Citroen has injected some excitement into its C4 four-door hatch with a makeover that includes snazzy looks and some really spectacular safety and high tech features on all five new models in the range.
Citroen has injected some excitement into its C4 four-door hatch with a makeover that includes snazzy looks.
The reborn C4 certainly is strides ahead of Xsara as well as the six other C4 models that followed since the demise of the Xsara in 2004.
Although never a top seller in its highly competitive market segment the new C4 now has the potential of lifting its status from also-ran to quite a viable option, particularly with small families and professionals looking for something with a bit more pizzazz than the Renault Megane, Ford Focus, VW Golf, Opel Astra and others in this class.
The new C4 certainly has charisma and some nice eye candy, but it what makes it stand out is its long list of smart goodies, driving aids and safety features.
But buyer beware - the list of safety and high-tech goodies is long and they vary across the five-model range, just like the price which kicks off at R203 900 and then climbs to R265 900 for the flagship model.
There is also a multitude of optional extras to choose from, mostly quite pricey, as is the trend these days, but no doubt there will be those who would want the seats that give back massages, or the fancier, bigger alloys, parking sensors or blind-spot monitoring system to dolly up their chariots.
She runs very quietly, which is great.
Geeks and high-tech gadget freaks will love the range of standard kit in all the models, including ABS, EBA, ESP, plus traction control; six airbags; two isofix child seat anchorage points; electric parking brake, halogen lights; a sound system with stereo radio/ MP3 compatible CD player and surround sound; Blue Tooth with USB socket; multi-function trip computer - and no less than sixteen buttons and controls for audio, telephone, cruise control adjustments on the steering wheel!
"Where's Radio Pulpit?'
The dials, gauges and switches on the console are a bit Boeing-ish and will require serious homework with the car's manual, starting with something as basic as how to locate a particular radio station, as we found out on the media launch drive along the back roads around the Cradle of Mankind.
To add to the fun or frustration, depending on how you look at it, the driver can choose between four intensity levels for the air conditioning and even vary the colour of the instrument cluster from white to blue.
The French are renowned for their flair - but, alas, also for being slightly illogical when it comes to cars in general, and knobs, switches and dials in particular. The C4 is a good example, with dials which combine analogue and digital information, just for starters...
You can live in the living quarters
However, some things about the new C4 are nice and simple, such as the comfortable seats and the ample space which make the living quarters very pleasant to be in.
Also impressive is the car's quiet ride. The cabin is really well insulated with very little road, engine or wind noises to disturb the tranquillity.
The car sits comfortably and reasonably confidently on the road, but unfortunately the route we drove at the media introduction gave little scope to see how it handles the twisties.
You can choose from a multitude of optional extras - but each with a price, so take care.
The VTi 120 Seduction (one up from the entry-level model) was the only model we got to drive and it felt good on the road, once one got used to the viable power assisted steering set-up, the rather off-beat "two-stage" accelerator and the brakes which tend to "bite" in stop-start traffic.
But then we come to the C4's one major "Oh, dear" - the really sleepy chunk of 1.6 litre metal which dozes under the bonnet. Yes, one has to accept the cars we drove were all brand new and yes, it was up on the Reef which saps 17% of most engines' power, but this really should not be an excuse; after all, most cars sold in this country spend their lives at high altitude.
She holds her own
I am sure that some will argue that the C4 is light on petrol and spits out low levels of foul emissions (Citroen claims between 143g/km and 159g/km) - but so do many 1.4 litre cars and they are far more alive than the C4's 1.6 engine.
Strangely enough, on paper the Citroen compares quite favourably with others in this range. Citroen claims a 0-100km/h time of 12.5 seconds and a top speed of 188km/h for the R218 900 model we drove.
The “Oh, dear” feature... the really sleepy chunk of 1.6 litre metal that you'll find kipping under the bonnet.
In Jozi's congested traffic the 1.6's lack of enthusiasm will mean that driver will be constantly changing gears to keep up with the flow and this will certainly not help fuel consumption.
The new range offers two engines, both 1.6 litres, but with the choice of a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic transmission.
The models we did not get to drive are turbocharged and kick out considerably more power in the shape of 115kW and 240Nm.....but then eye-brows might lift at these punchier models because the bigger engine is mated to a six-speed clutchless manual gearbox.
If experience is anything to go by, these clutchless manuals are not much fun to drive, particularly as they tend to see-saw between changes.
Try a bit of Seduction, perhaps
If you are considering the C4 as an option I would seriously suggest you drive both the Seduction and the Exclusive versions before you sign on the dotted line because I suspect they would be as different as koeksusters and croissants.
To me the Citroen gets the nod of approval in terms of styling, cabin space and wide range of standard and optional equipment, but a thumbs-down for the snoozing engine.
However, hopefully we will get to test the more spirited model in the not too distant future over a more demanding stretch of road to compare the two engines.
'Aah, ze coleurs... zey are... many'
The entire new C4 range is built in France and will be available in a choice of 10 body colours.
Included in the price of all the models in the range are a three-year/100 000km warranty and a five- year 100 000km service plan which, as an optional extra, can be stretched to a five-year/100 000km warranty (R9660). You can also opt for this "stretch", plus a full maintenance plan for five- years/100 000km for R19 560.
Bizcommunity.com motoring editor Henrie Geyser () has worked as a journalist in Cape Town, London and Windhoek for the Argus Company (now Independent Newspapers) and spent 12 years at The Cape Argus in Cape Town. He then owned and ran a public relations consultancy for 13 years. He joined the online publishing industry through iafrica.com, where he worked for five years as news editor and editor. He now freelances for a variety of print and online publications, on the subjects of cars, food and travel, among others; and is a member of the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This Message Board accepts no liability of legal consequences that arise from the Message Boards (e.g. defamation, slander, or other such crimes). All posted messages are the sole property of their respective authors. The maintainer does retain the right to remove any message posts for whatever reasons. People that post messages to this forum are not to libel/slander nor in any other way depict a company, entity, individual(s), or service in a false light; should they do so, the legal consequences are theirs alone. Bizcommunity.com will disclose authors' IP addresses to authorities if compelled to do so by a court of law.