Citroen C4 review
The Citroen C4 is a good choice for long-distance drivers who list comfort and economy as priorities
The Citroen C4 hasn't been the most gracefully aging car. A lack of cutting-edge equipment, dull design and uninspiring driving dynamics mean that despite a relatively recent facelift it's nowhere near the top of the family hatchback class it competes in.
It’s spacious enough though, especially in the front. It's also comfortable thanks to a particularly soft ride, although the trade-off is lacklustre handling – most of its rivals are more fun to drive.
While the C4’s standard equipment and technology don't feel cutting-edge, all models now feature air conditioning, electric front windows and cruise control. They’re also all cheap to run and efficient, particularly if you favour diesel power.
However, your eye may well be drawn by the cheaper C4 Cactus, which in our eyes is by far the more rounded car.
The latest-generation Citroen C4 hit showrooms in 2011, preceded by an earlier version launched in 2004 – itself a successor to the Citroen Xsara.
An update to the current model 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.
There’s no three-door or coupe in the C4 line-up, because Citroen developed the more upmarket DS4 as a stand-alone model instead. The two cars have the same underlying mechanics, but look quite different. So the C4 appeals to more conservative buyers, while the ‘crossover’-style DS4 is more stylish and powerful. The C4 hatch is also flanked by the smaller DS3, which offers buyers a more sporty, compact option.
The Citroen C4 has 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-friendly 86g/km of CO2.
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You can buy the C4 in Touch, Feel and Flair trims, though not all trims are available with every engine.
The entry-level Touch comes with a decent amount of kit, including LED lighting, seat height adjustment, electric mirrors, cruise control and air-con. Feel adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a DAB radio/MP3 CD system with Bluetooth, a customisable colour instrument panel and various cosmetic and trim upgrades, while the Flair’s roster of goodies includes cornering front fog lights, a seven-inch touch screen, reversing sensors, dual-zone climate control, plus automatic lights and wipers.
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.
Engines, performance and drive
You might think that soft suspension would 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 quickly 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. However, 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, 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 pulling power, impressive refinement and great fuel economy. Avoid the automatic gearbox though, as it returns jerky gear changes and can't quite match the manual for running costs.
The C4’s petrol options are all versions of the same 1.2-litre three-cylinder PureTech motor, so are smooth, quiet and efficient. They’re not massively powerful though, but that’s probably a good thing in a chassis that feels out of its depth on UK roads.
Kicking off the line-up is the (109bhp) PureTech 110 which, attached to a five-speed manual gearbox, does 0-62mph in 10.9 seconds and a top speed of 114mph.
The (129bhp) PureTech 130 Stop & Start is available with a six-speed manual or six-speed sequential auto, but performance is similar for both – 10.8 seconds and 124mph for the manual, and 10.9 seconds and 122mph for the auto.
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Diesel buyers can choose from four configurations of the same four-cylinder 1.6-litre BlueHDi unit, or a range-topping 2.0-litre.
First up is the (98bhp) 1.6 BlueHDi 100, which comes with five manual gears as the cheapest option, but also in Stop & Start-equipped guise. Both do 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds and has a top speed of 111mph.
Next is the (118bhp) 1.6 BlueHDi 120 S&S, which comes with either six-speed manual or sequential-auto transmission – the manual offering 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds and 122mph, but the auto taking 11.1 seconds.
The (148bhp) 2.0 BlueHDi 150 S&S is only available with six-speed manual gears, and does 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds and 128mph.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
All Citroen C4s will depreciate like a stone (see below), 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 – all returning claimed fuel economy of more than 70mpg. The most efficient of all is the Stop & Start BlueHDi 100 which can eke out 85.6mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 86g/km.
The mid-range BlueHDi 120 is our pick though, thanks to its low list price, still impressive fuel economy of up to 78.5mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 95g/km.
Beware of the bigger 17-inch wheels in combination with the automatic gearbox though, as these can push emissions over the all-important 100g/km CO2 barrier, so you'll need to keep an eye on the tax bands.
Actually, we wouldn’t recommend the C4’s EAT6 sequential automatic box at all. It's not very smooth and requires you to change your driving style to make jerk-free shifts. It’s not cheap either, attracting a premium of more than £1k over manual equivalents. So take a look at one of the VW Group's crisp-shifting DSGs instead if you really need an automatic family car.
The C4’s 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 with 110g/km CO2 emissions.
With so many engines on offer, the insurance group range for the Citroen C4 is quite broad. The action starts at group 12 for the least powerful three-cylinder petrol model and ends at the 2.0-litre diesel in group 23.
All new cars lose a lot of money when driven out of the showroom, but predicted residual values for the C4 range are especially dire. If you expect to lose three-quarters of your car’s value over three years and 30,000 miles then you shouldn’t be disappointed. Unless you buy an entry-level petrol model, when things could get even worse...
Interior, design and technology
The Citroen C4 went on sale in 2011, but was lightly revised in 2015 with a mid-life nip and tuck. Nevertheless, alongside such excellent contemporary rivals as the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and Honda Civic, the Citroen is looking a little outdated.
The 2015 update brought the button-free touchscreen infotainment system from the new Peugeot 308, but only to Flair models. Handily, the manual air-conditioning controls remain.
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The rest of the interior still has some striking styling that offers something genuinely different to the rest of the class. The latest 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 also cars get tinted rear windows, chrome door mirrors and front fog lights, while all apart from the basic Touch models get alloy wheels.
On the downside, the rear seats are a little cramped, and the Citroen feels light on luxuries compared to the likes of the technology laden Ford Focus. And although the material fit, finish and overall feel of the quality is all acceptable, it doesn’t feel anything like as ‘rock-solid’ as the VW Golf’s interior.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The infotainment spec of the Citroen C4 is decent enough, but not exceptional. The entry-level Touch model comes with an RDS MP3/CD player with six speakers, while the Feel upgrades the radio to DAB digital and also introduces Bluetooth for hands-free calling and media streaming.
The range-topping Flair gets the seven-inch touchscreen to control the system thrown in, but you can also have it as a £460 option on the Feel. Citroen’s eMyWay sat-nav is a £900 option on the Feel, but costs £440 on the Flair as the touchscreen is already included.
You can also get sat-nav on the Flair as part of a £900 Convenience Pack, which also adds front parking sensors (a rear camera is included already), key-less go, blind spot monitoring and folding mirrors with memory function.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Thanks to its fully adjustable seats and steering wheel, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position in the C4. Visibility is great, too.
On the move, the plush interior and excellent noise refinement make progress comfortable and relaxing. But the soft ride can crash unpleasantly over potholes, and things can get a bit ‘floaty’ if you’re trying to drive swiftly through bends.
There’s plenty of legroom and headroom up front, as well as plenty of cubbies and storage bins dotted around the place. The storage includes a large drawer under the passenger seat, 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. The door bins will take a 1.5-litre bottle and A4 size documents.
The C4 hatch is 4,329mm long, 1,789mm wide and 1,489mm tall. In comparison, the Ford Focus is a little bigger at 4,360mm x 1,823mm x 1,469mm, while the VW Golf is a little smaller, measuring 4,255mm x 1,799nn x 1,425mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The car is a full five-seater, but the C4 struggles against roomier rivals such as the Skoda Octavia because a large load area eats into the rear seat space.
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However, it’s not too bad in the back, especially if you only usually carry kids. Taller adults who are over six foot may feel a little cramped, both for legroom and headroom. There are no such problems up front.
The rear doors open wide for easy access, the seats in the back fold down in a 60:40 split and there are ISOFIX child seat mounting points as standard.
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Sadly the car's design does make it rather awkward to load when you fold the seats down, because they lie at an angle – a shame as the total load volume goes up to 1,300 litres.
All C4s come with a compressor-based get-you-home kit instead of a spare wheel, so we’d recommend the extra £75 for a full-size spare or space-saver.
If you want to pull a caravan, the 2.0-litre diesel is the best for the job with a maximum towing capacity of 1,750kg. That’s a couple of hundred kgs more than the 1.6-litre diesels and the petrol.
Reliability and Safety
With six airbags as standard, the Citroen C4 is a safe car. In fact, EuroNCAP awarded the pre-facelift C4 a full five stars in its crash safety tests back in 2010. Yes, the tests are more stringent today, but we've no cause for concern as the Adult Safety and Child Safety ratings of 90 and 85 per cent respectively are still competitive today.
The C4 also features Citroen's eTouch service, which allows you to call – and be located by – the emergency services if you break down or have an accident.
In terms of reliability, the picture could definitely be rosier. In our 2015 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, the Citroen C4 ranked 98th out of 200 cars overall, but when scored for reliability alone it managed only 144th.
Owners ranked the car 99th out of 200 for build quality, which is at least average, but it was a running cost ranking of 53rd out of 200 that pulled the C4 up in the overall result and saved it from wider ignominy.
In 2014, Citroen as a manufacturer polled a woeful 26th out of 30-odd rivals for overall reliability, but things improved a little in 2015 with an 18th placing.
The picture improves a little further when you study the dealer results. Customers in the 2015 Driver Power Survey ranked Citroen dealers 9th out of around 30 competing brands, so if something does go wrong at least you have a reasonable chance of a satisfying outcome.
The Citroen C4 comes with the brand’s standard three-year/60,000 mile warranty, which is decent but unexceptional. If you’re looking for more cover, Toyota offers five years/100,000 miles, as does Hyundai.
Citroen C4 servicing schedules require the petrol models to attend a dealership every 20,000 miles, but the diesels need to be looked at every 12,500 miles.
Servicing costs should be low though, with dealers typically offering competitive fixed-rate deals.