Citroen C4 (2021) review: take a chill pill

Published:23 February 2021

Red 2021 Citroen C4 front three-quarter driving
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

► Citroen C4 reborn as a hatch-SUV mash-up
► Electric, diesel or this petrol engine 
► Prices from £21k, in showrooms now

The new C4 is a sign of confident Citroen slotting positively into top gear. All the attributes of new Citroen – polarising design, blissful comfort, SUV machismo, electrified drivetrains – are present, and turned up to onze.

Its design melds an SUV’s ride height and plastic body protection with a coupe’s raked roofline and teardrop glasshouse, plus a five-door hatchback’s practicality - perhaps the most crossover of crossovers. There aren’t that many midsize SUV coupes from mainstream car makers (yet), so its closest rivals are the Kia Xceed and Toyota C-HR.

Red 2021 Citroen C4 rear three-quarter driving

The C4 is powered by a 1.2-litre petrol engine with three power outputs (99, 129 and 153bhp), two flavours of 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel (108 and 129bhp), and a pure electric e-C4 with a lab-rated 217 miles of range which we’ve reviewed separately. Here we’re driving the 130 Puretech petrol with 129bhp and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

What are your first impressions?

It’s comfier than your favourite armchair, and quieter than a weekend when the kids are at grandma’s. The ride is terrific at higher speeds in particular, ebbing and flowing with the contours of the road, pitching slightly under braking and riding sharp bumps and crests smoothly. It's all rather remarkable on what is a mainstream car.

Thank the standard ‘progressive cushions’ – hydraulic stops at the end of the damper stroke, which absorb and release kinetic energy to prevent bouncing. Despite the soft suspension set-up, the C4’s no wobbly jelly though, with body movements controlled and quick to settle. 

Red 2021 Citroen C4 side elevation

On the motorway, the Puretech 130 is nice and calm, with a murmur of engine and a trickle of wind. Citroën’s acoustic efforts to drive out noise have worked. 

By the way, driving the petrol and electric C4 back-to-back, the combustion engine car has the edge on comfort, making the heavier EV feeling a bit more lumpen. But it’s all relative: the e-C4 is still a refined thing. The standard wheel size for both is 18-inches. 

What does all this comfort bias mean for dynamics?

There’s sufficient front-end grip and the steering is accurate, but at urban speeds, it feels a bit light and slow off-the-dead. It doesn’t have the super-eager response of its Peugeot 2008 cousin, which sounds like smart portfolio management. As with the ride, the steering feels better at speed, getting more reassuring weight. Still, that slow-speed lightness makes multistorey car park navigation a doddle.

Acceleration is adequate, with 0-62mph in 9.4secs: in normal mode, the throttle has a pronounced step to avoid accidental kickdown, and the eight-speed automatic transmission races through up the gears in a bid to save fuel. Don’t be surprised to find yourself in seventh at 40mph. Official consumption for this drivetrain is 44–50mpg.

There's a six-speed manual alternative that's half a second quicker to 62mph from standstill, but the shift action's akin to wiggling a plunger on a recalictrant sink - stick with the auto for serenity.

Red 2021 Citroen C4 rear light detail

All this may sound like we’re damning the C4 with faint dynamic praise: not so, it’s utterly in keeping with the car’s laid-back vibe. And if you want, you can press the Sport button for perkier throttle response and an engine map holding higher revs and longer shift points. Few will.

What’s it like up front?

The Hype Black interior on top spec Shine Plus cars feels more sober German premium car than charismatic Citroën – sadly, the blue and red interior ambiences won't be offered in the UK, so the alternative is...grey. Hype Black includes leather upholstery sewn in unusual patterns reminiscent of elbow patches, with grey cloth inserts featuring chevron prints in the seats and doors.

Red 2021 Citroen C4 dashboard

This chevron texture also features on the soft-top dashboard, the icing atop some hard-working plastic surrounding the air-con controls and glovebox. Citroën has rowed back from insisting people use the touchscreen to control cockpit temperature and air flow, but it’s also pared back the graphical beauty of the C5 Aircross’s driver digital instrument panel. Flipping readouts by jabbing the left indicator stalk is less precise than the old rotational thumbswitch too.

Red 2021 Citroen C4 automatic gear switch 

Drive, neutral and reverse are now selected by a toggle switch in the centre console, though with separate buttons for manual mode and park. There’s a novel slide-out tablet mount and drawer in which to keep it, but surely this would be better unpacking from the arm rest for use by kids in the back.

Anything else to report?

The hatch’s split rear glass makes for a slitty view out the back; Citroën might have been wise to offer the Land Rover and Cadillac system which relays a camera’s unobstructed view onto the mirror, particularly given that it's also sans wiper. Thankfully rear parking sensors are standard.

For a pretty compact car, the C4 has useful rear space: a six-footer has an inch of kneeroom, and double that in headroom, though the tallest will fall foul of that sloping roofline. Boot space is 380 litres – about the norm for a family hatchback – or 1250 with the rear seats folded.    

2021 Citroen C4 rear seats

Standard kit includes the small driver’s digital instrument panel and 10-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, grey cloth and black leather comfort seats, cruise control and a safety pack including automated braking, lane keeping assist and speed limit information. The entry-level Puretech 100 engine with this Sense equipment level starts at £20,990, roughly £8k cheaper than the base e-C4 (after plug-in car grant).

Red 2021 Citroen C4 multimedia screen close-up

Sense Plus – for £2k more ­(models from £22,990) – upgrades to the Puretech 130 manual engine (also with six-speed manual) and adds connected navigation, the tablet mounting system, head-up display and rear parking camera. 

Verdict

The previous generation C4 was a feeble hatchback, so anonymous that you probably forgot it existed, let alone bought one. The new car is the polar opposite: one glimpse and it’ll be like that horror movie you saw as a teenager, impossible to shake from the memory. To these eyes, it’s a Citroën but not as we know it – one remixed by the Honda Civic’s wild design team. 

The end result is a distinctive proposition. The new C4 is as supple as a Pilates teacher, refreshingly putting comfort above all else. It’s nicely equipped and competitively priced. With that combination of eye-catching looks, zeitgeisty bodystyle, supreme comfort and the choice of electric, petrol or diesel engines, this might – at last – be the Citroën to make a proper splash in the midsize hatchback market.

Red 2021 Citroen C4 rear three-quarter

Specs

Price when new: £24,390
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1199cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 129bhp @ 5500rpm, 230lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Performance: 9.4 0-62mph, 130mph, 44.7-50.3mpg, 130-143g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1278kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4355/1800/1525

Rivals

Photo Gallery

  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 rear three-quarter driving
  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 side elevation
  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 front three-quarter
  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 rear three-quarter
  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 rear lights detail
  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 headlamp detail
  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 boot
  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 automatic gear switch
  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 multimedia screen
  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 passenger-side tablet holder
  • Red 2021 Citroen C4 dashboard
  • Citroën C4 crossover front 3/4 driving shot
  • Citroën C4 crossover front tracking shot
  • Citroën C4 crossover dashboard close up
  • Citroën C4 crossover dead-on rear
  • Citroën C4 crossover boot seats folded
  • Citroën C4 crossover gear selector
  • Citroën C4 crossover dynamic rear 3/4 view
  • Citroën C4 crossover profile shot dynamic
  • Citroën C4 crossover rear tracking shot
  • Citroën C4 crossover dashboard with passenger tablet mount
  • Citroën C4 crossover front static
  • Citroën C4 crossover driver's TfT digital instrument panel
  • Citroën C4 crossover rear 3/4 static view
  • Citroën C4 crossover front 3/4 dynamic urban shot
  • Citroën C4 crossover rear seat bench view

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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