The 2006 Citroën C-Triomphe didn’t quite live up to its billing.
Editor’s note: This article was first published in Driven to Write on 24 October 2017. Owing to the poor quality of the original images, stock photos have been used.
PSA announced this particular iteration of their C-segment contender in 2004, a car which replaced the unloved and visually unimpressive Xsara model line. The C4, believed to have been the styling work of Donato Coco and Bertrand Rapatel under the supervision of Jean-Pierre Ploué marked the beginning of a stylistic renaissance at Citroën’s Vélizy design centre. Au revoir to the creative torpidity which characterised the Jacques Calvet era, 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 anyway. It certainly presented a more Citroënesque face to the world than the one the marque had been permitted for some considerable time, even if it probably suffered from as many durability-related issues as its ungainly Sochaux-built Peugeot 307 platform-mate.
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 commercials. Today’s subject however remains more of an outlier within the model hierarchy, the lesser-spotted C4 Sedan, or C-Triomphe, as it was otherwise known.
Built at PSA’s Argentinian production facility and aimed at the South American, Southern European and Chinese markets, the C4 Sedan/ C-Triomphe offered an alternative 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 market tastes, as was the new name – the C4 designation having decidedly 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 is at the tail where the sedan makes its strongest visual statement. Clearly an attempt to reflect styling themes explored to greater account on the range-topping C6 saloon, the expansive boomerang-shaped rear lamps arc luxuriantly over the rear deck, if not as dramatically as those of the flagship model.
The effect it creates however is a slightly incongruous one, the C-Triomphe lacking the proportions or requisite gravitas to wear it in any manner other than a slightly self-conscious one. So while the styling cannot be considered a ringing success, it appears to have had something of a precedent in Ford’s 1993 Synthesis concept – a design which reprised themes explored with a good deal more success in Ghia’s Focus showcar of the previous year – both vehicles employing softly curved forms, a glassy six-light canopy, and a rounded tail.
But Citroën didn’t stop with the C-Triomphe, employing another shuffling of the platform matrix to bring about 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 at the time of writing 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 not only to be somewhat bewildering but really ought to warrant deeper examination.
One of the sternest tests a car stylist faces is to convincingly transform a car designed as 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. Judging by the numbers viewed on the (Southern Spanish) roads, the C4 Sedan/ C-Triomphe appears to have been decidedly minority fare. Even the current C-Elysée model appears to be fading fast.
In fact, one struggles to think of a traditionally executed three volume Citroën that could be said to have been a visual (or sales) success. Perhaps the double chevron should simply avoid the format. It is clearly not their metier.
 The C-Elysée has been withdrawn from many European markets, owing to its relative age and changing customer tastes. It remains on sale in China however.
The C-Triomphe was also marketed as the C4 Pallas or Sedan in certain European and South American markets. In the Chinese market, it would appear that the 2012 C4L was its replacement. This car, designed in China, was also sold in South American and Russian market for a time. It was not offered in Europe
15 thoughts on “Arc de Triomphe”
The C-Triomphe definitely is no triumph of style. the proportions are all wrong. The later examples are better, or less worse, but I agree this is not Citroën’s strong suit.
On a side note I wonder how many car names there are that are not fitting the car properly. Apart from the Citroën C-Triomphe, I can think of the Mitsubishi Carisma and Daihatsu Charmant right now. There must be others.
Good morning Freerk. The proportions are certainly very unusual. I struggled to think of another car where the ratio of the canopy to overall length is so extreme, then I remembered this:
Did Citroën inadvertently recreate Issigonis’ packaging masterpiece with the C-Triomphe?
I think it can be argued that the C5 Mk2 was a successful three volume design, just not very Citroën. Maybe that’s the flip side of the same coin of your point?
I have not seen the 1993 Ford Synthesis before. It shows that trying to keep the doors unchanged would result in an unworkable mix of straight elements and curved ones. “Thank you gentlemen for exploring the idea – now shall we either keep the facelift mostly straight or shall we spend money on new door frames?” It´s a failure of leadership to offer that choice. The resultant Scorpio is not nearly so awful but it ought not to have gone ahead. Ford could have marketed the “classic” Scorpio as they did the late-model Crown Vics, as steady-selling fossile models for a core market at least until they could decide to abandon the D-sector or do it properly. The C-Triomphe is patronising: they offered a duff design to markets they reckoned would not spot the ungainly shape. Wretched.
Do you really find the C-Triomphe so ungainly, Richard? I would rather see it as a solution for markets which are not constrained by preconceived ideas of what a Citroën is supposed to be. Western Europe is burdened by motoring history and has been doomed to continual disappointment because buyers, and more especially commentators, expect a Citroën to be a forward looking car offering new solutions to old problems. (This problem may be growing less acute for Stellantis now, as upcoming generations appear to have less interest in motoring history or heritage than did ours, and cars like the DS or CX become a folk, rather than a living, memory.)
But to the merits or otherwise of the design itself, I genuinely quite like it, from some angles at least. If you were to apply the comment to the C-Elysée, now, I’d be in total agreement with you!
You are being very kind and generous about the C-Triomphe, Michael. If I can be allowed to use a few calories caring, I would have liked it to have been any kind of a nice-looking car at the least. That it´s supposed to be a Citroen adds further injury to the situation. Several other manufacturers made handsome lower-mid saloons from hatchbacks. It´s done by ensuring the common parts look good in all versions rather than biasing the design to one format. It´s not as if the C4 was, as a hatchback, all that startlingly good. Ford´s Focus and Opel´s Astra made fine saloons of the equivalent hatches. It can be done. The Triomphe seems like a car made to be featured in articles like this and not something many would remember for more positive reasons.
An elaborate hoax, this article, at least so far as the Citroen content is concerned. The crowning glory is the fake Wikipedia entry for the 2004 and on C4, the Wikipedia entry for the bogus World Car of the Year, and the World Car of the Year awards website itself, which is where time and imagination ran out, except to declare the date of the award as April 1. Harty, har har. The C4 won the 2005 award in someone’s mind. Surely someone could have at least invented a fake logo for a bit of colour.
I know the ghost of Archie Vicar has fooled a few swotty Wikipedians into including his spoof DTW remarks made on various cars in their texts, but this effort goes beyond that. I invite DTW readers to visit these websites to avail themselves of some complete tosh.
The question to be asked of you, Mr Doyle, is why? Why invent “history”? Surely weeding the flower garden would be a better use of time? If you know what I mean, it being the addition of 4/20 and all that.
Donato Coco — my foot.
The C-Triomphe has never offended me proportionally and I’m not sure why because it certainly is far from perfect. The Indian phenomenon of the sub-4 meter sedan might have a lot to do with it because it creates far more ungainly conversions as a result of regulatory necessity. Sure, these are all B-segment sedans sold in only one country so it’s not a direct comparison by any stretch of the imagination, but after looking at these scroll back up and I’m sure you’ll now find the C-Triomphe to be quite well-proportioned indeed!
The second and third cars look fine to me – actually attractive. I also really like the Seat Cordoba saloon 6L from 2002 was a rather purposeful small saloon.
There were enough sub-four-metre saloons in Europe. Due to market demand from countries like Spain where a separate boot was seen as a must or Greece you got beauties like the VW Derby
and Opel Corsa TR
The 2 door version was spotted here, but it was somehow rarity. In the past, I have been as a passenger in an Opel Corsa 4 door, a friend had one. I remember them also working as taxis in Athens, a common spotting. You know, the usual bright yellow with the blue line. I liked these 4-door versions of small cars, they seemed small, happy and friendly.
On certain people currently working in the Stuttgart region, the C-Triomphe clearly left an impression.
At least got to commend Citroen for trying something different with the booted hatchback format, examples of which tend to be boring at best – due to the compromised starting point for the design and the conservative target audience.
I have to say I’m kind of saddened by the amount of flack that many 90s Citroens receive here. In my opinion, in the 1990s Citroen generally made appealing and mechanically sound cars that people wanted to buy. I’ve always liked the looks of the 1997 Xsara, I think it was a very elegant-looking car for its class at the time. The facelift on the other hand added too much bulk to the front end, especially considering the wheel size. But I agree it wasn’t very forward-thinking, when compared to the new Golf and Focus that came soon afterwards. Citroen was playing catch-up at the time, the ZX and Xsara were nice designs, but ideally they should’ve both been released two years earlier.
The Xsara is as you say, not a bad car. The flak relates to the fact we foolishly expected more of Citroen. The Xsara had every ounce of originality sucked out of it and so what remained was undersold. I don´t hate the car (I love the seats). That´s not a lot to go on though. The Ford Focus moved the game along on all fronts despite being in principle really straightforward.
I spotted two C4 4 door cars parked the one opposite the other in a small street. Seems that it was a sales success here?