Citroen C4 Shine review: hatch or SUV or don't we care?
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Citroen C4 Shine
- Indecently stylish for a $40k family car
- Great comfort-oriented ride/handling
- Fun-to-drive three-pot powertrain
- Some digital graphics are tiny
- Curious iPad integration
- Electric option still to come for NZ
The Citroen C4 has had a patchy history in New Zealand in the last few years (indeed, some of the models have been a bit patchy too). The last time we had a conventional C4 was 2017, although we’ve also had the SUV-cum-hatch C4 Cactus in the meantime.
It’s time for a reboot and there’s now an all-new C4. It has high ride height, chunky bumpers and plastic bits on the wheelarches, but Citroen NZ is adamant that what you’re looking at here is a “hatchback”.
All semantics of course, to position the C4 in a range where the sister Peugeot brand has dibs on small-medium SUVs. And also to leave room for a more lifestyle-oriented C4, which is no doubt coming.
Nor is the C4 a direct replacement for the DS4 Crossback, despite a similar crossover style and fastback roofline. DS models are/were DS models and Citroens are something different, says the company. Semantics again.
So let’s start fresh and say the C4 is a very cool-looking French family five-door that seems to offer a lot of high style and space for the special launch price of $39,990, given it’s quite a bit larger than the Peugeot 208 GT (the wheelbase is 130mm longer) and yet just $2k more expensive. It’s almost a rival for the Peugeot 2008, although that’s an SUV of course and this is a hatchback. Silly us.
The C4 looks like it could be a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) and in Europe it can be. The plug-in model is under consideration for NZ, but for now we have the Shine with Peugeot-Citroen’s very familiar and very fizzy 1.2-litre turbo-triple, matched to an eight-speed gearbox. It’s a fun recipe.
Citroen has stopping going on about its proprietary Progressive Hydraulic Cushion (PHC) suspension, but the C4 definitely has it. It’s essentially a system of tiny dampers fitted at either extreme of the main units, designed to smooth out the up-and-down while maintaining good control in the mid-range. BMW uses something similar in the 3-Series.
PHC has developed a bit since it was launched in the C5 Aircross and C4 Cactus. In those two earlier cars it seemed to work better at speed, on the open road, than it did around town. Which was kind of the opposite of what you might expect.
In the new C4 there’s a lot more compliance to the urban ride, but you don’t lose any of the chassis sophistication at higher speeds. It offers a really nice blend of comfort and control; and no, you don’t get PHC on Peugeots.
The cabin sticks with the current Peugeot-Citroen ethos of minimalism, with most cabin controls handled though the touch screen. However, compared with the latest Peugeot product it’s been dialed back a bit in the C4, with some frequently used functions returning to physical controls – like the air conditioning. The gear selector is a toggle-type, because levers are so 2020.
Overall it’s a nicely judged balance of high style and sensible ergonomics, although there are a few quirks. It took me ages to discover that the speed readout for the adaptive cruise control appears only on the head-up display, not the main instrument panel. Which kind of makes sense, but it’s unusual.
And on the front passenger-side there’s not only a drawer and bespoke case for your iPad, there’s also a mount that pops out of the dashboard, so you can operate or watch the device hands-free on the move. It’s a novelty and talking point for sure, but I’m not sure how it fits (literally) with the vast range of sizes tablets come in, or the safety aspect of potentially having a box set of Lupin playing within view of the driver. Bit fiddly to click into place as well.
The C4 is a genuinely family-sized car and while that fastback rear looks a bit indulgent, it doesn’t actually cut into headroom that much. Decent boot too, at 380 litres.
The C4 probably isn’t the automatic choice among the Peugeot-Citroen portfolio of small-medium hatchback-SUV-thingies; but perhaps it should be. The focus on comfort over sportiness is refreshing and we love the combination of style and space. Can’t wait for the electric one.
CITROEN C4 SHINE
ENGINE: 1.2-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinder
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, FWD
0-100KM/H: 8.9 seconds