2015 Citroen C4 1.6 BlueHDi Roadtest

The Citroen C4 has been on sale for half a decade. The time is right to put one to the test.

2015 Citroen C4 BlueHDi: it has nice interior lamps.
2015 Citroen C4 BlueHDi: it has nice interior lamps.

During the course of this weekend test I really did struggle to think of something to say that did not over-emphasise my feelings about the car. The thing is that the C4 is a collection of details that don’t hang together. The character of the car is not in the measurable dimensions. It doesn’t actually have any character at all.

Looking at the outside of the vehicle there can be found a collection of modish features that are there to conceal quite flat sides and a less than thrilling profile. You would imagine this is to

2015 Citroen C4 faces the sunset in literal and metaphorical terms.
2015 Citroen C4 faces the sunset in literal and metaphorical terms.

disguise a spacious, packaging-biased car with unprepossessing proportions. Yet inside one doesn’t find acreas of space. It’s not cramped but it is no limousine (a Peugeot 306 I saw during the test seemed cavernous inside by comparison).

There are too many feature lines and yet the car isn´t actually any more distinctive for this.
There are too many feature lines and yet the car isn´t actually any more distinctive for this.
2015 Citroen C4 seats front
Flat-bottomed steering wheel and bolstered seats. Does anyone at Citroen know the meaning of the word “product semantics”? This okay for Alfa Romeo. For this potato it’s a promise the car can’t live up to.

When you get inside the car you find an interior that borrows the semantics of a sporting vehicle. The dashboard is home to a cowled binnacle with expressive elements and deep circular tunnels for the displays. The air-vents are far from rectangular and finished with

2015 Citroen C4 dashbooard, UK-market version. I forgot to photograph the test car for some reason. Image: Autocar.co.uk
2015 Citroen C4 dashbooard, UK-market version. I forgot to photograph the test car for some reason. Image: Autocar.co.uk

aluminium, so very exciting. The steering wheel has a flat lower edge, also trimmed with metal. The not-very comfortable seats are well-bolstered with raised edges to keep one in position. All this implies an athleticism the car is entirely lacking when driven. The car has no sporting intentions at all. And it’s not even biased toward comfort either. The suspension fails to smother bumps and cobbles defeat it. Car Buyer disagree with me on the ride comfort and seat comfort

Turning back to the shapes, the car has been formed by people who know how to make each element as professional as they can be. What puzzles is that they don’t know what they are for, what they are supposed to signal. That flat-bottomed steering wheel is all the more absurd when one starts up the car and drives off.

2015 Citroen C4 IP consoleLet’s consider the interfaces, shall we. The mechanical ones are neutral in their effect, neither good nor really bad though maybe we could call the brakes snatchy and the steering heavy and numb (Autocar thinks it’s too light, I note with amazement). The ancillaries such as the HVAC try to be “premium” and don’t succeed. The little rotary controllers for air flow aren’t smooth. Better than the Picasso from last week, yes, and that’s as much praise as I can muster.

Looking more closely one finds a central circular control to select the air outlet: feet, face and window. The buttons are rather small and fiddly even if there is a lot of space around them for making a bigger control. The front passengers are able to select their own air temperature, and two equally fiddly buttons are there for this purpose.

You’ll notice I am not addressing the driving at this point because there is not a lot more to say. Did I mention the car wasn’t too keen on rough roads? I took the C4 down my favourite gravelly section and it hated it. Or rather I hated it. I was afraid I’d break the car in some way such was the crashing and banging from under the vehicle.

2015 Citroen C4 boot with milk
Technology as it should be, 100% useful. And there is a lamp and a curry hook.

So it’s back to the car interior. The centre armrest for the driver is sloped and fixed in position. The further you move the seat forward the lower the resting surface becomes relative to your elbow. Then there is nothing to rest your elbow on because you left the thing behind you as the seat travelled towards the steering wheel.

2015 Citroen C4 with the seats down. Not a good space.
2015 Citroen C4 with the seats down. Not a good space.

I did like the colour of the interior lights and the rear roof-mounted light throws out a good beam. If you want to find a seat-belt or fold down the seats this is handy. That only reminds me that the seats backs don’t fold flat. Seats down, the seat backs remain a bulky intrusion into the load bay and there is nowhere to put the parcel shelf. Is this technology as it should be, 100% useful? Seat “down”, the C4 holds 1180 litres of stuff. Seats up the boot holds 408 litres. It looks bigger.

Unlike the Picasso I tried last week, I got the cruise control to work. The buttons are all the same as on the Picasso. How does it work? If you have cruise on pause you tap the plus or minus button and it resumes, but a few mpg higher than the speed it was set at. So you tap the minus button to bring it back to wherever it was at before you resumed. Often the car cruises at a mile or two per hour over the stated target.

The fuel economy test produced a good result (I drove entirely at or below the legal limit the entire time). The C4 returned 62 mpg which is quite something. Did I mention it was a diesel? The engine was the 1.6 Blue Hdi. Using our standard Channel Tunnel to Cap Ferrat route, the C4 can get 900 miles from a tank and that means you might not have to stop on the way south.

I wouldn’t want to drive all the way there in this car though. The driver’s seat lacks lumbar support, as I said, but the rear is cramped and missing a centre armrest. It’s also dark and depressing. I suppose some of the precious passenger space was allocated to the luggage bay. And that brings me back to the neat features therein: elasticated straps to hold things in place, curry hooks and a good lamp. It seems the luggage gets a better deal than the rear passengers.

The glove box is huge, by the way. I think it could hold three large chickens.

At 1280 kg, the C4 is no featherweight. What does the weight do all day? The doors shut with a clang and the suspension sends all the noise it can through the body work. If you look at the fit and finish of the interior trim you don’t see very much evidence of quality touches to inspire you. The sills, a-pillar and tailgate all feature cheap-to-design shingle joints. These are the type where one part sits over another so the two are not flush. The dashboard end-cap and the a-pillar aren’t that neatly done (there’s a photo below). When you reach for the tail gate there is a sharp edge to contend with. It’s not razor sharp but it is sharp enough to be uncomfortable. The boot itself shuts with the kind of low-rent feel of a dishwasher door, some kind of an interference fit of plastic bits rather than feeling like a metal lock mechanism.

What I want to get across here is that the C4 is a car where there was no unifying vision to tie the car together. I don’t see it as a comfortable vehicle, despite Citroen’s insistence. The ride is long from the best I have tried in recent years (perhaps only the Megane was worse). Engine noise, road noise and wind noise all obtrude. The interior form language promises a sportiness the car doesn’t provide either. Individually, quite competent people worked on this car. They needed someone to unify their efforts. They were absent.

The Focus/Golf/Astra class is choc full of very good cars and the C4 is not one of them. I have said in the past that Kia and Hyundai are offering (much) better cars for a similar price. The C4 is bested by both of the Koreans on all parameters barring interior roof lighting. I can’t think of one solid USP that can win the argument for this car. The fuel efficiency is more of a threat than a promise. Who would want to be in this car for a full tank of diesel?

The colours are boring too.

Finally, I can’t help thinking of Car Magazine’s verdict on the C4 when it first came out. They called at “left field” choice. Given the ordinariness and the blandness of the C4 I can’t understand how it can claim to be left field. Were it special this description might make sense. But it’s not. A replacement can’t come soon enough. This car is a polar cup. It drives and carries people and has no further identity.

2015 Citroen C4 side profile garage

Engine 4cyls, 1560cc, turbocharged, diesel; Power 118bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6spd manual; Kerb weight 1280kg; Top speed 122mph; 0-62mph 10.6sec; Economy 74.3mpg; CO2 rating & BiK tax band 100g/km / 16%

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

15 thoughts on “2015 Citroen C4 1.6 BlueHDi Roadtest”

  1. Isn’t it amazing how much this car – according to your description – reflects the situation of Citroën (or PSA, that is) as a company? No character, no direction, no coherence.

    This C4 seems to be a huge step backwards in almost all respects, compared with its predecessor. True, you could accuse the first C4 of being a bit cramped in the rear compartment and having a small boot, but it had an unique design, a great dashboard and a suspension which, if not very much on the comfortable side, was renowned for being highly competent.

    Where did they lose all that? It reminds me of the discussion we had about the decline leading from the Peugeot 306 to the first generation 308.

    By the way, your latest Citroën reviews really speak of a very, very disappointed once-fan of these cars, and I know exactly how you feel.

  2. Bearing in mind a new Mini weighs approx 1300kg, the C4 sounds positive in the weight department. Aren’t a lot of us oldies (tongue in cheek) disappointed compared to older vehicles though. An example for me is SAAB with the 9 5, the 9000 may have had faults but why lose 4 massive door pockets and a huge centre cubby box, a small and a large front centre console box and a pocket attached to the centre console .. for tiny door slots, no front cubby space and a small centre rear box?
    The designers seemed to be on a mission to factor out any of the practical points, they added a huge loading lip in the boot and a small boot opening aperture etc etc.
    We’re probably just “not with it”, we should be satisfied with our blueooth and sat nav, these are the important things in life not ergonomic heating controls.

    1. “The designers seemed to be on a mission to factor out any of the practical points, they added […]”

      They will tell you they added “safety”.
      (They actually did, along with a lot of cost saving)

  3. Stephen: I agree I am perhaps not the intended user group for this car (44 years old with two small children). To judge by the focus in these cars it’s the digital elements that float people’s boats. I still want to ask who likes bad ergonomics even if they have no active opinion? Turning it the other way, designers ought to have learned not to create ergonomic failures just like doctors aren’t supposed to hurt people. I am mystified by the lack of interest in UI among people who would scream if their ‘phone was badly designed. Moving away from the centre console, the rest of the car was the result of either incompetencr or indifference. Anyone who pays their own money for this when the Kia/Hyundai pair exist must not be noticing what their senses tell them.
    The Saab 9000 may have lost the 900s visual charm but it was super practical.
    Why are they so rare now?

  4. Wasn’t this generation of C4 deliberately made bland to contrast with the ‘flamboyant’ DS4 crossovery hatchback thing? If so, they succeeded.

    Will you be testing the rest of the Citroen range as well?

    1. I have tried all that Sixt offer. May I please rest now?
      It would not make sense to me to deliberately make the C4 bland just to make the DS4 seem good. I bet the DS4 is poor in the same way as the C.

  5. Hi Richard
    I think you have to remember that the younger population don’t know any different, they have no idea what is ergonomic or that too many buttons can be “too much”. Is it Apple compatible? Does the Sat Nav have the latest gadget? There are some positives, cup holders for everyone I suggest in many cases, the absence of desire to break into your car to nick your stereo. Back in the 80’s this was a weekly occurrence and a guarantee if I didn’t remove the front cover. Now of course I can leave my stereo in my oldie and no-one is interested.

    9000’s are rare because like most people .. SAAB owners move on and berate the new car of it’s faults but really only want transport. Very few people are as “anoraky” as I am about old cars. There are a lot of classic 900 owners globally though judging by my sales patterns.

  6. The C4 is bewilderingly ordinary. Its only distinctive feature is that it seemed to have been launched with its rear lights already facelifted. By which I mean that their design has that clumsy look as though extra bits were added to an existing design.

    On behalf of the board of DTW, Richard, I would like to thank you and to formally excuse you from the obligation to test any more forgettable Citroens for a period of one year – by which time I believe that they will all be TREMENDOUS FUN!

    1. In the meantime Richard can keep busy testing the DS range, right?

    2. That’s the first time I’ve seen the Betty Draper defence applied to road testing. Hopefully modern Citroens have not left Richard looking profoundly sad.

  7. Perhaps Citroen’s designers were told to seek inspiration from modern consumer electronics, but somehow became trapped en mass inside a Triton power shower display at the local DIY store. If only they had made it as far as the Karcher pressure washers or the Bosch boilers; the C4 could’ve been completely different.

  8. Given the the author’s view of the vehicle in question, the headline should perhaps read; “The Citroen C4 has been on sale for half a decade. The time is right to put it to the sword.”

  9. This evening, not more than two weeks after driving this car I saw a white one motoring past me. That’s a C4, I said to myself. Was that the one I drove recently, I wondered. To verify I had driven it I checked here. Lesson: this is such a forgettable car that after two weeks it had almost vanished from my memory. That’s quite an achievement

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