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Driven: Citroen's new C4

2011-03-16 23:20

LESS IS MORE: Will toning down the C4's character relate to more interest from buyers?

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Citroen
Model C4
Engine naturally aspirated 1.6 VTi; turbocharged 1.6 THP
Power 88kW @ 6000rpm; 115kW @ 6000rpm
Torque 160Nm @ 4250rpm; 240Nm @ 1400rpm
Transmission five-speed manual (four-speed automatic); six-speed automated manual gearbox
Zero To Hundred 10.8 (12.5); 8.7
Top Speed 193kph (188kph); 214kph
Fuel Tank 60 litres
Fuel Consumption 6.2 (6.9); 6.3
Boot Size 408 litres
ABS with EBD, EBS, ESP and ITC
Airbags dual front and curtain
Tyres 16-18-inch alloys with full-size or space-saver spare wheel
Service Plan 5 years or 100 000 km
Warranty 3 years or 100 000 km
Price from R203 900. VTi 120 Seduction driven R218 900

HAILEY PHILANDER

It’s tough out there for buyers, particularly in a segment as hotly contested in South Africa as the compact hatchback league. There’s so much for prospective buyers to choose from, it’s often hard to tell them all apart.

And it’s to this jumbled landscape, where models such as VW’s Golf, Ford’s Focus and Toyota’s Auris do business, that Citroen is hoping its all-new C4 will make enough of an impact to convince conservative South Africans to “think French”.

This seems to be a big motivator for Citroen SA as the local subsidiary, since the start of 2010, has fallen under the control of Citroen. The head of the company’s South African operation, Frédéric Chapuis, went so far as to mention that the company’s 18-strong dealer network was being expanded and that parts pricing is more competitive than before.

C4: THEN AND NOW

Well, the proof is in the pudding and the course on offer here is the new C4. Quirky styling and interesting details are almost considered the birthright of many French cars but at first glance the C4 fails to make an impact - p, erhaps because its predecessor’s styling was so vibrant and different. Styling on the latest version is all soft lines and corners to allow it to blend with the others. In a word, it’s conservative.

DYNAMIC DYNAMITE: The new C4 is a little less explosive, but should get the job done.

Driving it is a pleasant experience, though. A naturally aspirated, 1.6-litre engine forms the main thrust of Citroen SA’s C4 attack, with a turbocharged version, mated to an automated manual gearbox, reserved for the range-topper.

However, only mid-spec VTi 120 Seduction models (with five-speed manual boxes) were made available for the driving section of the launch, where the smooth 88kW engine showed lots of character. It’s quite zesty and the manual gearbox is incredibly light to operate. In combination with the C4’s feather-light steering, these qualities contribute to a car that’s easy to manoeuvre.

The C4’s ride is soft and extremely comfortable, which should make driving it daily a pleasant experience, although if you’re searching for a car with a sportier ride and firmer, more responsive, steering you’d best look elsewhere. 

REFINED HATCH


In keeping with Citroen’s comfort mandate, the hatchback is incredibly refined. Very little of the 1.6’s whine crept into the cabin, even when it was made to operate under duress along a route that took us from Johannesburg’s CBD through sections of the Gauteng province, and the look and feel of the plastics and chromed detailing used throughout the cabin was pleasant.

Things up front may be a bit fussy – the chrome-trimmed steering wheel has a multitude of buttons and scrollers, the centre console is best managed by a passenger until you become accustomed to it – but those who fawn over possible distractions will be pleased. The C4 has plenty. Many aspects of its cabin are customisable and you’re able to change the back-lighting of the instrument display, choose from a range of warning sounds and get to grips with the other gadgets on offer.

QUALITY: Perceived quality within the cabin in good, ranging from soft plastics and tasteful upholstery to smatterings of chromed trim.

Even the middle-of-the-road Seduction driven on the launch came standard with features such as MP3, Bluetooth and USB functions. Cool features (standard or optional, depending on model) include front and rear parking sensors with gap measurement, blind-spot indicators and massage seats for both front occupants.

FIVE-STAR

Although the seats we found ourselves perched on were supportive without being able to knead the knots from our backs the “hollowed” headrests were especially trendy and there’s good visibility all round, even for shorter drivers.  

As for safety, items such as ABS and airbags are expected, and the C4 doesn’t disappoint. It holds a five-star Euro NCAP rating and all cars sold in South Africa will come standard with EBD, EBA, ESP, two  front and curtain airbags and two IsoFix anchors for the kids’ seats.

It is a pity that Citroen has chosen to play it safe in the design of its latest C4 – even forgoing the funky fixed steering boss seen previously – as it tries to step out of the niche and into the mainstream. If your primary motivation for buying a car is comfort, though, the C4 will struggle to disappoint. But without much variety in the choice of engines, promises of comfort may not be enough. 
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