Citroën is making a strong comeback after a few years in the wilderness thanks to a growing and ever-improving model line-up. Cars like the C3 and C5 Aircross SUVs, the latter of which is available with a PHEV powertrain, have elevated brand perception and brought quality and quirkiness which has seen those two models shift over 300,000 units since launch. What's more, Citroën was maintaining its ascendency prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, with sales growing one per cent in 2019 – the fastest of the top 12 European brands.
Now, it is reinventing not only its C-segment hatch, but putting a new spin on the C-segment hatch in general. Its C4 will go toe-to-toe with cars like the VW Golf and Ford Focus, and in ë-C4 guise will come with a fully electric powertrain.
The first thing that struck us when attending the online unveiling of the new Citroën ë-C4 is the fact that the C4 is now a quasi-SUV. Citroën calls it a coupé-style with “certain SUV traits for added strength and character”. Those SUV traits will be the fact it looks and has the higher ride of an SUV (with 156mm of ground clearance), then.
The ë-C4 benefits from the brand's new design language and is an evolution of the previous C4 Cactus. Features of this design language include solid surfaces with less intrusive detail on them, and the use of more muscular contours to create plays on light and shadow. The concave elements of the bonnet are a good demonstration of this.
V-shaped lights echo the iconic Citroën chevron which itself forms the centrepiece of two chrome lines that run the width of the vehicle, and are echoed at the back. In profile and from rear three-quarter angles the car has more than a hint of previous cars from the brand such as the CX and GS. Size-wise, the Citroën ë-C4 is 4360mm long, 1800mm wide and 1525mm tall. Short overhangs and wheels of up to 18 inches in diameter (which are specially designed on the ë-C4 to aid aerodynamics and reduce vibration) add to the muscular, squat look.
A relatively long wheelbase of 2670mm means that rear seat passengers get best-in-segment knee room.
One of the major themes of the car's reveal was comfort and the brand has called the new C4 “the embodiment of the Citroën Advanced Comfort programme” – and was at pains to point out that the pinnacle of this was in electric ë-C4 guise. In fact, electric will become 'de facto' for the brand's comfort programme in the future.
Citroën ë-C4 carries over some of the suspension wizardry that makes the C5 Aircross such a smooth rider including the Progressive Hydraulic Cushions which are derived from the brand's WRC programme. Also carried over are a new generation of its Advanced Comfort seats. A nifty little touch is the Smart Pad Support – a bracket that folds out from the dashboard on the front passenger side enabling them to rest an iPad (or similar) and use it on-the-move.
Citroën said that it has worked hard on the ë-C4's HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces). Central to these is a new high-definition 10 inch central touchscreen which acts as the nerve centre for vehicle controls and infotainment. For the driver, a retracting HUD raises on start-up and, alongside a high-definition cluster display, provides all of the most important information 'at a glance'. Some 20 driver aids are included to help keep up Citroën's record on high levels of safety.
A mixture of chrome and high-gloss on the panels provides a premium feel, whilst many of the other controls have been simplified. The shape of the dash is lower and wider to echo some of the exterior design elements. Configurable mood lighting, dual-zone climate control and an optional large glass sunroof, along with up to 1250 litres of boot space with the rear seats folded flat (380 litres with them in-place) should make the interior a nice and usable place to be.
Underpinning the Citroën ë-C4 is the PSA Group's CMP modular platform and the EV powertrain that has been adopted across the PSA Group range. This means 134bhp, 192lb ft and a 50kWh battery, translating to 217 miles of range in the WLTP test, 62mph in 9.7 seconds and a top speed of 93mph.
A standard 11kW on-board charger should see a full charge from a domestic wall box in five hours and at DC 100kW an 80 per cent charge can be achieved in 30 minutes. Citroën is promising a full range of e-services for the ë-C4 to aid day-to-day ownership, vehicle configuration and charging.
Citroën is ready to start churning out ë-C4s (and regular ICE C4s) and will be on the roads in Europe before the end of 2020. UK specs will obviously need to be finalised, and we may not get the ë-C4 until early 2021. Price-wise, we would expect the Citroën ë-C4 to come in from just over £30,000.