Arc de Triomphe

Visually speaking, the 2006 Citroën C-Triomphe didn’t quite live up to its name, which may explain why it remains something of an automotive unicorn today.

2006 Citroen C-Triomphe/C4 Sedan. Image: citroenet

PSA announced this particular iteration of their C-segment contender in 2004, a car which replaced the unloved and visually underwhelming Xsara model line. This car, believed to have been the work of Donato Coco and Bertrand Rapatel under the supervision of Jean-Pierre Ploué marked the beginning of a renaissance at Citroën’s Vélizy styling centre. Adieu to the creative torpidity of the Blakeslee years, welcome back creativity. Theoretically at least.

Image: Driven to Write

Now the C4 hatchback wasn’t a bad effort, even if it fell some way short of the class-leading Focus in dynamic terms. It certainly presented a more Citroënesque face to the world than the one the marque had up to then been permitted, even if it probably suffered from as many durability-related issues as its ungainly Sochaux-built Peugeot sibling.

Sold in most markets as either a five or three-door hatchback, the Mulhouse-assembled C4 became a fixture in the upper regions of the European sales charts and a regular sight on our roads, aided by the  Cannes Lion winning Euro-RSCG-created ‘transformer’ TV ads. Today’s subject however remains something of an outlier in the model hierarchy, the lesser-spotted C4 Sedan, or C-Triomphe, as it was also known.

Image: Driven to Write

Built at PSA’s Argentinian production facility and aimed at the South American, Spanish and Chinese markets, the C4 Sedan/C-Triomphe offered a alternate proposition not only in obvious stylistic terms, but also in overall dimensions. 510 mm longer overall, with an extra 100 mm between the wheels, the sedan’s extra length was a nod to Chinese tastes, as was the new name – the C4 designation having unpalatable connotations in China.

The visible bodywork changes are evident aft of the centre pillar, with elongated rear doors, a heavily revised rear canopy and the provision of a separate boot. But it’s at the tail where the sedan makes its strongest visual statement. Clearly an attempt to ape the styling themes employed on the larger C6 saloon, the expansive boomerang-shaped rear lamps arc luxuriantly over the rear deck, if not as bulbously as those of the flagship model.

Image: Driven to Write

The effect it creates however is an incongruous one, the car lacking the proportions or requisite gravitas to wear it in any manner other than a slightly apologetic one. So while the styling cannot be considered a ringing success, it does put one in mind of another car, Ford’s 1993 Synthesis concept; a design which echoed themes explored with more success in Ghia’s Focus showcar of the previous year. Both vehicles employ a softly curved form language, a glassy six-light canopy, and a rounded tail.

But Citroen didn’t stop with the Triomphe, employing yet another shuffling of the platform matrix in the 2009 C-Quatrè. Employing the shorter wheelbase hatchback platform, this shake of the can resulted in a 328 mm longer car overall. Styled in a more contemporary idiom than that of the more classical C-Triomphe, a derivation of this car remains in production with Dongfeng Peugeot-Citroën in China.

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But it doesn’t end there. Citroën currently sells the Spanish-built C-Elysée saloon in selected European, South American and North African markets in addition of course to China, where it is also assembled. In fact, the sheer fecundity of three volume Citroëns available worldwide turns out to be somewhat bewildering and really ought to warrant further examination.

One of the sternest tests a car stylist faces is to convincingly transform a hatchback into a three volume saloon. It can be done and done well, but the C-Triomphe, while not particularly egregious, fails to be harmonious to behold – showroom death I would contend. Even by the standards of Southern European tastes, the C4 Sedan/Triomphe appears to have been decidedly minority fare. Even the current C-Elysée model seems to be fading fast.

Image: Driven to Write

In fact, one struggles to think of a three volume Citroën that could be said to have been a visual success. Perhaps Citroën should simply avoid the format. It’s clearly not their metier.

Driven to write regrets the poor quality of the appended images.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

17 thoughts on “Arc de Triomphe”

  1. Oh dear. I’m a big fan of this series C4, but this 4-door effort is bloody awful. What were they thinking of? The 5 and, in particular, 3 door were well conceived shapes and lined up with the early C3, Pluriel and C6 looked like a cohesive range (note how I have conveniently forgotten the C5 of that era). There were echoes of the era of Alfas when the 147, 156, 166 and GT bestraddled the highways, only for all that promise to be allowed to crumble into zip.

  2. In Brazil this car was called the C4 Pallas and it did sell reasonable well, although its price on the secondary market are plummeting due to build quaility/bad reputation issues. I rode in one a few years ago and it was very spacious on the rear seat but, even though relatively new, was full of rattles and squeaks. The automatic transmission didn’t help on the matter of smoothness, which is why it had such bad reputation throughout the PSA lineup and ended up being early replaced by a 6-speed Aisin on newer products.

    On the subject of hatchback to saloon adaptation, there are a bunch of other examples of how bad it could get. The Argentinian market is quite fond of saloon cars (and french ones) and they are usaually offered on the rest of the continent too, so it is normal to see hatch to saloon transformations from almost everything out of the B and C segments. Among the most hideous jobs I can recall: the Peugeot 206/207 Passion, also from Peugeot the 307/308 sedan, the Hyundai HB20S, the Fiesta sedan and the famous Nissan Versa. I would name the Toyota Etios Sedan, but the hatch version is also rental-car dreary, so it’s not the transformation’s fault. The saloon versions of the Fochi(?) Mks I and II were more on the forgetable side, but also worth mentioning.
    Come to think of it, the C4 Pallas is now quite pretty…

    1. Daniel: now you mention it, the Xsara seemed solid. The thing I noticed was the fine chairs – and that’s not the most important detail at all. Subsequent cars have not had the same tightness; my experiences of the first and second C4 were that they felt casual.

  3. Unloved and visually underwhelming Xsara model line. But not unbought: more than 3 million sold worldwide. Plenty still chugging around in France, as they’re cheap to buy and run.

    1. It’s intersting to note that – while visually challenging – the Xsara had way better build quality/was better assembled than its successor. Bruno’s points about the rattling Pallas only serve to affirm my hatch impressions.
      In typical PSA fashion, while the C4 marked a return to form in some areas (styling, sedan notwithstanding), they dropped the ball in others.
      With the C4 II one could argue that the pendula swung in the other direction once again.

    2. So much about PSA’s consistency, Daniel. Where they also dropped the ball was in not offering an estate any more for the C4. At least in German speaking markets, this version was very successful in the Xsara line. Since not all its customers could be convinced of a Picasso, these sales were subsequently lost to other marques.

    3. Rodrigo: thanks for the Peugeot image. It is doomed to look as if it’s been rammed from behind. The worst part, the messy a-pillar and wing survived the facelift, alas.
      Your insight on the perception of Citroen and Peugeot makes sense if one doesn’t see the cars. I could imagine the brands being so distinguished; the cars themselves only show the faint relic of whatever those perceptions were built on just as BMW, Mercedes and Audi today are really quite similar yet the persistence of vision leads people to assume them to be sporty, bourgeois and technically superior respectively.

  4. Here in Argentina the C4 4 door was a sales success when appeared. Nowadays the value of this model is lower than the 5 door “original” C4 even in higher trims. Mainly used by taxi drivers and personal charter. A roomy car for carry the hole family but in terms of quality and design this C4 was just an average car. A Ford Focus 4 door or a Toyota Corolla are more reliable and strong sedans than that C4.

    Actually PSA sells the C4 Lounge, a sedan that replace the C4 4 dorr and uses the 308/408 platform. Better car, with gasoline and diesel options.

    1. Richard, in Argentina the european C4 hatch does not exist. Peugeot sells the facelifted 308 and the 408. Citroën only C segment option is this C4 Lounge. In my opinion i would rather buy a Citroën C4 Lounge than a 408 just because of its design. In fact, for the consumer, Citroën still represents the “avant-garde” and Peugeot stands as an more “luxurious and chic” brand. Things of the Argentinian market.


      The facelifted 408. Ugly.

  5. Thanks for your last paragraph, Eóin. (I appreciate the rest as well, of course)
    I think the only ever convincing three-box Citroën was the Ami6. It was proportioned the right way, but looked unmistakeably non-German.
    There is a long, descending line from the BX to the last C5. Already with the Xantia, a hint of notchback was introduced, but it was still clearly a Citroën hatchback with the right proportions. The first C5 then was already a clear 3-box design, which became even more pronounced when they elongated the back with the facelift. At least they still kept the hatch, leading to the paradoxial situation that they offered a 3-volume hatchback (C5) and a 2-volume car with a bootlid (C6) at the same time. This was corrected (in the wrong direction) when the next C5 also became a boring saloon like every other car.

  6. This is a car catered for a very male and conservative clientel. In many parts of the world, men feel threatened driving around in cars with a feminine touch, and there are certain kinds of cars women traditionally prefer. Like station wagons, minivans, and hatchbacks. And there are certain markets that are skewed quite conservatively where the men have more buying power and would never drive around in something so lowly as a hatchback. These men would’ve bought a Cortina or Marina in the 70’s, in the 80’s a Ford Orion or Volvo 360. PSA only catered to these people in the cheapest possible most cynical way by mounting a large ass trunk on their oh so feminine C4. I can’t see it as anything but a giant FU to those people. You wanted One giant ass on your car? Baby, you got it….

    1. That’s the first time I’ve heard gender preferences as a basis for the selection of a saloon car. It has a good degree of plausibility to it and is testable. Gender seems the missing link in the correlation between a conservative social outlook and saloon car preferences.

    1. Agreed. The disappearance of velour is explained only by interior designers taking a random dislike to it. It may be more expensive than a woven fabric? Cheap leather-faced seating has been one of the biggest cheats of car production in the last 20 years. Good, soft leather can be accepable. Decent velour is always better.

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