CITROEN C4  - Page - 1
Back in the early 2000s, Citroen was nothing more than a relic of what a great and forward-thinking company it used to be until about three decades ago. They had went from coming up with groundbreaking cars like the DS, CX or even the XM, to boring-looking econoboxes which looked like they were designed by half-blind people with Parkinson's disease - no offense to anyone. Comparing (in terms of design) a Citroen from the mid-nineties with one from the '60s and '70s is like comparing the F117 Stealth bomber with the Wright Brother's first flying creation.

After the second millennium started, something happened at Citroen. Most likely, the main force behind Citroen's image recovery consisted of two men. One was Donato Coco, who was Citroen's head of design for small cars from 1999 to 2005, when he jumped boats to Ferrari. The other guy was (and still somewhat is) Citroen's chief of design for all cars, Jean-Pierre Ploué. The first car from a new wave of "retro-modern" Citroens appeared in 2002 in the form of the Dyane-reminiscent Citroen C3.

Two years later, following a somewhat similar line of design, the C4 range was launched. Consisting of a five-door hatchback and a three-door Coupe, the C4 was the model that really brought Citroen back in business. The quirky-design business, that is. Although the five-door version kept some of the "normal-looking hatchback" proportions, the three-door Coupe was launched with a highly talked-about Kamm tail, making it look almost like the bastard child born out of a Citroen SM and a Toyota Prius unholy union.

Along with the C6 dreadnaught, the C4 Coupe is currently the most Citroenish-looking model in the Citroen line-up, so we decided to take its facelift version for a spin. Equipped with a 1.6-liter turbocharged unit jointly-developed by PSA and BMW, our test car was specced with almost every option available for the whole C4 range. Are the 150 horsepower developed by its engine enough to complement the car's hot-hatch looks? They should, especially since our test car was also painted in the red "Loeb" color. Read on to find out if that's true or not.

Jean-Pierre Ploué and Donato Coco pretty much know their stuff. Both were on Citroen's design payroll when the C4 Coupe was launched back in 2004. While Jean-Pierre Ploué was the head of design for the whole Citroen brand – and now for the whole of the PSA Group - it was Donato Coco who penned the compact hatchback's retro-futuristic lines. Most of the exterior design harks back to the Citroens of the golden era but with a modern touch of French je ne sais quoi.

The front is identical to the one from the five-door version of the C4 and quasi-identical to the original non-facelifted version from 2004. The L-shaped headlights are a bit reminiscent of an Australian hunting boomerang, and the daylight driving lights make them look a bit menacing at sunset. Not that that would be a bad thing, especially since the rest of the car's design kind of correlates with "menace".

The side view is where the retro lines really take over. Sure, the much-too-long front overhang isn't exactly the sexiest thing ever, especially on a compact hatchback, but the rest is quite reminiscent of other Kammback Citroens from the past. Starting with the base of the front windshield to the rear there's a non-disrupted line somewhat similar to that of the Toyota Prius or the second-generation Honda Insight. Taking into account the C4 Coupe is quite a bit lower than the two aforementioned, this design cue works by giving the car a much sportier look.

Arriving at the rear is where things get really freaky. The basic conclusion is that the rear design is definitely full of "love it or hate it" lines. The roof drops much lower than your average hatchback, while the rear windshield is divided in two separate sections. The top one follows the line of the sloping roof, while the second section is at an almost 90 degree angle, giving the impression that the rear part of the body has been chopped off.

Normally, we're not fans of dashboard instruments disposed right on top of the center console instead of their usual spot behind the steering wheel. Well, especially since Citroen was one of the first car makers in the modern era to bring back this awful feature, we don't like it on the C4 Coupe either. Other than that, our test car's interior was nice and quite futuristic actually, especially considering the class it's being part of.

Apart from being equipped with the top of the line VTS trim level, our red little Citroen C4 Coupe also had a tonne of extra options, making it almost full of comfortable or maybe just interesting features. The humongous panoramic glass roof is just one of the more impressive ones, while the white(ish) leather wrapping the seats was also a nice touch. Obviously, the most interesting feature in any Citroen C4 interior is the steering wheel, whose center hub is always fixed, no matter how you turn the wheel.

Despite looking a bit cramped from the outside, the interior is quite spacious for a three-door car the size of a Volkswagen Golf. The rear seats are a bit of a pain to be reached but once you're on them, the available space might surprise you. OK, the headroom is probably better suited for shorter passengers, but other than that it's fine. Getting in the front and driving always is almost at least as tricky as getting in the back.

First there are the ginormous and heavy doors which need a bit of attention when parking in tight spaces, and then there's the seatbelt, which is positioned way behind the driver's and the front passenger's seat, giving you quite the workout to grab it each time you're getting in. A word of advice would be to leave it hanging on your seat's side bolster when exiting the car. If you can remember it every time, that is.

Other than those minor complications, our test car's interior was quite a nice place to sit in. The leather upholstery, panoramic glass roof and the sloping roofline create a very gran tourismo-like atmosphere inside. There were enough storage spaces both in the front and in the rear, while the 314 liters (11.1 cubic feet) of storage in the luggage compartment is average.

Living with the C4 Coupe 1.6i VTR in the city is quite a "Parissiene" experience. Sure, you won't exactly turn into someone who has trouble pronouncing "R's" correctly and sips caffe lattes with his pinky finger high in the air. You will, however, experience the French way of making cars.

Of course, nobody's going to use the panoramic glass sunroof to look around for other cars or parking spaces, but it somehow helps when driving through the city. With the sunroof included, the window surface all around the car is not that far from that of a hearse, or the Popemobile - no pun intended. The visibility is better than average, especially considering this is a three-door.

The real pain comes when trying to look through the rear windshield(s). As we mentioned before, the rear hatch is divided into two pieces which are situated at an almost 90 degree angle between them. Well, the line which divides the two pieces runs just about straight through your line of sight when looking through the rear windshield, a fact which obviously doesn't help rear visibility.

The exterior mirrors aren't exactly shaped for perfect visibility either, but their size somewhat compensates that, making them reasonably useable. Apart from the aforementioned, our test car was also equipped with front and rear parking sensors which we noticed had a bit of a delay. Not much, just enough to temper your right foot when parking.

As for the fuel consumption, considering this is a 152 horsepower compact which runs on gasoline after all, we were quite surprised. Designed in cooperation between the PSA Group and BMW, the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder managed to use only between 10 and 11 liters per 100 kilometers (US 21.4-23.5 mpg) in a crowded city during most of our five-day test drive.

The official fuel consumption given by Citroen officials is 9.8 liters per 100 kilometers (US 24 mpg) so we consider our figures to be quite an achievement considering this is a gasoline engine. Of course, if you're the "heavy right foot" type when starting from the traffic light those figures will become 12-13 liters per 100 kilometers (US 18.1-19.6 mpg).

Although just by looking at it you might be inclined to think the Citroen C4 Coupe has a pretty stiff and responsive suspension, you'd be half-wrong. At low to medium speeds, the car feels and acts like a large sail boat. Every swift change of direction and/or hard braking makes the car roll from side to side or dive forward like it has no shock absorbers. While this doesn't sound to be very safe, the comfort of the suspension is top notch.

At higher speeds, normally achieved on the open road, something magical happens. Though it doesn't have an electronically-controlled suspension like its bigger brothers, the C5 and the C6, the C4 Coupe somehow feels much more stable from this point of view. It still handles a bit more "mellow" than the Volkswagen Golf, for example, but it does give a nice feeling of the road and the body doesn't pitch or roll very much.

The quirky steering wheel, which is currently only found on Citroens, is connected to a pretty sensitive steering system. It's pretty far from what we were expecting, we should add, especially when you think about the Citroens of the past with those fancy but sensation-less DIRAVI power steering systems. There's a very odd sensation the very first time you drive a car with a steering wheel like this, since the button-cluttered center hub is always motionless no matter how you turn the wheel.

The six-speed manual gearbox is almost perfect for a small and feisty engine like this, since the way the gear rations are spread get every bit of power from the rather small turbocharged mill under the hood. With an acceleration from naught to 100 km/h (62 mph) of 8.4 seconds and a 212 km/h (132 mph) top speed, the C4 Coupe 1.6i Turbo doesn't only manifest like a grocery getter good for only going around town.

The performance levels are right between your regular European hot-hatch and a family compact hatchback. In other words, it's not stupid fast, but it's no slouch either. During our test drive we also took it on some twisties in the mountains and the car really it really held its own. Some help achieving that might have also come from the 17-inch Michelin sports tires it had on, which aren't exactly made for an econobox but for more sporty models.

The fuel consumption outside the city was between 6 and 7 something liters per 100 kilometers (US 33-39 mpg), very much depending on the weight of your right foot and the amount of traffic your encounter.
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autoevolution Aug 2009
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Open road
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