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Citroen dazzles with SUV No.1

2012-06-07 07:03

DIVING RIGHT IN: Citroen takes a bold leap into the compact SUV bun fight with the stylish and comfortable C4 Aircross.


It’s been said that imitation is the best form of flattery though in the case of Citroen’s first soft-roader, mimicry doesn’t even appear to have been a consideration.

The automaker makes no bones about the fact its C4 Aircross is identical (mechanically) to Cousin Peugeot’s upcoming 4008 and the Mitsubishi ASX crossover launched in South Africa in September, 2011.

All this also means this is the most unlikely Citroen you’re likely to see in a while. There are no customisable indicator chimes and no lyrical bongs of unhappiness that you’d find on other models bearing the Double Chevron. 


Instead there’s a purposeful aura loaned by the Mitsubishi side of the arrangement although the Citroen does retain some of its playfulness in the quirky exterior styling that incorporates a number of styling cues already in evidence in the current crop of flagship DS models.

The Aircross also gives Citroen a presence in one of the only market segments showing growth in a country that has long had a love affair with high-riding SUV's. It also adds a dimension to the rapidly-expanding Citroen portfolio although, given the relationship with Mitsubishi, the French automaker was able to leverage off this and bring this all-important model to market at a fraction of the development costs.

Seems like good business, particularly when the model cloned is shared with Mitsubishi.

Citroen’s launch programme for the C4 Aircross let me sample the five-speed manual and CVT transmissions powered by the only two-litre petrol engine in the line-up and which makes 113kW/197Nm. However the CVT, given South Africans’ general aversion to such a gearbox, seems an odd choice against a traditional auto – but Citroen sees the benefits of having a steady torque delivery.

Citroen C4 Aircross image gallery.

I wasn’t convinced. Although an audio system turned up to drown out the characteristic CVT drone was useful, it definitely seemed more juiceless than the manual, requiring gear changes via the paddle shifts when some added urge was required. The manual transmission felt it lacked a gear (if only for better cruising) but it was my preferred transmission of the two.


The C4 Aircross is a very steady performer, taking with aplomb the mix of dirt, sand and tar roads in various states of disrepair on the route between Inhambane and Massinga in Mozambique. Even the 4x2 proved its worth in sections of soft sand – aided, somewhat, by its 200mm ground clearance. Typically French, the suspension – a Macpherson-type front strut and a coil-sprung multilink rear arrangement – is sprung in favour of a more comfortable ride although road holding is good.

Those opting for the 4x4 model have the run of a part-time system with the options of 2WD, 4WD and Lock that can be dialed up using a selector just ahead of the parking brake lever. The system detects wheel slip and automatically adjusts the power split between front and rear axles although the central differential can be locked when required to provide a 50:50 split between the front and rear wheels.

Citroen SA’s sales head Jason Knight did mention that a diesel option was under consideration for the local market but only perhaps sometime in the first six months of 2013.

The C4 Aircross, at an overall length of 4.34m appears quite compact from the outside, but has a cabin that's surprisingly spacious and a generous. The boot capacity is 384 litres but the hatch's sill could prove rather high when loading heavy or bulky objects. The rear bench splits 60:40 for those times when extra space is required.


The cabin is solidly built; not even a badly corrugated sand track could elicit a shakes or rattle. Noise levels within the cabin were low, in keeping with the C4 Aircross’ feeling of quiet luxury; even the entry-level Attraction models are handsomely equipped.

Standard items include 16” alloy rims, front fog lights, two front air bags and a multifunction steering wheel. Go up a rung and the Seduction model adds more air bags, cruise control, USB connectivity and Bluetooth, privacy windows at the rear and cruise control.

Exclusive models have a full leather interior, xenon lights and heatable power-operated front seats. They also come with electronic stability control and hill start assistance. Options include a glass roof and roof rails with chromed detailing.

Other safety features across the range include anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist and a full sized spare wheel for all models.

2.0i Attraction – R269 900
2.0i Seduction – R294 900
2.0i Seduction CVT – R309 900
2.0i Exclusive 4x4 CVT – R369 900

All C4 Aircross models are sold with a five-year or 100 000km service plan, roadside assistance and a three-year or 100 000km warranty.

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