“New” Citroën C4 – “And The Top Gear Magazine Car Of The Year 2010 Is A Citroën”
Life would be a lot easier if we didn’t have to face up to competition. Selling anything in a crowded market place and especially one where two main brands dominate isn’t going to be easy. Unless of course the product you are offering is pretty damn good, but even then, if your potential customers have never tried your product before, you’ve got to convince them to take a step into the unknown and that my friend is the job ahead of Citroën as they launch their new C4 and square up against Mr Ford, Mr Vauxhall and of course, Herr Volkswagen.
Citroën doesn’t intend or expect to sell anything like the numbers of C4’s that Ford would expect with the Focus, or Vauxhall would with Astra, but do you know what, for me, that’s kind of cool as the Citroën C4 isn’t going to be as common as all of these other cars, leaving you having to search around Tesco’s car park to find which of the 100 Astra’s parked there is yours. No, your Citroën C4 is going to be a touch more select and because of that, it’s going to be a touch more interesting.
So that we could find out for ourselves just how interesting the new Citroën C4 is, Citroen were kind enough to loan us a new C4 2.0HDi 150hp Exclusive 5dr to crawl all over, race, rally and commute with for a week and we have to say we are glad they did, because what a nice car it is.
The old Citroën C4 was launched in 2004 and was a proficient kind of thing. Comfortable and with decent engines and it drove well, but fact was for many of us, it never rattled our cage and wasn’t even considered when we were looking for a car of that size. Even for those that did take a look, Citroën insisted on throwing us a curved ball the moment we got in the car, by giving us a quirky steering wheel that remained static in the centre and whilst it made some sense, it was strange to the rest of us. The cars dashboard was also odd, with a kind of satellite binnacle stuck on top of the dash which from the outside looked a bit like an on-hire sign you would find on a taxi. All in all, many buyers found the old C4 just too off the wall for them; however they did like the “dancing transformer” TV ad that promoted the car, so not everything was lost!
So the new C4 is maybe a little step backwards in some ways in as much as its got rid of all the strange stuff we were not sure about and simply concentrated on being a sophisticated and elegant mid range car that couldn’t upset anyone and whilst we commend that return to normality I guess for Citroën aficionados it will be disappointing, but for the rest of us, it puts the new C4 bang up against its major competitors, Focus and Astra and makes the C4 a serious contender and a car you now absolutely must look at before you make your decision.
On first impressions, in terms of styling, had it not been for the obvious Citroën grille, we wouldn’t have instantly said this new car was a Citroën, but what an elegant and attractive car it is. Indeed some reviewers have referred to it as “the most handsome car in its sector” and whilst we can’t be sure about that, it’s certainly a major improvement on the car it replaces, but there is a thin line between elegance and blandness and fortunately, the C4 just manages to stay on the right side of that line and to be fair, the more you use the car the more attractive it seems to become.
As with all recent new Citroën’s there is a feel of quality about the new C4. The paint and panel fit and finish are excellent and the car has a solidity about it that leads you to believe nothing is going to break, wobble or fall off. That impression continues inside the car as well as it appears Citroën have chosen top quality materials in every part of the interior (apart perhaps from the A pillar which is hard plastic), but generally the cars trim it equal to that of its competitors and that includes the German brands.
Gone is the quirky dash and fixed centre steering wheel and its replaced by a most appealing and sensibly laid out “modern” yet traditional dashboard and centre console and a very attractive steering wheel which houses many of the control functions. As a driver, you’re going to spend hours on a long journey looking at the cars dash, and for me, it’s important that it’s both attractive and easy to use. Our car had loads of kit, including Sat Nav and we found all of the controls immediately intuitive and we didn’t feel the need once to grab the cars handbook to find out how to do something and that’s a tribute to the stylists who really understood just what a driver wants in the command module!
Our C4 had satellite navigation which was easy to programme and simple to use. We had the Denon upgrade to the audio system and apart from sounding excellent, we could play all the music from our iPod through the audio system via Bluetooth and it sounded great. There is a USB cable connection for music players for those of you that have the leads. Our car had hands-free phone operation which again, was simplicity itself and I don’t know if this had anything to do with this particular system or not, but call quality (both ends I’m told) was excellent. And we never dropped a call.
As with all cars of this quality now days, our test car came with digital automatic air conditioning which worked well and as it was dual zone, which allowed the driver and front seat passenger to both have different temperatures. Cruise control (with favourite speed memory) and speed limiters along with front and rear parking sensors were all standard on our car. As seems to be the custom now days, our car also had an electronic handbrake (which we usually hate) however we found the system on the Citroën to be particularly intuitive, allowing us to ignore it for most of the time, whilst it got on and did its job and I can honestly say, it’s the first time I have tested a car with an electronic park brake and not felt the need to rip it out of the dashboard.
Whilst we came away from the quirky, there are a couple of “quirk-ish” things I have to mention and the first is the ability to change the background colour of the cars instrumentation, which was quite cool and although I haven’t mentioned it yet, our car had electrically operated and heated front seats, with electric lumbar support, but they also had the strangest kind of electric massage thing that seemed to move the lumbar support in and out to massage your back and that was really weird and we had fun, leaving it on, on the passenger side seat, just to see peoples reaction when something they were sitting on unexpectedly started to move around…….oh the laughs we had.
Anyway, the interior is better than fine and there is plenty of room for both passengers and their luggage and the cars boot is huge with its claimed, a best in class 408 litres of boot space, so yet again, the new C4 ticks all the right boxes as a practical car that’s going to be just at home batting down the motorway in the hands of a rep, as it will be taking the family out for a Sunday drive.
Not just a pretty face however, the new C4 also delivers when it comes to keeping you and you’re loved ones safe. The old C4 was one of the safest cars in its class when it was originally launched and the new C4 follows that tradition as Independent Assessors “Euro NCAP” have just awarded the new C4 a maximum 5-star safety rating, including a score of 97% in the ‘Safety Assist’ category, which is the highest score for any vehicle of its type.
The new C4 gets the Euro NCAP award because of its high level of safety enhancing equipment, which includes ABS with EBD (Electronic Brake distribution), EBA (Emergency Braking Assistance) and ESP (Electronic Stability Programme). Both driver & passengers are protected within the cabin by six airbags, including, driver, front passenger, front lateral and curtain. Other innovative stuff for the first time in this segment include a blind spot monitoring system that warns the driver that other vehicles could be in an area you cant see. Other nice features include a cornering light function that helps visibility in bends and a sophisticated programmable cruise control system.
There is a choice of three petrol engines; all built in conjunction with BMW / Mini and four in-house PSA diesel engines. The 1.4 petrol produces 95HP and Co2 of 140g/km, the 1.6 petrol produces 120HP with Co2 from 143g/km. Automatic transmission is also available with the 1.6 120HP engine and as you might expect, the Co2 jumps a bit to 159g/km. Finishing the petrol line up is the 1.6 THP unit which produces 155HP and has a 148g/km Co2.
The diesel engine line up starts with a 1560cc (called 1.6) HDi 90HP unit mated to a 5 speed manual transmission which offers Co2 as low as 110g/km. There is a more powerful version of the 1.6 producing 110HP with Co2 as low as 119g/km and for the eco warriors amongst us, there is an eco version of the 1.6 called e-HDi which produces 110HP and is mated to a six speed electronic gearbox producing a P11D breaking 109g/km. Finally most powerful of the diesels is the 2.0HDi that delivers 150HP and an acceptable Co2 of 130g/km.
Prices start at around £15,600 on the road for the 1.4 VTi, rising to £21,495 for the top of the range Exclusive with the 150HP diesel, but if you decided to pick some other goodies off the price list, you could spend over another £5,000 on your Citroën C4 by specifying things such as Satellite Navigation, Leather Upholstery, Denon Hi-Fi Upgrade, Panoramic Roof, Bigger Alloy Wheels etc.
Later in the year, for those of you who fancy your C4 a bit sportier, Citroën are going to do the same trick they did with the C3, when they launched the wonderful DS3 (which is hugely outselling its expectations and has a second hand value even higher than the ubiquitous Mini) as they launch the DS4 which is going to be a four door 2+2 coupe, based on the C4 and it looks gorgeous on pre-release pictures.
Statistics say that the average buyer of a car in this sector (Focus, Astra, C4 etc) is 57 years old. Did that surprise you? well it did me, but if that is the case, this new C4 is going to appeal enormously to these drivers, because it’s a grown up car, it’s a versatile, well built, and attractive and it’s a car that offers real customers what they really want. The new Citroën C4 is easy to drive, a breeze to live with and exudes a real air of quality about it and importantly, it looks much more like a car you actually chose and that its your car, rather than being the company car that you just happen to have been given as some other more ‘prolific’ cars in that sector appear.
The potential is huge for the new Citroën C4 and for Citroën themselves as for sure, following the launch of the C3, DS3 and now a cracking C4, they are definitely set to become a much big player in the UK car market. We have tested every new Citroën launched in the last ten years and witnessed a consistent improvement in quality and the Citroën’s we operate on our fleet have been amazingly reliable. We have liked the efforts they’ve made in the direction of safety and being environmentally friendly.
To demonstrate to you how the rest of the motoring world is viewing Citroën, you might have heard of the European Car Of The Year Awards. Out of the 100’s of different models that are available in Europe, the judges reduce them down to what they consider to be the best 7 cars available in Europe at this time and from that, they pick their number one. Now whilst Citroën didn’t win the award this year, both the Citroën C3 and the Citroën DS3 were in that final seven car group and that’s an amazing achievement. Another honour awarded to Citroën was from BBC’s Top Gear Magazine, who voted the Citroën DS3 as it “overall Car of the Year”. DS3 also won the “Small Car of the Year” award as well. So we are not talking about some niche car maker here, but a manufacturer that whilst not massive in the UK, is earning accolades from across the motoring industry.
We buy around 2 million cars a year in the United Kingdom and of the 51 brands of car shown on the end of year sales figures, Citroën were 11th overall, selling 73,317 cars in the UK in 2010 to give them a market share of 3.61%. To put that into perspective, if you add the two big player’s figures together and that’s Ford & Vauxhall, between them, they supplied 527,000 vehicles and that’s around 26% of the overall market, meaning that one in four new vehicles registered in the UK, has either the blue oval, or the griffin on its bonnet – common or what? This seems even stranger when you consider that BMW and Audi both outsold Citroën with BMW supplying around 109,000 cars and Audi almost making the ton with 99,000 cars.
Citroën have been working to improve their brand image for some time now and as I see it, all they have everything in place, great product, and excellent national dealership support. All they need to do now is convince potential customers, who in many cases may never have driven or even considered a Citroën in the past that the new C4 is not just a good alternative to what they drive at the moment, but a really desirable, wise choice option.
I said this earlier in this article, but when its time to change your car, you must really take a look at the new Citroën C4 but not only take a look, but take a drive in it, as its excellent and its going to look smart in your driveway and you’re going to be able to find it in Tesco’s car park!
For a quotation on a new Citroën C4 or on any other Citroën, please contact us.