ACCORDING to Citroën, cars can be stationary for as much as 30 per cent of the journey time during commuting – unless you’re on the M25, of course.
This is why stop/start technology is a major feature on the carmaker’s new eco version of its C4 model – it stops the engine in traffic and restarts it again in a fraction of a second, as soon as your foot returns to the accelerator pedal.
Boasting clever innovations like this, that save fuel and reduce emissions, the new C4 is the model Citroën seems to be most excited about, and with good reason.
The figures are certainly fairly impressive. The C4 e-HDi can return as much as 57.6mpg in urban traffic (64.2mpg combined) while pumping out just 114g/km of CO2. Its e-HDi technology – which includes regenerative braking – can improve fuel efficiency by up to 15 percent while driving in the city.
Looks-wise, the car’s face is pleasing enough with Citroën’s strong chevron identity worked into the grille with hawk-like headlamps adding a determined rather than an aggressive look. Alloy wheels too enhance what is otherwise a very conservative-looking car. Which makes the interior all the more surprising and delightful. The design and build quality of the interior is an obvious step up for Citroën. The cabin really is an unusually nice place to spend some time. The styling of the interior looks much more creative and innovative and feels younger than the exterior of the car suggests. The soft-touch dash has lots of chrome trim around the dials and vents and on the steering wheel and doors.
More interesting perhaps is that the gear selector handle has been reduced in size in order to generate more storage space in the centre console. In this case a sliding lid reveals a cubby bigger enough to store four 500ml bottles of water and cool them too thanks to the integrated AC.
There are some thoughtful touches that allow you to personalise the car: you can set the colour of the dashboard’s instrumentation display to a blue/white or white ambience and you can choose which “polyphonic” sound alert you want to hear when you indicate. Add to all this a blind spot monitoring system which indicates in the side mirrors when a car or cyclist is to the side of you, a cornering light function which sees the fog lamp on either side of the car illuminate the road automatically to improve visibility while cornering, and an emergency assistance system that monitors the car’s location and sends help in the event of an accident and it’s clear that technology has been a key focus for this car. By using its parking sensor system the car can even measure the amount of gap there is available in a parking space.
Add in a competitive price and all of this ought to mean that the Citroën C4 e-HDi would come highly recommended. But there is one problem with this particular model and that is its six-speed EGS automated manual transmission system. What is an automated manual transmission system? Well, think of it as a manual car with none of the tactile advantages of a clutch and few of the advantages of an automatic. In practice, in automatic mode, the car shifts gear with such a significant lag as to become frustrating.
No doubt this system is important in contributing to the car’s fuel economy. But the effect is the car feels slower than it should. With some practice – at easing the accelerator pedal in and out as if still using a clutch – things improve somewhat. In manual mode, shifting feels easier and the lag can be reduced by use of the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
But at the end of the day I’d rather have an auto gearbox or a clutch. You would have to be a very unadventurous driver to not lament the slow lack of progress of the gear changes. It isn’t a deal breaker if you are happy to just pootle about. But fun it isn’t.
CITROËN C4 E-HDI
TOP SPEED: 118mph
CO2 G/KM: 114g/km
MPG COMBINED: 64.2mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY