats are supportive, finding a good driving position isn’t easy. However, regardless of a few interior niggles, it’s generally a comfortable, refined car. The HDi engine matches the Honda’s static noise figures, but despite an identical 138bhp, it’s 20Nm down on torque, which means its 0-60mph time of 10.4 seconds is more than a second slower than the Civic’s. It’s also less responsive in-gear and doesn’t have the same smoothness of power delivery, with engine noise more apparent under load.

Nevertheless, thanks to its fine ride quality, the C4 is a competent motorway cruiser, soaking up imperfections noticeably better than the Astra; it’s also softer than the Honda. But while the Citroen’s high-speed stability is impressive, it can’t match the Civic for handling involvement. The steering is sharp, but the assistance is artificial and feedback suffers as a result. And over rough surfaces, there’s some nasty kickback through the column.

Body control is good and grip levels are high, but while it’s undoubtedly safe, the handling is a little uninspiring. As with the Civic, stability control is standard, but the C4’s system is more intrusive, and on our wet test roads the Citroen relied on the electronics to put its power on the road more often than its rivals. We also found the C4 has the softest brake pedal, and although our braking figures were recorded in the wet, it was the French car that had the longest stopping distance from 60mph.

While the Citroen lacks the Honda’s sat-nav, it does come with rear parking sensors, power fold mirrors, xenon lights, CD changer and cruise control as standard. Its £18,090 price means it’s the cheapest here, and with £2,700 cashback currently on offer, it represents decent value for money if you get the right deal. However, is it a good enough proposition to win this test?

Details

Price: £18,090
Model tested: Citroen C4 Coupé 2.0 HDi VTS
Chart position: 3
WHY: Available with a range of petrol and diesel units, we try the most power­ful C4 oil-burner. In top-spec VTS trim, the C4’s £18,090 price tag beats the Honda, and Citroen is also offering a huge £2,700 cashback deal at present.

Economy

With a claimed combined figure of 52.3mpg, the Citroen is 2mpg less frugal than the Honda’s 54.8mpg official figure. But we only recorded a 35.4mpg average during our time with the C4. That did mean it was more economical than the Vauxhall on our test route, though.

Residuals

The C4 is predicted to retain only 38 per cent of its value over three years, so would be worth £688 less than the Astra with 36,000 miles on the clock. However, if you bear in mind that you won’t be paying the full list price in the first place, the picture is more rosy.

Tax

The C4 emits slightly more CO2, but as with the Honda it sits in the lowest tax bracket. Its cheaper list price means higher band earners would save £60 a year over the Civic and a healthy £384 over the Astra if they opted for the French hatch as their company car.

Key specs

With 138bhp and 320Nm, the C4 has a torque deficit to the Honda and a power shortfall to the Vauxhall. But a slippery aerodynamic profile helps economy and keeps road noise down.

AEX 1334
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