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Tested: Citroën C4

2011-07-20 23:09

AS EXPLOSIVE AS...?: The C4 brings a dash of French energy to the South African market.

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Citroen
Model C4
Engine turbocharged four-cylinder 1.6 petrol
Power 115kW at 6000rpm
Torque 240Nm at 1400rpm
Transmission six-speed electronic gearbox (clutchless manual)
Zero To Hundred 8,7 seconds
Top Speed 214kph
Fuel Tank 60 litres
Fuel Consumption 6.3 litres per 100km (combined)
Weight 1275kg kerb weight
Boot Size 408 litres
Steering variable power assisted
ABS with EBS, ESP, EBA, traction control
Airbags dual front, side and curtain airbags
Tyres 225/45 R17 Michelins
Front Suspension MacPherson-type
Rear Suspension flexible transverse beam
Service Plan five years or 100 000km
Warranty three years or 100 000km
Price R 265 900


Citroën launched its all-new C4 mid-sized hatchback in South Africa in 2011 and on the launch the non-turbo, 88kW 1.6 version proved comfortable, if a little juiceless. So we requested the top-of-the-range 1.6 ESG model to see if it could generate some excitement.

It doesn’t take too much to get excited about something new in the compact hatch segment. There’s always a new model or derivative to spark interest among the regulars grilles and while the C4 badge is not new to South Africa, it has  spent most of its time on the fringes.

Will the new C4’s more muted appearance and choc-a-bloc spec sheet appeal to conservative, but bargain-hungry, South Africans?  (The range starts at R 203 900 for the VTi 120 Attraction).

After a reassuring but underwhelming first encounter with the C4 VTi 120, it was up to the top-spec turbocharged model to do the spadework.


From the outside, there’s not much to get the pulse racing. Where its predecessor, especially the coupe, stood out from the rest with design that was fresh and fun, the new model looks positively dejected. It’s not an unattractive car – the oversized, scalloped headlight cluster is rather attractive and I love the car’s profile – it’s just a little conservative with soft curves and few creases.

It’s as though Citroën would prefer you save your “oohs and aahs” for the interior. Typically, the C4 is big on driver personalisation of the cabin. You’re able to set the directional lights, the choice of sounds for the indicators (classic, crystal symphony, jungle fantasy and, my favourite, urban rhythmic) and the dial and display colours for the instrument panel. These shades range from a delicate purple to varying shades of blue, a neutral white and pale peach.

DRIVER ENTERTAINMENT: The driver's view of the instrument panel can be spiced up with a few colour options. Steering wheel may be too busy for some.

For times when it all becomes a bit too much, there’s a button to turn off the entire display, which is especially cool at night, with only the cabin’s ambient lighting to set the mood. Unfortunately you can’t set the volume for the very loud indicator signals which, with their funky tunes, often clash with the sound of the driver’s music of choice.

There’s a quick fix to this: the standard Denon audio system in the EGS is superb and worth turning up when the bings and bongs – which emanate from a number of sources, not just the indicators – overpower.

The display and the many buttons and scrollers on the steering wheel can be a little overwhelming but is simple enough to master with little distraction to the driver.

The materials used throughout the cabin appeared to be of a high quality and the soft-touch finishes to the dash and the instrument panel’s cowl were certainly welcome. The C4 is incredibly refined, with doors shutting with a reassuring thud and very little in the way of road or tyre noise reaching the cabin.


Comfort remains paramount and the softer and more accommodating ride of the C4, even in the sportier ESG model, did not go unnoticed (or unappreciated). The seats on the flagship ESG model are wonderfully supportive: perforated sports with lumbar control and a massage function (something I found incredibly useful after a long day at the office). The height-adjustable seats could adjust lower, though.

The C4’s not stingy on cabin space – something a few other manufacturers should consider. The glove box is useless, yes; way too shallow to store anything meaningful, but there are other redeeming stowage spaces. There’s a nice deep cubby in the central panel with a neat little folding drawer for devices plugging into the auxiliary jack and the power socket, and a light that pops on when the rolling cover is slid open. There are two drinks holders.  

Of course, there are other things to draw your attention away from fun little things like usable storage spaces. The THP 155 Exclusive ESG6 (phew!) is powered by a turbocharged version of the Citroën’s 1.6-litre petrol engine and, with 115kW and 240Nm on tap, is identical to the engine at work in the fun-loving (albeit smaller) DS3.

DAINTY: A refreshing take on the average gearshift - and it frees up lots of space between the front occupants, too.

Sadly, the first moments with the C4 ESG were not joyous, although the car did present me with an opportunity to practice my patience. And I’m glad I did. The flagship C4 uses a rather unpopular (in some quarters) semi-automatic six-speed transmission that instantly took me back to the horrors of a certain long-term Peugeot 1007 Wheels24 had the privilege of testing a few years back. But times have changed and I was ready for a fresh challenge.  Besides, I loved the dainty little shift lever and recessed electric parking brake. Too chic.

So I took time to try to anticipate the ESG’s upshifts in automatic mode; even turning off the fabulous Arkamys-backed audio system the better to hear the engine and lift off the throttle when a shift was expected to avoid that lurching sensation. (It also gave me the chance to become very au fait with the various indicator chimes.) And there were times I got it horribly wrong and times the poor transmission behaved so strangely (like shifting up from third to fourth while climbing a hill) all I could do was chuckle. Especially in corners, where the instinct is to keep the revs and throttle steady but that the EGS thought was the perfect environment for another little upshift.


In manual mode, shifting through the steering wheel-mounted paddles, the ESG really hit its stride and I found myself missing a good ol’ manual shifter less and less. Get the timing right between lifting off the throttle, clipping a paddle and resqueezing the juice, and the C4 became a blast. The radio was turned back on.  

The 8.7-second 0-100km/h sprint and 214km/h top speed claimed by Citroën became more believable. The manufacturer also claims fuel consumption on the combined cycle of 6.3 litres/100km and CO2 emissions of 145g/km.

ARTFUL: The rear lights cluster mimics that at the rear and the view from behind remains neat and uncluttered.

Available only in Exclusive specification, the turbo C4 takes comfort features in this segment to a whole new level. Items such as variable power steering, cruise control with speed limiter, front and rear parking sensors, ambient lighting in the footwell, front fog lights with cornering function, the selection of sounds, Bluetooth connectivity, the massaging seats, and sensors for the windscreen wipers’ and headlights’ automatic functions are standard on this model. The standard 17” Phoenix wheels show a clever design that is simply stunning.

Safety equipment includes ABS with EBS and EBA, ESP with traction control, a full quota of airbags and daytime running lights.    

This car has heaps of personality. Some of the quirky features that previously defined Citroëns may have been toned down but the essence of the brand that blazed a trail with the DS is still very much intact. The new car’s mediocre styling may disappoint but there are other points to consider, such as incredible comfort and an element of bucking the “I drive a Golf/Focus/Mazda3/Auris, too” trend.

And get beyond the initial "awkward date" stages of the ESG transmission to tap one of the Citroën range's jewels - the spicy THP engine. It's worth the fuss.


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