Long-term tests

Citroen C4

Petrol or diesel? It's the dilemma many motorists have been facing, as fuel costs spiral out of control. And with sales of oil-burners rising by 40 per cent last year, it's clear derv has been given the nod by plenty of drivers.

  • Handsome styling, comfortable driving position, good engine, excellent fuel economy, cruising ability, useful stowage solutions
  • Low-rent feel, easily marked pale trim, gold paint, distracting digital speedometer<br/><br/>

Petrol or diesel? It's the dilemma many motorists have been facing, as fuel costs spiral out of control. And with sales of oil-burners rising by 40 per cent last year, it's clear derv has been given the nod by plenty of drivers. I'm the latest to make the jump, having got the keys to our new Citroen C4 1.6 HDi. My last car was one of its class competitors, Mazda's 3, but in 2.0-litre petrol guise. Delivering a disappointing average of around 25mpg, it was a thirsty beast. A mere 945 miles into life with the C4, and I am already noticing a phenomenal difference at the pumps. Current fuel economy is 49.5mpg, and you don't have to be Albert Einstein to work out the savings in fuel bills have been vast. I'd expected a big improvement, but not quite on this scale. Of course, engines aren't only about fuel consumption, and I'm pleased to report the HDi has hit the mark elsewhere. A lengthy trip down to Auto Express's printer in Poole, Dorset, tested its mettle, and although acceleration is nothing special, its cruising ability on motorways is above reproach. Other C4 plus points include a comfortable driving position and spacious rear. As a six-footer, the former is particularly important for me, while a recent visit from my parents demonstrated there's plenty of leg and headroom in the back. The styling is a hit, too. Friends have commented on how striking the C4 looks compared to the likes of the Ford Focus and VW Golf, although the tasteless Sable Gold paint has generally been given the thumbs-down. There's an array of cubbies inside, with one on the right-hand side of the driver's seat perfect for my mobile. Having not yet embraced the hands-free Bluetooth revolution, it's pleasing not to have my handset flying off the passenger seat when I corner. I do have one or two grumbles already, though. Inexplicably, the glovebox has jammed shut, and attempts to prise it open have only highlighted the handle's flimsy nature; I daren't pull it harder for fear of breaking it. Also, the light cream door trim shows up dirty marks too readily, and I dread to think how it might look six months down the line. Yet my biggest gripe is the huge digital speedo in the centre of the dash. There's no danger of exceeding the limit with a device as prominent as this, but it can be distracting and looks low-rent. Still, it provides a constant reminder of how little fuel the C4 is using - definitely its biggest bonus for me so far. I'll keep you posted on how we're getting on together in the months ahead. Graham HopeSecond opinion I agree with most of Graham's comments, but Citroens are supposed to be about innovation and quirky design - and the translucent dash-mounted speedo certainly sets the C4 apart from its rivals. So does the clever fixed-hub steering wheel, which not only looks cool, but also allows a body-shaped driver's airbag to be fitted. Mat Watson, features editor

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