Citroen is hedging its bets with the all-new C4 – a distinctive family car that’s a cross between a hatchback and a crossover.
Not only is it available with conventional petrol and diesel engines, but there’s also a pure electric version.
Badged the e-C4, it has a useful 217-mile range and the battery can be charged to 80% in just 30 minutes using a rapid 100kW charger (if you can find one), or you can charge it overnight via a (free) home wallbox.
We tested early left-hand drive versions of the petrol C4 (1.2-litre developing 128bhp) and the e-C4 (50kWh battery pack).
The conventionally powered range kicks off at an affordable £22,990, while the EV starts at a fraction under £30,000 after the Government’s Plug-in Car Grant (PICG).
There’s virtually no difference between the variants in terms of looks. With distinctive SUV coupe styling and a slightly raised ride height, both are front-wheel drive.
Citroen says the raked roofline is a nod to the popular GS of the 1970s, and there’s no doubt that the new design is much more appealing than the outgoing C4.
Inside, the cabin has also moved on in terms of quality and technology. It’s spacious too, front and back, while the boot offers 380 litres of luggage capacity, rising to 1,250 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
A 10-inch floating infotainment touchscreen in the centre console gives access to everything from audio to climate control and sat nav.
It all works well enough, and it’s good to see that there are shortcuts for the air con and heated seats below, but the navigation system’s graphics aren’t the most sophisticated.
Comfort is one of Citroen USPs these days and the new C4 is no exception. Its generously padded ‘Advanced Comfort’ seats tick all the right boxes.
The C4 is also well equipped with goodies such as LED headlights, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and speed sign recognition all standard.
The petrol version is powered by the three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine used extensively elsewhere in the Citroen and Peugeot ranges. CO2 emissions as low as 122g/km, 50mpg+ is achievable and it’s a punchy performer.
As a package this basic C4 does the job, but is nothing special in a class that includes rivals as varied and good as the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Renault Captur and Skoda Kamiq
If your budget permits (and you have access to charging facilities), then the smooth and silent all-electric e-C4 is the model to go for.
Squaring up against everything from the Nissan Leaf, Volkswagen ID.3 and Hyundai Kona, to the MG ZS and Kia e-Niro, it’s a breath of fresh air (literally) and easy to drive.
In fact, apart from the silence and extra acceleration, it’s much like a conventional automatic car to drive – just select Drive and go.
It feels swifter than its 0-62mph acceleration time of 9.7 seconds suggests, while its top speed of 93mph is academic, because driving at that sort of pace saps your range, as with any electric car.
The ride is very supple thanks to Citroen’s patent ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushions’. Add light steering and it’s ideal for city driving too.
There are three driving modes – Eco, Normal and Sport – and the latter certainly ups the fun factor. If you have a healthy inner Scrooge, then Eco or Normal will do just fine, along with a dedicated ‘B’ mode for ramping up the regenerative braking on downhill stretches.
On faster, flowing roads it’s smooth and well-mannered, though more comfortable than sporty.
Frankly, we only have a few minor gripes. A range closer to 250 miles would be good, some of the plastic in the cabin feels a bit scratchy, while the dinky gear selector is a little finickety at times.
Verdict: The all-new Citroen e-C4 is a welcome addition to the family EV scene. Comfortable, refined, sharply styled and spacious, it’s a doddle to drive and easy to live with.