Citroën is a brand I have a soft spot for – their willingness to try ideas out of the beaten path is something I appreciate very much. Over the years, it led to some memorable models and a legion of fans. My ride for the last week sported the French logo with the two chevrons, and in very comfortable fashion, I set out to investigate how much of the Citroën of old I could perceive in the new ë-C4.
The history of the brand goes back many decades, is filled with quirky and iconic cars such as the 2CV or the CX, and includes a very respected rally legacy. So that means there is no shortage of inspiration for Citroën to draw from when coming up with new offerings. The C4 is a car that has changed a lot over the years (who can forget the great VTS or the Pallas? My mother-in-law had one of the latter and loved it), and like the rest of the market, has evolved from hatchback and sedan shapes in exchange for a stylish crossover SUV format. This latest iteration is available since 2020 and sits beside other models that followed the same path within the group.
Now in electric guise, the ë-C4 trades the corporate 1.2 litre 3 cylinder for an electric motor with 100kW of power. I might sound like a broken record at this stage, but this is another car that benefits greatly from electrification. Mated to a 50kWh battery, the French automaker claims this powertrain is good for 363km of range, but I am almost certain I was on track to get a better number than that, which is not something we can say about EVs very frequently.
The gorgeous Iceland Blue colour of my press car reacts to light and works well with the blue accents scattered throughout the body. It is a hard car to film and photograph with so many lines coming and going, but in the metal the result is very interesting. The split rear window and the low sloping line of the roof lead to an aerodynamic and characterful design, and I got some early Citroën vibes from the shape of the rear side windows. It masks its dimensions reasonably well, and I would say it most pictures don’t do it proper justice.
I had been told how comfortable the seats of the C4 were, but even then I was surprised as I made my way inside my loaner. Just fifteen minutes prior I was driving the Astra GSe, and while the AGR seats there are excellent, Citroën achieves the same compliment but from a totally different perspective. Instead of the GSe’s sporty purpose and hugging capability, you get extreme comfort, but not in a “you-don’t-seat-you-sink” way. They offer enough support and the Advanced Comfort technology uses a cushioned pillow on top of them to bring a very relaxing experience. Very Citroën. There’s a great range of height adjustment so it should make it easy to find a driving position where you can extract the most of that comfort, although I wish the steering wheel adjustment range followed suit.
While on the topic of the wheel, another famous quirk of the brand in the past has been their use of single spoke designs. This extremely cool touch has been gone for years, but if you try really hard you can trace a link between the ë-C4’s bottom spoke being so out of the ordinary to those single spokes of old. Different than the old wheels, however, is how much is going on here – the C4 family brings commands that are extremely easy to get used to, falling right to the hand and with an intelligent layout, and it is also of very high quality heated leather.
And is a Citroën article ever complete without an honorary mention to the DS? Introduced in the mid 50s, it has to be one of the most interesting vintage cars ever, and I could talk about it for hours. Thought to be one of the most innovative cars ever produced, it pioneered, among other technologies, the use of the hydropneumatic suspension. It used a very esoteric (very French) system of spheres that stored oil under pressure that worked as springs; They were extremely comfortable, but complex and costly to maintain, and would lead to slamming the car to the ground when it sat for too long.
Whenever that car is brought up, the talk is never about its performance or racing pedigree – instead, it is about its quirkiness and ride quality. So I was keen to get behind the wheel of the ë-C4 and see how much of it I could still see in this model, even if almost 70 years detached. Foot on the brake, engine start and we’re on the move – the first reaction is the heads-up display coming up. In other cars, I think HUDs are mostly a gimmick, but here I believe it genuinely adds to the experience. The instrument cluster is small and minimalistic, so the additional information displayed on the HUD is welcome even if projected on a last-gen-tech mini screen instead of the windshield.
On the move, the inputs are all soft, progressive and slow, and so is the response of the ë-C4 to everything you ask it to do. The 100kW are hardly ever enough to upset the car, regardless of how hard you try. The calibration of the motor is as progressive as can be – even the sharpest stomp on the accelerator is smoothed out, leading to a linear and relaxing delivery of the 260Nm of torque, independent of the driving mode you are in. This is a car that’s best left in Normal or Eco. Brakes integrate very well with the electric motor and will always bring you to a smooth stop, more than on the ICE versions, be it by your action or when using adaptive cruise.
Steering response is slow, filtering out much of the feedback, and is over assisted to the point you can drive anywhere using only one finger while in complete isolation from the roughness outside. That novel pneumatic suspension of the DS created the fame of it riding like a “flying carpet”, and I’m glad to say Citroën found a simpler and more cost effective solution this time around. The Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension of the ë-C4 (that is also available in other trims and models) is one of its biggest highlights and is perceptible right from the start. The shocks use specialised hardware to smooth out harshness during dampening and compressing motions and make for one of the most comfortable cars I’ve driven recently.
In terms of technology, the approach here was clearly quality over quantity. You won’t find the latest screen technology, fancy animations or crazy party tricks. You will, however, find a compelling package of convenience and driver assistance packages that worked flawlessly during my time with the car, including quick boots of the wireless Apple CarPlay functionality and unobtrusive lane keep assist and emergency braking systems. It might be behind some of the competition with older HUD tech and small dim screens, but if you’re upgrading from a car with less kit than this, then you will be wishing for nothing.
The headroom on the back is not too compromised for the two corner passengers, but my head hit the headliner when seating on the centre seat (at 1.88cm). Each one of those corner passengers will have their own centre a/c exit and a port for their devices. Your mileage getting in and out might vary, as the high sills can get in the way – but a welcome feature here are the long hugging doors that keep said sills (and your trouser legs) clean. Trunk space is adequate and has a two-tier floor you can use to keep the charging hardware out of the way.
But back on the topic of devices, we have to talk about another smart move on Citroën’s part. That thing you just saw on the passenger’s half of the dashboard is OEM equipment, and is made to hold tablets in a steady and safe manner as an entertainment solution. It has foam dividers to accommodate for devices of different sizes, and comes with a screen “protector” that makes it almost impossible for the driver what’s on the screen, so eyes on the road and not on Netflix. Once your passenger is finished binge watching the last true crime series, it is easy enough to remove the tablet holder and stow it away inside the tray that opens above the glove compartment. Creative technologie indeed!
I owned a tuned up DS3 a handful of years ago, and while it didn’t have all the Citroën-ness of years past, it opened my eyes to all the history and relevance of the brand. It loved being pushed, which could not be more different from the e-C4. As soon as you’re finished flooring it to clock the 9s 0-100km/h sprint and lift your foot, the e-C4 jumps and wafts into coasting again, making you rethink your driving choices and go back to just driving it calmly. The usual speed bumps and road imperfections I’m familiar with (and use for regular evaluation of the cars) were barely perceptible when driving the e-C4, so I constantly found myself just setting a relaxing playlist, and driving babying it around. Which would explain my optimism with the range.
At the end of my time with the ë-C4, the impression that stuck with me was of how much certain small changes can give a shared platform a taste of what customers expect of a certain brand. The two creative solutions for the seats and the suspension, and the calibration of the other systems to facilitate accessibility and relatability make the ë-C4 a textbook Citroën, even if I’d love to see even more quirkiness make its way here. The EV powertrain adds to it, and with decent range and charging specs, it is very easy to live with. It is a lounge-like experience meant to be taken slowly, and that will reward you with one of the most comfortable and relaxing drives available this side of six figures, and one I enjoyed very much! Thanks for reading, and thanks Citroën for the opportunity!