Citroen C4 review
The Citroen C4 is a good choice for long-distance drivers who list comfort and economy as priorities
The latest Citroen C4 first hit showrooms in 2011, and is designed as a rival to mainstream family hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra. An update in early 2015 saw cleaner engines added, mildly revised styling and more standard kit – adding extra colours, new alloy wheels and revised head and tail lights.
Overall, the car's basic layout remained unchanged, so rear seat space is sacrificed to make way for a big 408-litre boot, but up front you'll find plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel for most drivers to get comfortable. Standard equipment isn't great, but all cars now feature air conditioning, electric front windows and cruise control.
There's a wide range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from. The basic PureTech 110 petrol emits just 110g/km of CO2 – returning 60mpg thanks to its standard six-speed gearbox. The most economical diesel – the 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 S&S – is claimed to do 86mpg and emits a tax-busting 86g/km of CO2. You can buy the C4 in Touch, Feel and Flair trims, though not all trims are available with every engine.
If you're interested in a new C4, the good news is that your local dealer should be able to offer you some sizeable discounts on this economical family hatchback. However, your eye may well be drawn by the cheaper C4 Cactus, which in our eyes is by far the more rounded car.
Our pick: C4 BlueHDi 120 Flair
The Citroen C4 went on sale in 2011, but was lightly revised in 2015 thanks to a mid-life nip and tuck. Nevertheless, alongside rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Honda Civic, it looks a little outdated.
The 2015 update brought the button-free touchscreen infotainment system from the new Peugeot 308, although handily, the air-conditioning controls remain. The rest of the interior is still pretty striking and offers something genuinely different to the rest of the class. The steering wheel is less cluttered too, with only the most necessary buttons such as cruise control and stereo volume finding their place.
Top-spec Flair cars get tinted rear windows, chrome door mirrors and front fog lights, while all apart from the basic Touch models get alloy wheels. It's not all good news, though. The rear seats are a little cramped, and the Citroen feels light on luxuries compared to the likes of the technology laden Ford Focus.
You might think that soft suspension will offer the last word in comfort, but on a winding road, the Citroen C4 is not much fun to drive. In fact, the suspension is so well cushioned that it struggles to react quick enough when driving over bigger bumps or expansion joints on the motorway. The Volkswagen Golf is far more composed, but just as comfortable on longer journeys.
The C4's steering is light and offers very little in the way of feel and precision. The cabin is almost completely free of wind noise, while the diesel engines run smoothly and quietly.
The fastest car you can buy is the range-topping 148bhp BlueHDi 150, and is the only C4 capable of 0-62mph in less than 10 seconds. However, we'd go for the slightly slower 118bhp version, as it offers plenty of performance and a slightly lower list price.
The three-cylinder PureTech 130 petrol engine is good, too, offering loads of torque, impressive refinement and great fuel economy. Avoid the auto model though, as it returns jerky gearchanges and can't quite match the manual for running costs.
With six airbags as standard, the Citroen C4 is a safe car. In fact, Euro NCAP awarded the C4 a full five stars in its crash safety tests. Yes, the tests are more stringent today, but we've no cause for concern. Citroen's eTouch service also features, which allows you to call – and be located by – emergency services if you break down or have an accident.
In terms of reliability, Citroen came a disappointing 26th out of 33 manufacturers in our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey. That's one place behind mainstream maker, Ford, and a long way short of Honda, Toyota, Skoda and Kia. The C4 itself didn't feature, but the best placed Citroen – the DS3 hatchback – managed 68th overall.
Although the Citroen C4 gets a 408 litre boot, which is one of the most spacious in its class, the car's design does make it rather awkward to load. The large load area eats into rear seat space, too, with the C4 struggling alongside roomier rivals, such as the Skoda Octavia.
On the flip-side, there are plenty of cubbies and storage bins dotted around the cabin, although the glovebox is compromised thanks to an intrusive fuse box that eats into space. That's true with many French cars though, and shouldn't be a deal breaker.
All Citroen C4s will depreciate like a stone, so make sure you get a discount when buying new from a dealer.
At least running costs are low. The BlueHDi-engined Citroen C4s are the star performers – returning claimed fuel economy of more than 70mpg. The mid-range BlueHDi 120 is our pick, thanks to its low list price, impressive fuel economy and CO2 emissions. Beware of the bigger wheels though, as these can push emissions over the all-important 100g/km CO2 barrier – costing more in road and company car tax.
The three-cylinder PureTech petrol isn't quite as frugal as the diesel but it's definitely smoother. You'll be looking at around 50mpg on most models, with the lowest-powered PureTech 110 returning as much as 60mpg and 110g/km CO2 emissions.
You can also buy a Citroen C4 EAT6 auto, but it's not very smooth, and requires you to change your driving style to make jerk-free shifts. We'd avoid it and take a look at one of VW's crisp shifting DSGs if you really need an automatic family car.