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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.