Citroën’s subcompact shares its nomenclature with an infamous form of plastic explosive, but it’s a relaxed cruiser with fancy frills such as a scented air freshener.Citroën’s subcompact shares its nomenclature with an infamous form of plastic explosive, but it’s a relaxed cruiser with fancy frills such as a scented air freshener. Does the good-looking French contender set a new style benchmark in its class?


Following the introduction of the revised C5 and spunky C2, the C4 is arguably the Double Chevron’s most significant launch since the marque returned to South Africa. After all, the C4 will take on subcompact market heavyweights such as the Volkswagen Golf Five, Opel Astra, Toyota RunX, Renault Mégane and, not to forget, the BMW 1 Series. It seems that the C4 has a mountain to climb…


However, although the C4 embodies the same values of individualism, style and panache its siblings do, it probably has the widest appeal of all Citroën SA’s products to date. The five-door C4 hatchback has voluptuous curves, which contribute to a drag coefficient of 0.28, and is almost MPV-like in its stance. By contrast, the three-door C4 Coupé is unmistakably a hot hatch and its sloping bonnet, contoured front end and elaborate lip spoiler contrasts with a dramatic wedged rear end. The C4 is anything but bland.


The range will initially offer two petrol engines - a 80 kW 1,6-litre 16-valve and 135 kW two-litre 16-valve VTS – both of which have double overhead camshafts and a motor-driven throttle, controlled electrically by the engine control unit. The units are mated with five-speed manual transmissions, but the 1,6-litre model, which develops 80 kW at 5 800 r/min and maximum torque of 147 N.m at 4 000 r/min, is also available with an automatic four-speed sequential gearbox.


The engine that does duty in C4 flagship, the three-door 2,0i VTS, is equipped with a continuously variable valve timing system and develops maximum power (135 kW) at 7 000 r/min and peak torque of 202 Nm at 4 750 r/min. Citroën claims the VTS will sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 8,3 seconds and go on to a top speed of 227 km/h.


A 83 kW 1,6-litre second-generation common-rail HDi diesel engine, fitted with a variable-geometry turbocharger, is also offered in the C4 range. The unit is said to deliver maximum power at 4 000 r/min and peak torque of 240 N.m at 1 750 r/min. In addition, torque can be increased to 260 N.m at 1 750 r/min in the three highest gears by an overboost function, which reportedly increases the fuel-injection rate under full acceleration, Citroën says.


Although the C4 hatchback and coupé have different styling, the models have identical interior space. The models are claimed to offer a minimum of 17 cm knee room for rear passengers (when the front seat is pushed back to the maximum) and 1,44 m elbow room at the front and 1,43 m at the rear.


The sweeping and futuristic interior of the C4 is characterised by a centrally-mounted instrument and control panel and equipped with a multi-functional, fixed-centred steering wheel. The steering wheel has a fixed hub and the centre of the wheel does not turn with the rim (a toothed ring linked to the steering wheel engages an inner pinion, itself linked to the steering column). The space between the ring and the pinion is used to couple the fixed components - the steering wheel hub and the steering column mounting, a spokesman for the French marque said.

Moreover, the design of the steering column allowed the fitment of a specially-designed airbag that offers greater driver protection. The C4 offers six airbags in total, including driver and passenger dual-stage front airbags, and curtain airbags in the front and rear.


The manufacturer further claims that the C4 is also be the only car in the class to offer laminated (3,82 mm) glass side windows, which provides additional protection against break-ins and enhance the acoustic comfort inside the cabin. Flag-shaped exterior rear-view mirrors, a laminated windscreen with a damping film between two sheets of glass, windscreen wipers integrated with the scuttle aperture, an anti-turbulence windscreen seal and double door seals are said to provide additional sound insulation.


The cabin also has a scented air freshener built into the dashboard and translucent instrument cluster is believed to be able to adjust to ambient light, “giving a clear read-out no matter what the light conditions”, a Citroën spokesman said.


The air freshener is available with a choice of nine fragrances: Citrus and Passion, Amber and Sandalwood, Cinnamon and Ginger, Lotus flower, Vanilla, Jasmin and Mimosa, Soft Lavander, Mint and Musk, Ylang and Bamboo.


The scented air freshener diffuses the fragrance selected through the air conditioning system (manual on the 1,6 versions and automatic dual zone on the VTS) and a knob lets the user switch the system off or adjust the quantity of perfumed air. The perfumes come in the form of sealed, individual cartridges and can be changed at any time. A cartridge lasts two months (based on one hour of daily use) and refills are available from Citroën.


The C4 1,6 models are all equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels with 205/55 R16 tyres and the VTS has 17-inch alloy wheels with 205/50R17 tyres. Variable-assistance power steering is standard across the range, as is rain- and speed sensitive wipers, height- and reach-adjustable steering column, electric windows and door mirrors, front-loading CD player and remote keyless entry.


The C4's braking system features ventilated discs at the front and discs at the rear, ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), emergency braking assistance (EBA) and automatic hazard warning light activation on all models. ESP (electronic stability programme) is standard on the 1,6 HDi and 2,0 VTS models.


In addition, Xenon dual-function directional headlamps, rear parking assistance, headlight washers, “fold-away” mirrors, leather interior, six-CD changer and a low tyre-pressure warning system are standard features on the VTS model.


For added security, the C4 offers increased protection against theft and break-in by virtue of a deadlock, engine immobiliser and transponder, a virtually unpickable electric boot lock, antitheft nuts on each alloy wheel, automatic relocking thirty seconds after the vehicle is unlocked if no door is opened, and automatic locking of the doors and boot if the car starts to move.


Prices:

Citroën C4 1,6 R174 995

Citroën C4 1,6 a/t R194 995

Citroën C4 1,6 HDi R198 980

Citroën C4 2,0 VTS R249 995