Citroen C4 long-term test: the six-month verdict

Published: 13 January 2022

► Citroen's C4 on the CAR fleet
► The alternative family hatch
► Online editor Curtis chills out

I wanted something that was comfortable and practical, but less intense than my Focus ST – and one more suited to motorway driving than the aggressive, firm Ford. In that sense, the Citroën C4 was the perfect car, and at the perfect time, too.

Lately I've been driving more than I used to before the first Covid lockdown. Domestic events have replaced international ones, and it's meant zig-zagging across the UK – rather than to the airport – has become my norm. Whether it's the Peak District, the Cotswolds or Goodwood, UK events have meant serious miles – and usually catching rush-hour traffic on the way back.

The C4, then, with its auto 'box, adaptive cruise control and soft, cosseting ride, has taken the sting and fatigue out of the longer journeys. After trying an electric Vauxhall Mokka for a week, I'm also particularly thankful for my petrol C4's 450-mile tank, which has taken any range anxiety or recharging stress out of the equation, too.

The C4 particularly came into its own in the run-up to my full motorbike test. Every day of intensive training required a 5.30am start and two-hour car journey, followed by eight hours of coaching and the journey back. The C4 kept me mentally fresh on the way in, and after eight hours of shouty instruction, poor weather and wobbly U-turns, the C4 became a place to decompress and unwind on the journey home.

Inside, the C4 is basic, but hides most of its cost-saving with fresh design. The air vents are shaped with purpose, and the Citroën's infotainment system also rises out of the dash in a pleasing way. It won't worry more premium crossovers, but it's a reminder interesting design doesn't need to be restricted to cars over £40,000.

Comparison with the Vauxhall also emphasises the good quality of the materials used by Citroën. Although there's much about the Mokka's interior that looks impressive, that impression suffers when you touch it.

I can't vouch for Citroën's horrid-looking navigation software, as I almost entirely used Android Auto. But both Google's system and Apple CarPlay are available in the C4, albeit with a wired connection.

The Citroën is equally unique outside, too. It's constantly attracted looks from curious passers-by, probably unable to identify its rear end – part old Honda Civic, part Audi Q4 e-Tron Sportback. Its relatively aggressive headlight signature must also puzzle onlookers.

Tall, but not high and with a hatch-style roofline, the C4 looks unlike anything else on the road. Its silhouette has certainly grown on me – and the fact it can take a 65-inch TV in the boot is a bonus.

But there have been downsides. While great on motorways, the C4's adaptive cruise is jerky in closer traffic, choosing to come to an abrupt halt rather than a smooth stop. It's made me switch it off several times, and even prompted passengers to ask if I'd pulled the handbrake. What's more, the auto start/stop has also made passengers ask if I've stalled. Quick to shut down at the worst time, but slow to restart, it's the most annoying thing about the C4.

After nearly 6000 miles together, I'm sad to see the Citroën go. Practical, comfortable, and most importantly easy, the C4 has been a useful companion. Able to swallow up luggage, smooth out bumps and eat up miles, it's an ideal family car at a reasonable price. And thanks to its avant-garde design, it doesn't remind you about its good value, either.

By Curtis Moldrich

Logbook: Citroen C4 PureTech 130 Shine Plus

Price £26,605 (£27,355 as tested)
Performance 1199cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 129bhp, 9.4sec 0-62mph, 130mph
Efficiency 44.7-50.3mpg (official), 41.2mpg (tested), 131g/km CO2
Energy cost 15.8p per mile
Miles this month 2676
Total miles 7820


Month 5 living with a Citroen C4: at the races

c4 ltt screen

I'm told Doncaster's St Leger Festival is one of the most vibrant events on the UK horse-racing calendar, so when the opportunity to go for the first time presents itself, I immediately get to planning. My transport choices are rich and varied: a Honda E, a Caterham 170S, or my Citroën C4.

At 212 miles each way, the distance between London and Doncaster eliminates the E: a range of 125 miles means I'd be charging at least four times on the M1-heavy trip. Even with suitable chargers, that'd still make for around four hours of extra journey time.

What of the Caterham 170S, with me for a road test in CAR? While incredibly engaging, it is clearly unsuitable, with its busy, noisy ride and cramped cabin.

Leaving the C4. It's a car built for easy miles, and here is a perfect chance to let it shine.

The huge tank and decent efficiency mean that, unlike the Honda, the Citroën requires just one fill-up (and only needs that because the tank isn't full at the start of the day). The C4 isn't the most advanced car, but it has all the tech you'd want for journeys like this. Its semi-autonomous guiding functions make for less fatiguing motorway driving, with both adaptive cruise and lane-keeping supporting my own inputs.

Android Auto also makes a difference. In addition to keeping us on the quickest, smartest route, its robust user interface, with voice control, means it's easy to switch between podcasts, music and navigation instructions.

The only negative? Upon leaving the event, heavy traffic puts me at the mercy of the Citroën's auto start/stop function. I'd decided to give it another go, but after just a few minutes it effectively stalls the car just as I want to pull out, so that will now stay deactivated.

By Curtis Moldrich

Logbook: Citroen C4 PureTech 130 Shine Plus

Price £26,605 (£27,355 as tested)
Performance 1199cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 129bhp, 9.4sec 0-62mph, 130mph
Efficiency 44.7-50.3mpg (official), 42.3mpg (tested), 131g/km CO2
Energy cost 14.6p per mile
Miles this month 794
Total miles 5144


Month 4 living with a Citroen C4: big bang theory test

c4 ltt damage

If you're going to get rear-ended, it's probably better to be in a car than on a bike. That's what I tried to tell myself as I paced around, inspecting the damage to my Citroën. Moments before I'd been in stationary traffic on the way to a motorbike riding lesson, when I'd been jolted forward. The cause was an old Polo with a very young – and very sorry – driver, but thankfully the only casualties were his insurance premiums and my Dr Pepper, now a thin film all over the dash.

Both cars escaped relatively unharmed; the VW had some new cracks and a dislodged front bumper, and my C4 had a broken bumper and smashed foglight enclosure. The bill? Around £1000.

Overall, it was more annoying than genuinely alarming, and certainly put a dampener on the lesson that followed. It's hard to nail figure-of-eights and U-turns when your parked car looks like a battle-hardened BTCC racer.

In a gap between wobbly, low speed manoeuvres on a Honda CB650F, my instructor tapped me on the shoulder: 'You know, if you had to have some idiot crash into you, it's better for it to happen while you're in a car, right?'

By Curtis Moldrich

Logbook: Citroen C4 PureTech 130 Shine Plus

Price £26,605 (£27,355 as tested)
Performance 1199cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 129bhp, 9.4sec 0-62mph, 130mph
Efficiency 44.7-50.3mpg (official), 43.4mpg (tested), 131g/km CO2
Energy cost 15.1p per mile
Miles this month 762
Total miles 4350


Month 3 living with a Citroen C4: health and safety gone mad, part 98

c4 ltt startstop

Start. Stop. Has to be one of the most annoying 'features' of the C4, so much so that I'll simple switch it off at the start of most journeys, which takes a button press and then a swipe. Of course I've no problem with the thinking behind it, as it can reduce emissions and improve economy, but the execution just doesn't work.

It shuts down at the most inappropriate moments, such as T-junctions or roundabouts, making me second-guess the car. It takes ages to re-engage, so when it's ready to move, the moment has passed.

I've developed an alternative strategy, aside from simply turning the system off. This plan B involves treating the brake a bit like a clutch. It's possible to brake just enough to stop the car, but not enough to engage the trigger-happy stop/start. Far from ideal, but it works.

Some oddities you get used to, but three months in I still find it as annoying as on I did on day one. And responses to a tweet on the subject suggest drivers of some other PSA cars have similar gripes.

By Curtis Moldrich

Logbook: Citroen C4 PureTech 130 Shine Plus

Price £26,605 (£27,355 as tested)
Performance 1199cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 129bhp, 9.4sec 0-62mph, 130mph
Efficiency 44.7-50.3mpg (official), 41.9mpg (tested), 131g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.0p per mile
Miles this month 813
Total miles 3588


Month 2 living with a Citroen C4: twice-daily reassurance

c4 ltt bike

The intensive course I'm enrolled on as I learn to ride a motorcycle requires 4am and 5am starts and about two hours of motorway driving – and the Citroën is the ideal car to do it in.

In the early hours, the Citroën's adaptive cruise control with lane keeping takes the monotony out of the drive to Milton Keynes. It's reliable, easy to set up and rarely tries to hand over control when road conditions change. Inside, the C4's heated seats and Android Auto compatibility mean it's simple to get comfortable with a podcast on.

And on the return leg the C4's soft, warm interior and ride is an antidote to hours of learning to ride in MK's wind and rain.

By Curtis Moldrich

Logbook: Citroen C4 PureTech 130 Shine Plus

Price £26,605 (£27,355 as tested)
Performance 1199cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 129bhp, 9.4sec 0-62mph, 130mph
Efficiency 44.7-50.3mpg (official), 38.6mpg (tested), 131g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.9p per mile
Miles this month 685
Total miles 2775


Month 1 living with a Citroen C4: hello and welcome

c4 ltt side pan

After 11 months with the Ford Focus ST, it was time for something different. And 'different' is exactly what the Citroën C4 is good at. It may look like a jellybean with the back end of an old Honda Civic grafted on, but the Citroën is one of the most disruptive cars on the road today. Jacked up and reborn as a crossover for its third generation, the new C4 is a key part of Citroën's plan to make comfort cool.

'This is the Citroen I love,' Vincent Cobée, Citroën chief executive told CAR editor-in-chief Phil McNamara earlier this year. 'It takes a traditional segment, family hatch, and says, "I don't like the posture: those cars are too low, difficult to sit in and get out, don't have good vision, nor great style and comfort – why stay low?" So we move up. And let's have a design which stands out.'

Job done, in my opinion. In a world full of diluted performance badges, harsh ride and gaping grilles, the C4 is like an inoffensive pair of slippers for the road. It's getting looks too – admittedly not the same looks the Focus ST got – but there's a lot to be said for its Dakar-esque profile and fresh design. And in the short time I've had it, I can already say the ride is equally unique.

The Citroën floats on roads I've hammered through countless times, ignoring bumps the Focus ST, Honda Civic Type R and other crossovers have trained me to brace for. It's a different type of driving experience – less rushed, more relaxing – and one that other car makers seem to have left for Citroën to dominate.

In our June 2021 issue, Cobée told CAR, 'We are the kings of comfort', but it's fair to say there haven't been many other claims to the throne – at least not under £30,000.

The C4's supreme ride stems from a tuned suspension and comfort seats, but the interior has more evidence of Citroën's focus on stress-free design: underneath a basic HUD, cockpit dials only display your speed and tank for minimum info fatigue. The steering is also quick, sensibly geared towards reversing into parking bays rather than attacking corners. Throw in a potentially lazy eight-speed auto 'box and huge 480-ish mile range, and my C4 is made for covering miles with minimum stress.

Over the next few months I'll be scratching the friendly surface of the new petrol C4, while also comparing it to its electric ë-C4 sibling. Welcome aboard!

By Curtis Moldrich

Logbook: Citroen C4 PureTech 130 Shine Plus

Price £26,605 (£27,355 as tested)
Performance 1199cc turbocharged three-cylinder, 129bhp, 9.4sec 0-62mph, 130mph
Efficiency 44.7-50.3mpg (official), 38.9mpg (tested), 131g/km CO2
Energy cost 16.8p per mile
Miles this month 45
Total miles 2090

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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