The massive sales success of the Nissan Qashqai has sent rivals scrambling to build their own compact crossovers – and Citroen is the latest to enter the fray with the C4 Aircross.
Before you pick up the phone to your local dealer, though, there’s a twist – the company is still undecided about whether converting it to right-hand drive and bringing it to the UK makes financial sense. If it does go on sale in Britain, this 1.6 HDi model is the only version we’ll get.
This fifth addition to the C4 family – which already includes the C4, DS4, C4 Picasso and Grand Picasso – is based on the Mitsubishi ASX, in the same way that the larger C-Crosser is a Mitsubishi Outlander underneath.
But from the outside, the C4 Aircross hides its roots well. The front end features a slim double chevron grille which flows neatly into the headlights, with a pair of vertical LED strips underneath – a nod towards the DS3 and DS4. Even more distinctive, though, is the floating C-pillar, a cue taken from the DS5.
Inside it’s a different story, with most of the switchgear and dashboard architecture carried over directly from the ASX. Even the sat-nav system uses Mitsubishi software, while the button for deactivating the stop-start system reads ‘AS&Go’ – Mitsubishi terminology.
Whereas the ASX’s interior is let down by an abundance of scratchy plastics, the Aircross gets a soft-touch covering on the dashboard and doors. There’s plenty of space for up to five adults, although the panoramic glass roof fitted to our test car does rob a little rear headroom.
The boot is a useful 416 litres, and can expand to 1,193 litres with the rear seats folded – that’s six and 333 litres more than the Qashqai respectively. A handy ski hatch lets you place long objects along the length of the cabin, too.
The real surprise, though, is how good the Aircross is to drive. It manages to resist roll through corners, while its multi-link suspension deals with bumps in the road brilliantly. The switchable four-wheel-drive system is best left in two-wheel- drive mode for normal driving, but can deliver impressive grip when the conditions call for it.
The steering, meanwhile, is heavier than on most Citroens and the manual gearbox has a chunky action, so the Aircross feels robust from behind the wheel.
Although Mitsubishi’s 148bhp 1.8-litre diesel will be offered in other markets, the 113bhp PSA 1.6 HDi is the only engine being considered for the UK – and it’s a better bet. It delivers impressive shove from only 1,750rpm and stays smooth and quiet even when revved hard, rounding off an appealing all-round package.