Citroën C4 – Modern Saloon

Driving the same car with two distinct powertrains on the same day should be quite enlightening. Enter the new Citroën C4.

Well, it didn’t take a genius to see we would be back in this situation again. At home by government orders. 2021 is not looking good.

Citroën managed to sneak in a well-timed programme before we had to get off the roads. The presentation of the car was made through an online press conference and, during the rest of the week, journalists had the chance to drive the car.

But the best thing about the presentation of the new Citroën C4 was the fact we could drive the petrol version and the electric version on the same day. There is no better comparison between traditional tech and new world trends than that.

The new C4 is the first model in Citroën’s plan of introducing a kind of SUV look into the line-up but without the drawbacks frequently associated with these big cars, especially a large frontal area that makes them less aerodynamic efficient, a bigger weight penalty and, more often than not, a space-compromised interior.

The lower-body cladding helps the rugged looks, and the over-designed front and rear ends make it stand out from a segment crowd that tends to be more traditional – think VW Golf, Ford Focus, Renault Mégane and the likes.

First thing Citroën wants you to bear in mind: this is a saloon and not a crossover. I would say they are stretching the saloon formula as far as it can go, but okay. The familiar three-box shape of familiar saloons has been replaced by a coupe-like third pillar, much in the mould of the BMW X6.

It seems bigger than most rivals but, in reality, it is not. There is a lot of space inside and the ride height is a bit higher than normal saloons, enhancing the feeling of safety and airiness. There are many different materials in the cabin and a lot of ideas that got past the drawing board but, quite frankly, they seem to work well together. You would never mistake this Citroën for any other car.

The CMP platform accepts internal combustion engines as well as electric motors, as seen on PSA’s other small cars, namely the Peugeot 208, 2008 and Opel Corsa.

PSA’s bigger platform takes ICE and plug-in hybrids. Each brand is free to decide which way it wants to go with each model and the C4 could have gone either way.

I jumped on the ë-C4 first. It packs a 50kWh battery under the floor with a maximum charging rate of 100kW. On the WLTP test cycle, it achieves a maximum range of 350 kilometres. Power is rated at 136hp, whereas top speed is a modern sounding 150km/h.

I am afraid I have to use the same word to describe the driving experience of the new ë-C4 as I have used to describe most EVs I drove before. You guessed it: it’s normal. It’s just a normal car. If you know you are only going to drive it around town and can charge it when you get home if you need, then it really is like driving anything else.

I guess the novelty of an electric vehicle is starting to wear off for me and that may be a problem for car makers too. Electric powertrains are all more or less the same, making it much harder to differentiate a product from another. And if that is so, then what are the reasons for choosing a car over its rivals?

Well, it’ll be all about design, image and tech, won’t it? Not sure that is a good thing, but that is surely where we are headed. Car makers will have to wrap an interesting body around a computer they, mostly, have not produced themselves. As a petrolhead, this troubles me.

After the electric version, I drove a 1.2 petrol with 130 horsepower and an automatic eight-speed gearbox. As an option, it felt just as valid as the ë-C4 and, once again, it all comes down to why you are buying a car and what for. If it’s your only car, then obviously petrol makes more sense (or the also available diesel, of course), but if there’s a second car in the household, well, maybe an EV can slip right into your daily use.

The C4 is an interesting car whatever its powertrain and that is what matters most here. Petrol, diesel or electric is up to the circumstances of each buyer. In 10 years, I am sure it won’t be so. Diesel will certainly be a mirage and petrol much more residual than today.

Prices matter, of course. They start at €23,608 for the entry-level petrol version, rising to €27,708 for the diesel and €37,608 for the ë-C4. It’s easy to see when the whole electric car movement is going to really pick up the pace: make the EV version cost the same as the ICE versions. Until then, EVs sales potential will always be limited, even when the product is as well engineered as the ë-C4 unquestionably is.

By Guilherme Marques