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The headlines might have gone to the third-generation C4 going electric, but Citroën is offering regular powertrains too. We drive an early petrol unit to see what it has to offer.
Six airbags, active brake, speed limit and lane keep assist, driver attention alert, forward collision warning, auto lights and wipers, electric park brake, rear parking sensor, dual-zone climate control, 10in colour screen system with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, DAB radio, 4x USB ports, 18in alloys, heated leather seats
100hp (May 2021), 130hp (now), 155hp (Feb 2021)
110hp (May 2021), 130hp (now)
Sense, Sense Plus, Shine, Shine Plus
Six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic
Thankfully the new C4 cannot be viewed as dull (like the one previously), or even limited. While much of the fanfare has been rightly reserved for its first full-electric model, Citroën's product planners sensibly kept their customers' options open, and offer the now crossover-shaped compact car with three petrol and two diesel variants too.
A 130hp 1.2-litre unit launches the petrol range with a 155hp variant in February 2021 and an entry-level 110hp model in May. Similarly a 130hp 1.5-litre diesel unit will be joined by a 110hp version in late spring. How does the 130hp petrol model stack up among these engines and the EV already covered? In this increasingly complicated comparison, maybe a 'top trumps' style approach is instructive. The 130hp petrol's most likely winning stats are its no-worry range - circa 500 miles and easily twice as much as the E-C4's 217 miles. Allied to an official 54.7mpg and 120g/km of CO2 for the 130 manual or 50.3mpg and 129g/km CO2 for the automatic, things look promising.
The latter auto in top Shine Plus trim was the only petrol option available to Business Car to drive early. While visually undifferentiated from the E-C4 - save for a few exterior badges and interior surfaces and colours - the 130hp three-cylinder emits a pleasing (to most) growly thrum as the car works its way through the lower numbers of its eight-speed automatic transmission. It's slower than the E-C4 from 0-62mph (9.4 secs versus 9.0) but neither are designed to win any automotive drag races. Get to cruising speeds where this business-focused car will probably spend most of its time and the engine is refined, quiet and happy. Find more twisty roads and Sport mode provides some driving entertainment, although the steering wheel column paddle gear-shifters are barely necessary with what is only a 1.2-litre engine (other modes 'normal' and 'eco' are available). The leather and leather effect seats on Shine Plus trim and the standard Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension system make the C4 a comfortable place to sit too, so crucial Citroën brand values are upheld.
The central infotainment screen has seen improvements over the Cactus model this C4 also replaces. Beyond the bigger screen size - 10in versus 7in - there are now physical buttons directly below it for 'home' and key driving functions, plus a whole suite of real air con buttons below the centre vents for easy-on-the-move fan and temperature adjustment without multi-layer touchscreen interrogation. This is a welcome U-turn on previous attempts to make the cabin almost fully touchscreen.
Another notable item that stands apart from most other cars is a drawer-style, horizontally-opening tray on the passenger side of the dashboard, which provides a resting place for a good-sized tablet while still allowing room for a conventional glove box below. Called 'Smart Pad Support', it is standard on the Sense Plus trim and upward, although it still costs £100 to get a dedicated mount for specific products like the Apple iPad Air 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tablet A 10.5".
Petrol is still predicted to be the C4's most important powertrain type in the UK, taking 83% of the nearly two-thirds of sales expected to be of an internal combustion variety (the other third should be EVs). From its early 2021 on-sale date, a significant 63% of C4s are predicted to be business sales too. The 130hp C4 avoids entry level Sense trim, starting at the six-speed manual Sense Plus at £22,990 and rising through Shine and Shine Plus eight-speed auto for £26,590. Shine trim spec is already pretty decent but Shine Plus adds another USB port to the rear (so there is a pair of Type A and C ports front and back) plus a wireless smartphone charging space and a few other items.
In summary, the new C4 is a good replacement for the old C4 and Cactus (although I personally miss the character of the latter) and for those who need to travel reasonably long distances on a regular basis - but still frequent towns and cities, and don't fancy the downsides of diesel or the potential range anxiety of EVs - the petrol C4 range is a compelling choice. It's also lower-priced than both other powertrain options. You'll pay more tax - 29% for this model versus 26% for the equivalent diesel and 0% for the EV - but in 2021 your choice is about what you need your car to do. One size does not fit all.