Wednesday 20 November 2019

A Citroën with flair? OuI!

Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Let's get this trumpeting elephant out the room first. Gnawing at the heart of any review of this new Citroën C4, or indeed nearly any motor bearing the chevron emblem that pronounces its heritage, is one brutal question.

It is: how will its value hold up over the next couple of years?

The question arises because owners of the C4's predecessors have often had to take poor trade-in prices. Sorry, but that has been the case.

So let us be truthful about this and say it needs to convince -- big time.

Equally, let me say from the start that the previous incarnation never appealed to me -- and I did say so.

It was a bit like a team that goes three goals down in the first five minutes; it was fighting a rearguard action all the way.

This? Well, I got the sense from quite early on that this was a bit different. No, I'd go further and say a lot different.

First of all, it looks the part. Not mad quirky (which we used to love in our Citroëns) and not mad middle-of-the-road.

There is flair here -- enough to have one of the daughters asked to be driven in it. That doesn't happen too often.

Secondly, it has a lovely cabin with as much room as I can remember in any of the perceived main rivals; and a big boot to go with it. And it just felt solid.

I would have been bitterly disappointed if the 1.6-litre diesel engine was not as good as it was. I mean Citroën and Peugeot have always been in the frontline in that area.

However, there was something of a contradiction in how its suspension manifested itself.

I would prefer it to have felt tauter under ordinary driving conditions on perfectly good roads. There was too much bodyroll for my liking.

Yet, when I skelped it across the bumps, twists and mysterious undulations of the road that traverses Woodfield Bog, it was up there with the best of them in terms of holding its footprint and straight line.

Citroën has ironed out a lot of the idiosyncrasies that have habitually dogged its small-family cars. Indeed, I would say it has excelled in how it has made this feel so solid -- which is a word that kept coming up in the course of the drive.

The doors clunk and the cabin materials look and feel like they have a bit of quality in them. I remember the old GSA my brother had a million years ago.

This C4's cabin has a little touch of the 'snuggyness' that made the old ODI 364 such a part of our family's nostalgia.

So, there you have it. The new C4 overcomes a lot of the preconceptions and prejudices foisted on it by predecessors. But it is by no means out of the woods. The new Ford Focus, for example, absolutely trounces it on handing generally. But then doesn't it do that to everything in its class?

And it does not have (nor does the Focus) the reassurance of a three-year warranty of the likes of the Toyota Auris, which admittedly concedes ground on looks, cabin and handling. And they all must yield to the seven-year warranty of the Kia cee'd.

Be all that as it may, this gave me great service over the course of a messy few days around the capital and a glorious drive to the midlands with spring opening its heart to us all.

There was a touch of accomplishment to this. And the more I had it, the more I liked it, especially the design and colour of the model on test.

Despite its natural contours, Citroën has managed to keep plenty of visibility around the vital areas such as the rear and sides. These focal points are increasingly under pressure from designs that can compromise everyday visibility just to make a car look really well.

So how will it be viewed by the garage when you go to trade it in after three or four years? I think you'll get a much better reception than you would have for the old one.

That is a big stride, and I, for one, am happy.

Citroën has hit the self-destruct button so often back through the years that it was becoming a joke. Now it has a good small-family car (not to mention the excellent sporty DS3 and new DS4) it is back in the groove.

Loyal customers who stood by Citroën can now enjoy a mainstream car with some confidence. It is early days but I do think the elephant can be let out of the room for now.

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