£15,195 - £21,150 Price range
57 - 85 MPG
The Citroen C4 is a family hatchback with cheap running costs and a comfortable ride. It’s in the same class, size wise, as the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and Volkswagen Golf, but is priced a bit cheaper.
It received a mild refresh in 2015 that updated the front and rear bumpers and added an optional £950 seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, yet the revised C4 still looks dated next to all-new rivals.
The interior quality, materials used, passenger space (rear legroom in particular) and functionality are behind the competition too. The soft seats are great for long-distance driving, but that’s the best bit about the C4’s cabin.
Most of the Citroen’s rivals sacrifice some ride comfort for a sharper drive, but the C4 does things the other way round – it heaves and wallows on very soft suspension. Good for comfort, but bad for anyone prone to car sickness.
The engine choice has some lively petrols and punchy diesels, but again they can’t match rivals on running costs or performance. Also, the electronically operated manual gearbox is best avoided.
Entry level Touch models get cruise control and air conditioning, but no alloy wheels or touchscreen infotainment system.
Whereas the first-generation C4 had a funky interior, with digital readouts and a steering wheel with a static centre boss, the new car’s cabin is altogether more conservative. Build quality has been improved substantially over the old car, but is still far off VW Golf standards.
The huge steering wheel also hosts a confusing amount of buttons and scroll wheels making it quite perplexing to operate on the move. The optional infotainment system with a seven inch touchscreen doesn’t have any trick software such as smartphone screen mirroring and even with it equipped there’s a confusing number of buttons on the dashboard.
Citroen C4 passenger space
Space is good all-round, with decent knee and headroom for the driver and front passenger plus quite a few storage spaces up front. The swoopy exterior styling does compromise front and rear visibility making the £330 city pack a sensible purchase. It includes rear parking sensors, folding door mirrors and a 12V power socket in the boot.
Rear passengers will have to put up with a less legroom than in main competitors and rear electric windows are a £200 option even on mid-range models.
Citroen C4 boot space
At least at 408 litres in capacity the boot is bigger than in most rivals – the Golf has 380 litres, the Astra 370 and the Focus 316 litres. Fold the rear seats down and space increases to a very useful 1,300 litres, but unfortunately the folded seats don’t form a flat surface so sliding large objects in won’t be as easy as in some rivals.
Citroen prioritised comfort and refinement when developing the C4, so it’s no surprise that quite a few testers were impressed with the ride quality and noise insulation, which makes it ideal for motorway journeys. The light steering makes it fairly competent at navigating tight city streets, but the large steering wheel takes some precision away.
The focus on comfort means that it’s not quite as agile or as dynamically composed as a VW Golf or a Ford Focus, with reports of numb steering and a fair bit of body roll in corners. Choosing larger wheels doesn’t improve things, they just leave you with a harsher ride – diminishing one of the C4’s key strengths.
Although there aren’t any bad engines in the C4 line-up, most of the critics seem to prefer the 1.6-litre diesel units over the rest of the range, as they’re the cheapest to run.
Although we would recommend avoiding it, the mid-range diesel and top-of-the-range petrol can be had with an automated manual gearbox, but it’s a jerky operator that makes the C4 feel dated to drive.
Citroen C4 diesel engines
The entry-level diesel has only 98hp, but compensates with decent fuel economy of 78mpg and sub-99g/km CO2 emissions making it free to tax. With a 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds, it’s not that slow, either. The most powerful offering with 150hp would be ideal if you plan on towing a caravan, but the overwhelming opinion of testers is that the 120hp model is all you need – it’s eager to rev and returns the same fuel economy as the basic model.
Citroen C4 petrol engines
The 1.2-litre follows the trend for fuel-sipping petrol engines. It only has three cylinders, but is boosted by a turbocharger for added pep. You can choose from 109 and 129hp models – they’re cheaper to buy, smoother, nicer sounding and also quicker than their equivalent diesels. Both can achieve fuel economy of more than 55mpg and cost no more than £30 to tax. These engines make a lot of sense if you don’t expect to rack up a huge mileage.
The engine itself was met with a fair bit of positive feedback. Though not the class leader when it comes to efficiency, the C4 can still return an impressive 67 mpg, and the 109g/km of CO2 output means that the C4 is incredibly cheap to tax (£20 a year).
It’s also a fairly refined and punchy unit, which is fairly surprising for an engine that’s been tuned for efficiency. The clever stop/start system went down fairly well with the critics, with no complaints about it being intrusive.
There were a few areas where the testers weren’t so satisfied, though. The biggest complaints were with the automated-manual gearbox, which is jerky in both manual and automatic modes.
Just be aware that there are rivals out there that offer even higher economy, and get better reviews. Also note that the 1.6 HDi 90 engine is slightly less efficient, but a lot cheaper to buy.
That being said, the C4 isn’t a bad car, and then this spec is certainly worth having a look at if you frequently do long journeys. However, we’d recommend having a look at a few of its rivals, and indeed some other C4 variants, before you fully commit to buying one.
Though not quite as frugal as the engine in the e-HDi model, the 1.6 diesel unit can still return decent fuel economy, with Citroen claiming it’s possible to do well over 60 mpg. It’s also in the same £20 per year tax band as the e-HDi, yet is much cheaper to buy. Also, whereas the eco model comes with a jerky automatic, the normal 1.6 diesel comes with a five speed manual, which the testers appeared to be much more complimentary to.
If you’re interested in a diesel powered C4, then the 1.6 HDi model is certainly the one to devote more of your attention to. However, much like the eco model, some of its more notable rivals are on sale for similar amounts of money, yet are better to drive and, in quite a few cases, cheaper to run.
Being the same acclaimed petrol engine that features in quite a few Citroen, Peugeot and even Mini products, there were almost no complaints with the 1.6 THP unit. It’s got good power and torque on offer, is fairly affordable to run and is overall a peach of an engine. However, both critics reckoned that the eager engine was at odds with the C4’s cruising qualities, and both agreed that the semi-automatic gearbox was jerky in both auto and manual modes.
Overall, the C4 is a competent car with an engine and a gearbox that just doesn’t suit it, especially as similarly specified rivals offer a far less compromised package. If you are interested in the C4, then we’d recommend you have a look at some of the other engines on offer, especially the far more suitable diesels.
Though not quite as punchy as the more powerful THP petrol, the VTi model still has enough poke across the rev band to ensure decent performance for the class standard. Fuel economy is also fairly decent for a petrol powered hatch, with claims of up to 45 mpg, and the critic was impressed with the noise insulation and refinement. It also does without the automatic that plagues the THP model.
However, the tester was quick to point out that the focus on comfort and refinement made the C4 feel dull when compared with its rivals – the steering is numb, and the critic stated that it’s not as fun to drive as a Focus or a Golf.
As far as the petrols go, this 1.6 VTi is one of the more capable C4 variants in the range. However, if you’re looking for better fuel efficiency, you’ll certainly want to have a look at the frugal diesels, which are often noticeably cheaper to tax and return better economy figures.
148bhp and 218lb/ft of torque don’t exactly sound like that much, but it’s more than enough to propel the C4 to more than sufficient speeds at a perfectly acceptable rate of knots. Also, thanks to the noise insulation and the tall top gear, it’s quite a good motorway cruiser. Economy is very good, with claims of up to 57 mpg being possible.
However, there were other areas where the reports began to vary. A few, but not all, testers thought that the ride was a bit too bumpy and fidgety, especially on the 17 inch wheel option, and some weren’t that impressed with the handling dynamics.
In summary, the flagship diesel powered C4 appears to be a decent car in some areas, but not so much in others. Though fairly competent, it’s not quite as capable as its more superior rivals, and the cheaper diesel models in the C4 range are noticeably cheaper to buy and run. The Citroen isn’t a bad choice, but we’d recommend having a look at other cars in the market as well.
The C4 scored the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests and it was commended on child safety and active safety systems, but that was in 2010 and safety criteria have moved on quite a bit in that time. Expect newer rivals to be safer.
None the less there’s a range of active and passive safety systems available with the C4 – all cars come with stability control and six airbags as standard.
Another helpful safety aid is Citroen’s £250 eTouch service, which can call the emergency services automatically in the event of a serious accident.
The basic Citroen C4 is well priced, but higher trim levels offer less value than newer rivals.
Citroen C4 Touch
The entry-level C4 trim comes with 16-inch steel wheels dressed with plastic hubcaps, cruise control, air-conditioning, a multi-function steering wheel and a storage compartment under the front passenger seat.
Citroen C4 Feel
The mid-range Feel model is the one we’d go for because, with alloy wheels (on all but the basic diesel) and chrome exterior trim, it looks a lot smarter than Touch-trimmed cars. You also get a ‘favourite speeds’ memory for the cruise control, a Bluetooth phone connection and a DAB digital radio.
Citroen C4 Flair
The range-topping Flair trim brings an infotainment system with a seven-inch touch screen, but strangely no sat-nav. You also get rear parking sensors, a noise-reducing windscreen with rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights and tinted rear windows – all of which will make it a more relaxing car to live with every day. It’s the price that is the problem, though – pushing the C4 into high-end VW Golf territory, where it is found seriously wanting.
When the C4 was launched in 2010 it was a worthy alternative to the established competition. However, the family hatchback segment has changed drastically in these six years and the C4 simply isn’t good enough to rival the class leaders.
That’s fine if you go for one of the competitively priced basic models, but makes less and less sense the further up the range you go. In fact, we would recommend waiting for the new model, which is set to follow the latest C3’s lead, with a premium interior and far improved levels of comfort.