At last, Citroen can offer a credible but properly distinctive family hatch. Jonathan Crouch takes drive in the third generation C4.
Ten Second Review
This third generation C4 is a far more creditable offering for Citroen in the family hatchback sector. And, the French brand hopes, can play its part in rejuvenating this segment by integrating SUV style and the option of full electric power into traditional family hatch design. Plus there's a clever suspension system to make this contender feel really Citroen-esque. And in recent times, the car's gained much improved cabin media tech.
The third generation Citroen C4, claims its brand, 'is Citroen to the core', this model's task being to return the brand to credibility in the Focus and Golf-dominated family hatch sector. The MK2 C4, launched in 2010, wasn't particularly Citroen and wasn't particular successful either, selling mainly on low price - and towards the end of its life not even on that. In 2017, Citroen tried to replace it with an evolved family hatch-orientated version of its C4 Cactus crossover, but that didn't work either.
This third generation C4, launched in mid-2020, plugs plays the crossover card too in terms of some aspects of its visual appeal, but unlike with the previous C4 Cactus, in choosing one, you won't feel you're being forced into an SUV rather against your will. Instead, this C4 plays to the things people tend to like about Citroen - innovative design, a distinctive feel and exemplary ride quality. Plus there's an all-electric e-C4 version too. And a separate C4 X saloon body style.
Citroen hopes that the way this car drives is what will sell it to you - or more specifically, the way this car rides. Like the old C4 Cactus, it features a clever Progressive Hydraulic suspension set-up. Here, the car's springs and shock absorbers work in concert with hydraulic compression and rebound stops, which are supposed to slow body movement over bumps and tarmac tears. You'll want to know about the engines. There's the brand's usual PureTech 1.2-litre 3 cylinder petrol unit, available in two states of tune with 100 or 130hp options. All variants will be front driven, with more powerful models available with an 8-speed auto gearbox. Citroen also offers the 130hp version of its usual 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel, available only with an 8-speed automatic.
The e-C4 electric model comes in two forms. The first version has the older Stellantis Group EV powertrain system - a 50kWh battery and a 136hp electric motor, with a driving range of 219 miles. With this, 62mph from rest takes 9.5s on the way to a modest 93mph top speed. You'd prefer though, if possible to stretch to the newer package, which pairs a slightly larger 54kWh battery with a faster 156hp motor to offer a driving range WLTP-rated at up to 260 miles. Like all EVs, the e-C4 can recover energy when decelerating or braking. And there are three drive modes - 'Eco', 'Normal' and 'Sport' - that can vary the level of engine power and the energy draw from the air conditioning to boost driving range. The e-C4 has a 'Brake' feature to amplify the deceleration of the car without pressing the brake pedal. This set-up allows for the recovery of energy when slowing the car and allows the driver to partially recharge the battery and increase driving range.
Design and Build
The C4 comes both in hatch and C4 X saloon forms. Either way, what this MK3 C4 does beyond any doubt is to confirm that the delineating line between family hatch and compact SUV design is being ever more blurred. Which many folk in search of a compact hatch will think to be no bad thing. Citroen says the crossover cues aren't for crossover purposes. The higher-than-Focus-class-average 156mm ride height is there to offer a high vantage point and better all-round visibility. The matte black-finished wheel arches aren't for arduous tracks but to prevent supermarket car park dings. And there's plenty of signature Citroen design, with stylishly-shaped signature lights and chromed Chevrons that stretch across the car's width. Plus there's and an air intake grille featuring a pattern first seen on the brand's recent 19_19 concept car.
The major change with the lightly updated version of this model is the installation of a much more up-to-date 10-inch HD centre infotainment touchscreen. This is a more responsive, intuitive, and ergonomic interface than the 10-inch display previously used and features customisable widgets as standard. The system also supports HD-quality images from the reversing camera and simultaneous connection for two Bluetooth devices. As before, through the oddly-shaped three-spoke wheel, you view a pared-back version of the quite innovative digital instrument panel used in the brand's C5 Aircross SUV, whose read-outs you flip through here by jabbing the left indicator stalk.
For the rear seat, the brand claims best-in-class knee room and offers a wide range of storage compartments. Plus there's a decently-sized 380-litre boot, whatever powertrain you prefer. Plus there's a decently-sized 380-litre boot in the hatch version; the C4 X saloon's boot is a big 510-litres in size.
Market and Model
Right, let's get to prices, which are the same whether you choose hatch or C4 X saloon and start from around £22,000, ranging towards £30,000 for the combustion models. The full-electric e-C4 and e-C4 X models start from around £32,000. In the combustion C4 range, that £22,000 starting figure is for a PureTech 100 petrol manual model with base 'Sense' trim. If you want the PureTech 130 petrol unit or the 1.5 BlueHDi diesel, you'll need to go further up the range - there are plusher 'Sense Plus', 'Shine', 'Shine Plus' and 'E-Series' variants. Budget from just over £25,000 for a PureTech 130 EAT8 automatic; or from just over £29,000 for a BlueHDi 130 EAT8 auto diesel version. For the e-C4, there are 'Sense', 'Shine' and 'E-Series' variants offered for both the saloon and hatch. There's a £32,000-£35,000 price span for the base 50kWh battery version; you'll need slightly more for the faster 54kWh variant with its longer range.
To take on key compact similarly-sized EV rivals in the same price bracket, all versions of this C4 need to be well equipped. They are. Nice touches the include LED ambient lighting on the digital instrument panel. Front passengers benefit from access to Citroën's Smart Pad Support, a retractable tablet holder built directly into the dashboard, which enables the front passenger to make the most of time spent on the move. Below this is a Dashboard Tray, a large sliding drawer with a cushioned action. A popular option will be the large electric opening panoramic sunroof.
A 10-inch central infotainment screen comes with all C4s, as does wireless 'phone charging and 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring connectivity. A superb sound system can be specified too, with Arkamys digital sound processing and 8 speakers. A nice optional touch you might well want to consider is a full-HD camera built into the rear view mirror which can take photos or video stored on a 16GB memory card. Safety-wise, there's no fewer than 20 different driver assistance features, including Highway Driving Assist and a 'level 2' semi-autonomous drive system incorporating Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist.
Cost of Ownership
So, petrol or electric? Of course, to make a proper judgement, you're going to need to peruse the combustion model efficiency figures - which are very class-competitive. The volume PureTech 130 EAT auto C4 variant returns up to 50.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 130g/km of CO2. As for the BlueHDi diesel version, well the single plush 'Shine Plus'-spec BlueHDi 130 EAT8 auto model manages up to 64.5mpg and up to 126g/km.
And electric? Well, the Department of Transport tells us that the average motorist in the UK covers 7,400 miles a year, which is the kind of mileage that would cost an e-C4 owner somewhere between £200 and £300 in added electricity charges, powering up from a typical 7.4kW garage wallbox on off peak rates, the variance depending on driving style and different electricity prices (we've assumed 11p per kWh). The same annual mileage in this PureTech petrol model would work out to somewhere between £750 and £820 - and you'd have to factor in more expensive annual garage servicing too.
The e-C4 charges at up to 100kW and charging times are the same with either the 50kWh or the 54kWh battery. The e-C4 is fitted with a 7.4kW on-board charger, which can rapid charge to 80% in around half an hour using a 100kW public fast charger. At home, the car will charge from empty in around 7.5 hours using a 7kW garage wallbox. That could fall to just 5 hours if you have a 3-phase home electricity supply and have the car fitted with an optional 11kW on-board charger. As usual with an electric car, to take advantage of lower cost off-peak electricity tariffs, you can manage charging times by using the touchscreen tablet in the passenger compartment or by using the provided 'MyCitroen' app. The charging port features a coloured indicator so the user can monitor the charging process - which can also be followed on the 'MyCitroen' app.
Whatever your choice of C4, you'll properly want to keep garage costs in check by opting for the affordable 3 year servicing plan that is available at point of purchase. Finally, there's the usual Citroen three year / 60,000 mile warranty. And the e-C4 has its own battery warranty - 8 years or 100,000 miles for 70% of charge capacity.
All the ingredients for a strong showing are here as this third generation C4 nods to the two currently trending themes of crossover style and electrified power. Yet delivers them within a family hatchback package that traditional buyers in this segment can be comfortable with - quite literally, thanks to the Progressive Hydraulic Suspension set-up.
The French maker thinks this sector is 'right for changes' and this car delivers them without getting carried away with innovation, as its C4 Cactus predecessor rather did. And it's obviously significant that within the range lies the brand's first credible full-electric model. Ultimately though, what really matters is that what we have here is a proper Citroen - with all that means. Thank goodness for that.