Citroën C4 – Initial impressions from the UK Launch

In Car Reviews, Citroen, Electric cars by Kieran Bicknell

Citroën’s creative designers have done something different and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air.

Look at every new car launch from the last year. Except for one or two major events, I bet that a majority of ‘consumer market’ cars look very, very similar. While that’s great for brand recognition (as often, these ‘new’ models are simply developments or heavy facelifts of their predecessors), it can get a bit… well, monotonous.

Yes, the C4 is still recognisable as a Citroën product, and, yes, you can see some relation to the previous car. Still, the overall aesthetic is a new exciting, dynamic design, and it’s all the better for it.

Most notably, that sweeping rear roofline is a striking visual statement. At the same time, the front end is a little busy but somehow manages to get away with it – that’s smart design for you – but my personal favourite angle is the side profile, which rekindles 70s fastback styling for the modern era, and really suits the low roofline of the new C4 and e-C4.

Yes, that’s right: e-C4. The fifth car launched as part of the brand’s electrification push, this new range of C4s is built to be as modular as possible, meaning all three cars (petrol, diesel and electric) are outwardly almost identical, with the intention of normalising EVs to the point where they simply blend in with other traffic.

This is a design philosophy I’m wholly on board with. However, I can imagine a few people would rather their EV was a bit more ‘shouty’ – thereby telling everyone that sees the car how ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ their chosen method of transportation is.

Still, there is now the little green flash on UK number plates for zero-emission vehicles (as seen on the test car), so there’s still one apparent telltale sign of an e-C4 for those that want to scream their ‘green’ credentials out to the world.

While Citroën wasn’t able to hold a ‘traditional’ launch event for obvious reasons, they still opened up to allow journalists to drive two pre-booked cars on the day. For myself, that was the Diesel C4 (in top-spec Shine Plus trim) and the e-C4.

Citroën C4 Shine Plus Diesel EAT8

So, first up is the diesel, and the first thing that strikes me is the interior. What can I say, other than ‘wow!’ – Comfort is key for Citroën’s design motto, and that is immediately apparent upon settling into the wonderfully cushioned, mercifully heated (it is still winter, after all) driver’s seat.

Turn on the car and the simplicity of the digital instrument panel (complete with HUD in this top-spec car) is most welcome, especially compared to the barrage of information that is usually present on such screens. Speaking of the HUD, I’m not usually one to like using these devices, but on the C4, I actually found it very well-placed and straightforward enough not to distract you – more clever design from Citroën’s boffins!

So, on the road? Well, it’s wonderfully refined. Once warm, the gearbox is barely noticeable as it flits up and down the range, while the engine itself all but fades into the background, allowing you to simply sit back and enjoy the excellent interior design. Bumps in the road and rough surfaces are also wonderfully muted by the C4’s innovative suspension with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions, meaning even the worst motorway surfaces (I’m looking at you, M25) should be wonderfully smooth from the driver’s seat.

That’s not to say it’s perfect, however. Due to the transmission being of the torque converter type, it has an annoying tendency to ‘hang’ at low-speed movements, such as doing a so-called ‘rolling stop’ at give way junctions or mini-roundabouts in urban environments.

Back to the interior, and it must be said that it almost feels tailor-made for me. All major controls fall easily to hand. With the wonderful usage of physical climate controls (hallelujah!), it should be easy to operate from muscle memory alone once you’re used to the layout. My only real gripes with the interior were the buttons behind the steering wheel being very hidden, and the driving position is lower than you might expect – think more ‘off-road-inspired hatchback’ than ‘small SUV’ and you’ll probably get the judgement right.

There is one other issue that is immediately apparent. The visibility to the front and side of the car is impressive, though it’s not so good to the rear. This is largely due to the rear low-mounted spoiler, which looks great from the outside, but is detrimental to your rear visibility from the inside – be sure to spec a reversing camera!

Citroën e-C4

So, onto the ‘start of the show’ – the e-C4. As I mentioned, it is outwardly similar to the other variants of the new C4 range, save for a few changes such as the blue accents, badges and unique alloy wheel design. In other words, if you know – you know, otherwise, it’s wonderfully ‘under the radar’ in its design.

Interestingly enough, it’s a very similar case on the road. In fact, I remarked to the team at the office just how “remarkably unremarkable” the e-C4 is, and I mean that in the best possible way, as I’ll now explain:

Part of the reason many people’ dislike’ EVs is the driving sensation and the way they feel on the road. Well, that’s not an issue here, as there were in fact, times where I totally forgot I was driving an EV, until I came to a stop or turned on the heavier regen settings. In my opinion, this is the way forward, especially until EVs become adopted as a widespread, commonplace sight on the UK’s roads. By making EVs feel ‘normal’ more people will adapt and learn to live with them without worrying about unusual driving habits or standing out in the crowd.

That’s not to say you couldn’t tell it was an EV if you wanted to. Yes, the acceleration is progressive under usual driving circumstances akin to a buttery-smooth ICE car, but stomp on the accelerator and you’ll get that characteristic instant surge of torque and acceleration that we’ve come to know (and mostly love) from EVs.

Otherwise, it’s all very normal. The batteries have been located to not eat into the storage capacity or space of the e-C4, but still keeping the centre of gravity low. Charging is also impressively rapid, with 80% charge of the WLTP 217 mile range achieved in 30 minutes when using a 100 kW charger. At home, a 7kW wall box will take around 7.5 hours to charge the C4, which is ideal for those that leave their cars plugged in at home and charging overnight, which – let’s face it – is the best way to utilise EVs.

So, all in all, the new e-C4 is just that – all very normal but wrapped up in a wonderfully stylish, tech-savvy package that blends the latest technology with a genuinely intuitive driver and passenger interface.

From my brief time with the cars, I can tell the new Citroën C4 will prove a hit, and I can’t wait to spend longer with the range. More of this, please, Citroën!

Kieran Bicknell

Motoring writer

Kieran Bicknell offers his fresh take on car reviews by making the most of his dynamic, yet detailed approach to writing. Having graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in Photography and spending a number of years as a freelance automotive photographer. Kieran is now putting his knowledge and writing skills to use, with the ability to supply both written articles and imagery. Kieran feels at home in anything from small superminis to the latest SUVs, and relishes the opportunity to drive, photograph and write about anything with four wheels.

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