Citroen C4 2.0i 16V VTS Coupe

February 2005

picture of car from the front

Rakish C4 Coupe strikes an impressive pose on the road

Ratings

Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 7Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 6Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 9Controls and display

Comfort Rating 7Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • Looks like no other three-door hatchback on the road
  • Ride, handling and refinement on a par with Ford's Focus and VW's Golf
  • High level of equipment fitted as standard
  • Impressive cabin ergonomics, especially from the radical steering wheel

Gripes

  • View out from tailgate is severely limited and rear wiper is too small to be of use
  • Controls on steering wheel may appear complex and daunting at first
  • Top-spec petrol VTS lacks the raucous edge of its Xsara VTS predecessor
  • Entry and egress to and from rear seats could be better

With the three-door C4, Citroen rediscovered its ability to design and market desirable cars. Yes the firm's C2 and C3 are pleasing to the eye, but the change from Xsara to C4 has been more dramatic. A more daring approach has been used for the C4's interior too, which includes noticeably higher quality materials, the inclusion of high-tech gadgets and a radical steering wheel design.

When a manufacturer is willing to take a risk with the design of a new model you know there's a deep-seated level of confidence behind the decision. Citroen's three-door C4, optimistically called a Coupe by the French firm, is one such example. The five-door model is attractive enough, but the three-door was clearly styled from the outset to be different.

After a considerable period of conservatism, the three-door C4 is a refreshing change - and a sign that Citroen is keen to capitalise on its past extravagant endeavours. It's difficult not to be taken in by the car's coupe-esque rear, what with its dramatic sloping roof and, in the case of the flagship VTS, a distinctive spoiler.

The compromise you make in terms of practicality is easily offset by the C4's looks. Boasting more kerb appeal than the conservative Ford Focus and Volkswagen's Golf, the only thing to come close is Vauxhall's Astra Sport Hatch. However, the Astra is all show as it's the C4 that follows up its extrovert display with an innovative cabin design, clever ergonomics and an interesting range of, admittedly, optional equipment.

Another turn for the better is the way the C4 performs on the road compared to its predecessor, the Xsara. Aside from the welcome improvements to refinement and comfort, the C4 in Coupe guise is fun to drive enthusiastically - especially in flagship VTS trim. It may not offer the outright pace of a Civic Type-R, but the C4 is more of a quick all-rounder and something that's just as happy on the motorway as a twisty B-road.

Our verdict on the Citroen C4 2.0i 16V VTS Coupe

A noticeable and welcome improvement over the Xsara, Citroen's C4 stands head and shoulders alongside cars that are often perceived to be more attractive propositions. That the C4 has been compared favourably in the same breath as Ford's Focus, Vauxhall's Astra and VW's Golf illustrates how much work Citroen put into its mid-size hatch. The 'Coupe' three-door model goes one step further: its racy styling is a real talking point and is a nod to the charismatic Citroen's of the past. The driving experience is equally impressive.

Costs
Costs rating 7

As far as three-door hatchbacks go the C4 should be looked on as offering good value for money. Unlike some of its more conservative rivals, the C4 comes with a fair list of standard kit - both comfort and safety items. And if past behaviour is any guide, there's a chance Citroen dealers will prove open to some healthy negotiation on price. Where it might not perform so well is down the line in terms of residuals. Historically the brand has rarely done well, but the C4's more polished performance could help reverse this trend. Predictably, if you're watching the pennies, the diesel models will be the ones to go for.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 6

Assuming you treat the rear accommodation as occasional seating, the focus will be on the front part of the cabin. Here you'll find enough room for two adults and their associated clutter. The glovebox is a decent size, while an assortment of oddments trays help, too. The car's armrest is deceiving, though. If you specify the CD changer it'll live here, robbing you of a covered storage compartment. And despite being 'only' a three-door car, the boot is a decent size: the loadspace is a regular shape and the rear seats fold. The load aperture could be a little wider, though.

picture of car from the rear

Racy-looking rear sets three-door C4 apart from the family focused five-door variant

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 9

If it's radical you want, the C4 delivers in spades. The speedometer and gauges are located centrally atop the fascia - right where you can see them. The stereo or optional sat-nav screen requires you to make a conscious effort to view, as it's further down the dashboard. The digital climate control display is tucked down below the audio unit, which is a shame. The C4 redeems itself with its steering wheel, however. In a radical move, the wheel's central boss is fixed and just the rim moves because the boss is surrounded by numerous controls for the audio unit, cruise control and trip computer, sat-nav and phone. It all looks daunting but works well and is surprisingly intuitive.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 7

Although recent Citroens have been tuned more for comfort than outright enjoyment, the C4 strikes a confident balance. The car's ride is a decent compromise - not too firm, not too soft - while the seats are supportive but not hard. Head and legroom up front is good and, once you've scrambled in the back, there's never the feeling that you are going to be cramped. On the road there's little in the way of obtrusive wind or tyre noise unless you choose to work the engine hard.

Car security
Security Rating 7

No surprises here - just the usual combination of remote central locking and an immobiliser. Useful extras include automatic boot locking once the car is in motion with the same for the car's doors. Laminated side windows, while good for keeping noise out, also make it harder for thieves to break in. The final piece in the security jigsaw is an alarm - standard on the VTS.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

It's getting harder to separate the various cars' safety merits as so many are offering increasingly generous levels of kit. The C4 is no different as it gets six airbags as standard, with the driver's airbag always in the correct position thanks to the steering wheel's non-rotating central boss. Elsewhere the usual suspects are present: ABS with electronic brake force distribution, ESP plus traction control and Isofix mounting points on the car's outer rear seats. Also available is a tyre pressure warning system and a device that alerts you if you stray outside your lane when travelling over 50mph.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 8

This is the area that will have Citroen critics falling silent - the C4 delivers. The Xsara was never a bad car, but it lacked the sparkle of the Focus and overall refinement of the Golf. The C4 comes mighty close to the latter and, in the main, is the equal of the former. General refinement levels are impressive, and the car is an accomplished performer when driven at eight-tenths, around town or on the motorway. When driven with more vigour the three door C4 is an immensely enjoyable car. The steering is well weighted and you feel in complete control. Engine choice is largely a personal preference, but the peaky 2.0-litre petrol motor is ideal for hot hatch traditionalists whereas the gutsy diesels make for a less frenetic experience.

picture of car interior

The C4's cabin boasts numerous clever touches, including a multi-function steering wheel and digital display

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 5

Three door cars rarely cut the mustard in a family environment, and this C4 variant is unlikely to be any different. A family with very small pre-school children might just survive, but the need to constantly fold the front seats to gain access to the rear could become tiresome over time. When the little ones start growing, it'll be time to trade up to the more practical five-door C4.

First car appeal
First car Rating 6

In principal the C4 is a sensible choice; it's affordable, easy to drive and the lesser-engined variants are plenty fast enough. Packed with safety kit and enough toys to keep any novice happy, the C4 is also likely to attract the attention of prospective buyers because of its rakish looks. But while parking sensors would be a sensible option box to tick, the three-door doesn't help itself with its poor rearward visibility. The car's unusual split window tailgate can hinder you during a parking manoeuvre - never a novice's favourite task.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 7

Citroen has had to duck more than the occasional criticism in the last few years, mainly for its ultra-conservative approach to design and the cars' absence of driver appeal. The C4 has been purposely designed to reverse this perception and does a fine job. Perceived and actual quality is also miles ahead of the C4's predecessor, while Citroen has boosted its image massively by focusing on technology and intelligent cabin ergonomics.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

As with any three-door hatch, there's always going to be a compromise for rear seat passengers. This C4 is no different, as access and egress always will be marginal if you're not that limber. Once installed in the rear, the room available is not so bad. In contrast, front seat occupants will have no trouble getting comfortable. The only snag will come in tight parking spaces as the car's big doors need space to open wide. At the back the tailgate, despite its unusual design, opens to reveal sizeable boot.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Standard fit is a good-sounding radio and combined single CD player. The main unit is placed in the centre console while the display is mounted higher on the fascia. Top spec C4s gain a five-disc CD changer located in the centre armrest. The steering wheel boasts controls for the stereo's basic functions. Opt to pay more and you can have a more powerful sound system and a full-blown navigation/communication unit complete with a voice command function. From this option's bigger colour screen you can access the radio, CD changer, trip computer sat-nav and telephone. Many more functions can be controlled via the steering wheel and, although not cheap, it is great piece of kit.

picture of car in detail

The removable cabin air freshener is a typical Citroen touch

Colours and trim

The three-door C4 is good in the sense that it's not your usual colour sensitive car. Both dark and light exterior hues work well, although bold colours such as red and the various bright metallics are the stand-out options. Inside, Citroen has gone for the Volkswagen approach - the cabin is purposely dark in a bid to heighten its quality appearance and largely works. The fabric-trimmed seats appear hard wearing yet attractive, while the leather option doesn't quite seem right in what is a mainstream hatch.

Parking

Thanks to the variable rate power assistance, it takes little effort to park the C4. Forward visibility is good, the door mirrors are a decent size and the clutch is nice and weighty, making it easy to modulate your speed. However, the view rearwards is less than great; the design of the three-door's tailgate restricts your vision as the heated screen portion and vertical panes of glass meet right in your line of sight. Also, the rear wiper is largely ineffective due to its small size.

Spare wheel

Standard spare wheel included across the range.

 

Range information

Petrol engines - 1.4-litre (90bhp); 1.6-litre (110bhp); 2.0-litre (138bhp). Diesel engines - 1.6-litre HDi (92/110bhp); 2.0-litre HDi (138bhp). Transmission options are five and six-speed manual gearboxes, depending on engine variant. Trim levels: VT, VTR, VTR Plus, VTS.

 

Alternative cars

Ford Focus Three-door Focus is a solid performer but puts refinement over outright performance

Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch Competent Astra is a visually stunning hatch

Volkswagen Golf GTI Iconic GTI reputation is safe with the driver-focused Mk5 Golf. Not cheap, though

Renault Megane Sport Hatch Three-door Megane is good value and stylish, but driving experience could be better



Over 1,200 more car reviews online

All the reports since 1990 are available on this site, just search by make and model below.

Step 1 > Select make Alfa Romeo    Aston Martin    Audi    Austin    BMW    Bentley    Cadillac    Caterham    Chevrolet    Chrysler    Citroen    Daewoo    Daihatsu    Dodge    Ferrari    Fiat    Ford    Honda    Hyundai    Isuzu    Jaguar    Jeep    Kia    Lada    Lamborghini    Lancia    Land Rover    Lexus    Lotus    MG    MINI    Maserati    Mazda    Mercedes-Benz    Mitsubishi    Nissan    Perodua    Peugeot    Porsche    Proton    Renault    Rolls-Royce    Rover    SEAT    Saab    Skoda    Smart    Smart Car    Ssangyong    Subaru    Suzuki    Toyota    Vauxhall    Volkswagen    Volvo    Yugo   

 

February 2005