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Long-term tests

Citroen C4 X Shine long-term test: a solid, no-frills family car

Final report: six months of family motoring have proved the Citroen’s a good all-rounder

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Verdict

Despite its quirky styling, the Citroen C4 X feels completely unpretentious in an almost ‘back-to-basics’ kind of way. Comfortable and easy to drive, with just enough standard kit to keep things interesting, it would be easy to recommend to buyers who are prepared to consider a worthy alternative to the default SUV choice.

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  • Mileage: 3,331
  • Economy: 41.7mpg

So, the time has come to say goodbye to our Citroen C4 X and, to tell you the truth, I’m going to miss it quite a bit. Why exactly? Well, for lots of reasons that I’ll go into here, although I’ll admit that it wasn’t exactly love at first sight.

When Auto Express originally tested the all-electric e-C4 X back in March last year, we highlighted the extra luggage capacity on offer compared with its C4 hatchback sibling, but were left wondering whether the buying public would really take to the niche styling of a fastback-styled saloon.

Our petrol car arrived back in October 2023, and first impressions were a little muted. The C4 X felt a bit ‘unnecessary’;
a bit of extra boot capacity and a slightly redrawn rear end compared with the existing hatchback model was something that no one was really asking for. However, it wasn’t long before the X’s crossover looks began to grow on me, and it even prompted the odd question from people when out and about – interested to discover whether it was “some new kind of 4x4”. Reader: it’s not. 

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But the C4 X is certainly unique, and looks particularly striking in profile. Our car’s standard 18-inch alloys and Cumulus Grey metallic paint set off the bodywork well, although over the six months of ownership it’s been a bit disappointing to see the black plastic along the lower edge of the doors, rear bumper and wheelarches losing its lustre and fading slightly.

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Inside, the cabin is a somewhat sombre affair with a lot of dark materials. Enough has probably been said about the infuriating use of piano-black trim in car interiors; my top tip is to either keep a microfibre cloth in the glovebox, or better still just lower your standards – that way you won’t become irrationally upset at the default patina of smudges, dust and grime that builds up within only a few weeks.

That said, the space on offer in the C4 X is great, both up front and for those in the rear seats, despite that sloping roofline. In fact, the C4 X was a delight to use as a family car, easily managing the daily school runs and weekend jaunts with the dog. 

Longer journeys really put a spotlight on Citroen’s continued commitment to overall comfort; after completing a 550-mile round trip from Kent to Liverpool, I felt as fresh as a daisy, with none of the usual aches you might expect after more than 10 hours (with breaks) behind the wheel.

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Another aspect which helped along the way was Citroen’s Drive Plus on-board tech, which includes a one-year subscription to features such as live traffic info and a speed camera alert function – it worked faultlessly during my time with the car and seamlessly integrated with the sat-nav system.

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The C4 X is not a particularly fun car to drive, certainly in our test car’s 128bhp 1.2-litre PureTech petrol form. But that’s like asking a highly strung sports car to deal with the vagaries of city driving – it’s just not what it was designed to do.

Of the C4 X’s three drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – the latter feels a bit redundant, only adding unwanted noise and adversely impacting the overall refinement as the automatic gearbox holds on to the revs for longer before changing up. If you’re prepared to focus on a smoother, more relaxed driving style, then the car will offer its own rewards. Real world fuel economy of around 50mpg is achievable on a motorway cruise, and even with a lot of shorter journeys during the last few months of its time on our fleet, I still saw an indicated 41.7mpg. Not bad at all.

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You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, goes the old saying. And while it may not be the most dynamic model, at a time of unprecedented change in the automotive industry, the Citroen C4 X stands for comfort, simplicity and ease-of-use. It’s a straightforward, well priced family car that has proved utterly reliable during its six months with us. I will certainly miss it.

Citroen C4 X Shine: second report

Laid-back saloon lets Paul take things easy on long haul up to Liverpool

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  • Mileage: 2,872
  • Economy: 48.9mpg

‘Teamwork makes the dream work’ goes the famous saying and, after three months and almost 3,000 miles, the Citroen C4 X has proved to be a great companion. It’s not been perfect (more of that later), but its reliable nature and ability to make smooth work of the hustle and bustle of daily life hasn’t gone unnoticed.

There are some basic requirements that are needed for any car to be a successful family motor. Firstly, there has to be enough space and, while I wouldn’t say the C4 X is outstanding in this area, it’s respectable. Despite its sleek fastback appearance, the chunky Citroen has a saloon-style boot opening that reveals a decent 510-litre load space; it’s nicely squared off, but there’s a high lip to negotiate which makes unloading big items more awkward than it should be.

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That sloping roof helps the C4 X look a little more stylish, particularly in profile, but it slides into the old form over function trap because it impacts head and shoulder room for rear passengers. But you’ll probably only notice this if you’re more than six feet tall, because my young kids have found things perfectly comfortable travelling in the back seats. A 550-mile round trip from Kent to Liverpool with my football-mad son (the blue-half, not the red) put Citroen’s comfort seats to the test. A 5am start and only a quick pit-stop for supplies meant I spent around five hours behind the wheel on the way up, and nearer six hours on the return journey. 

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Climbing out of the driver’s seat at the end of the day, I can honestly say that I didn’t have a single ache; the understated look of the comfort seats doesn’t promise much, and perhaps they could do with more side bolster, but they deliver where it counts. 

The journey, on a variety of A-roads, motorways and city routes also uncovered other positives. I found that the traffic-sign recognition system worked well in areas where the speed limit changed frequently, while the integrated sat-nav’s ability to provide a warning chime every time we approached a speed camera was impressive.

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But making quick progress is not what the C4 X is really designed for; it steers well enough for its size and mass – weighing in at around 1,300kg – but it doesn’t like to be rushed. The 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine produces 129bhp and 230Nm of torque, which is just about enough oomph if you take a more relaxed approach. Try to press on and it all becomes a little noisy and unrefined, while you’ll be hard pressed to extract any meaningful extra pace anyway. 

What was more interesting on the longer road trip was transitioning from motorway driving to unfamiliar city streets, and the car managed this perfectly. Its light steering is a real advantage when handling tighter lanes and, through direct experience, I found the nav system particularly efficient at providing a quick redirection after a wrong turn. 

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The dim-witted stop-start system continues to be a pain in urban traffic, though, because it doesn’t seem to know when to kick in. It means the decent levels of comfort and refinement are spoilt by the resulting jerkiness as you slow to a stop. Admittedly, there is an option to turn the system off buried in a touchscreen sub-menu, but you have to reset this each time you start a journey.

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But, let’s not end on a down note, because the Citroen C4 X is a good family car that is well priced, practical and gets the basics just about right. If the French manufacturer made just a few minor improvements then this smart saloon would really shine.

Citroen C4 X Shine: first report

The Citroen C4 X saloon is suiting the Adam family to a tee so far

  • Mileage: 313
  • Economy: 39.7mpg

Family life can be pretty hectic, so when news arrived that I was to be the custodian of a new Citroen C4 X, it seemed the perfect fit. With two sporty kids and a lively Labrador to keep entertained, I was quietly confident that the clan’s new wheels would be just the ticket to help smooth along the organised chaos at la maison Adam.

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My first experience of Citroen was my dad’s XM way back in 1990; I still remember thinking its Bertone-designed exterior looked stunning and a cut above next door’s starchy BMW 5 Series, while the comfortable seats were just fantastic on longer trips.

The French manufacturer clearly made an impression, because although dad now runs a Volvo as a daily driver, he still has a Citroen Berlingo tucked away in the garage. Me? I’ve always had a hankering for the XM’s eventual replacement, the C6, mainly for the model’s equally attractive styling and premium wafting ability.

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While our new C4 X may not be quite as remarkable to look at as its cool forebears, it still trades on its maker’s reputation for quirky, unconventional styling. Based on the striking-looking C4 hatchback, the X transforms into a rather smart saloon, albeit one with quasi-SUV undertones.

We’ve plumped for a PureTech 130 S&S petrol model with an eight-speed automatic transmission, although Citroen has already completely revised specifications for the C4 X, which means you won’t find our mid-range Shine version on the current price list. It’s close enough in spec to the latest Plus trim, however, which sits above YOU! and below the Max and e-Series in the hierarchy of equipment levels.

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Starting from £19,495, the entry-level C4 X offers refreshingly good value for a spacious family car, but our model is a little pricier, at £26,780 (including Cumulus Grey metallic paint, at £595, and the £135 Safety Pack Plus). To provide some context, the same petrol engine with Max trim costs around £27,000, while the most expensive EV will set you back almost £36,000.

At 4.6 metres long, the C4 X is a big car, but I like the purposeful look that’s brought together by a combination of its elevated ride height, black wheelarch mouldings and chunky 18-inch wheels, while a 240mm increase in length over the C4 hatchback provides a superior 510 litres of boot space.

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The extra load-lugging ability has been a real plus point for us, with most of the kids’ sports kit now taking up residence in the boot, but still leaving plenty of room for ad-hoc shopping trips without the fuss of having to clear everything out first.

We’re finding the cabin space is equally impressive, although it’s a sombre affair inside, with the dark trim only lifted by a few silver accents dotted around. Any fastidious cleaners out there will be driven mad by the use of black piano trim across the centre console. I think I saw it reasonably clean for a full two minutes after delivery, but it’s now succumbed to its usual modern-day patina of fingerprints, greasy marks and dust, courtesy of a tag-team effort from the kids.

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Standard kit is pretty generous and includes a 10-inch touchscreen with integrated sat-nav, wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, a head-up display and dual-zone air-conditioning. There’s no heating function for the seats or steering wheel, though, which would’ve been welcome with winter on the way. Likewise, a sunroof or fixed panoramic glass panel would help to brighten the cabin, but perhaps that’s a little nit-picky when you consider the reasonable asking price and decent build quality on display.

Auto Express creative director, Darren Wilson, previously ran a Citroen C5 X on our test fleet and remarked in his first report that “It’s the kind of model that makes you want to book a driving holiday”. I get the same feeling from its smaller sibling; the Comfort seats in the C4 X are a highlight and more than live up to their billing, combining well with the soft damper set-up to expertly lull you into taking things easy.

It’s early days with the C4 X, but it’s a case of so far so good, while a few minor niggles, such as a faulty boot catch and mildly irritating stop-start system, haven’t taken the edge off what seems to be a capable family car.

Model:Citroen C4 X 130 S&S Shine
On fleet since:October 2023
Price new:£26,320
Engine:1.2-litre, 3cyl turbo petrol, 128bhp
CO2/tax:129g/km/£180
Options:Cumulus Grey metallic paint (£545), Safety Pack Plus without Adaptive Cruise Control (£135)
Insurance*:Group:20E / Quote: £889
Mileage:3,331 miles
Econonmy:41.7mpg
Any problems?Faulty boot catch

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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Executive editor

Paul was employed across automotive agency and manufacturer-side sectors before joining Auto Express in 2020 as our online reviews editor. After a brief sojourn at a national UK newspaper, Paul returned as executive editor where he now works closely with our commercial partners.

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