Peugeot 308 Allure hatch 2015 review
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The French hatch has some sweet new features.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That's been the case for Citroen in Australia since Nevill Westwood became the first driver to successfully lap Australia 90 years ago in a 5CV, dubbed the "petit citron" (little lemon).
The most recent application of the adage is the facelifted C4 hatch's arrival. Local Citroen boss John Startari has spent the past two years analysing where Citroen sits in the market — and how to improve it.
He has resisted the temptation to chase short-term sales in favour of a slow-burn plan to satisfy the "discerning buyers" who venture into a Citroen dealership looking for style with a substantial helping of standard features.
The facelifted C4 is a start but Startari admits the five-seat hatch will appeal to "existing Citroen owners" rather than bringing in new customers. The expansion plans, and a marque relaunch, will coincide with the C4 Cactus compact SUV's arrival early next year.
Back to the C4 hatch. The exterior updates are minor, with the overhaul largely focusing on drivetrain improvements and the addition of a seven-inch touchscreen (Citroen says this innovation has meant removal of 13 buttons from the fascia).
The most dramatic improvements are under the bonnet, in the form of a 1.3-litre three-cylinder turbo matched to a six-speed auto transmission. The outgoing model used a less powerful and thirstier 1.6-litre petrol engine paired with a four-speed auto.
Citroen says dropping an entry level model in favour of the $29,990 Seduction and $33,990 Exclusive variants reflects buyers' preference for top-end features on their chevron-badged cars.
"The sales mix and customer feedback tells us Citroen buyers expect luxury features … we struggled to shift the base models," Startari says. "With the C4 we've adjusted the specification to reflect that."
The Seduction has auto lights and wipers, fog lights that illuminate corners, dual-zone airconditioning, touchscreen with satnav, cruise control and rear parking sensors. A reversing camera is a dealer-fit option at $1000.
Ultra-light steering makes the C4 a breeze to negotiate tight carparks
Little wonder Citroen expects most buyers to go for the Exclusive, which adds a panoramic sunroof, front and rear parking sensors plus a camera, blind-spot monitoring, keyless entry and start and upgraded upholstery.
Ultra-light steering makes the C4 a breeze to negotiate tight carparks, backed by a decent 10.7m turning circle. The 408L boot will take care of most items and the rear seats fold 60-40 for bulkier baggage.
Engine noise, noticeable under hard acceleration from rest, is muted when the foot isn't flat to the floor.
The engine is perky and the gearbox has been calibrated for smooth upshifts and solid downshifts that hit the meat of the torque curve. That curve is impressive with 230Nm from 1750-3500rpm. Put into context, the C4 packs 25Nm more than Renault's similarly sized three-cylinder, though uses another half-litre of fuel every 100km to do so.
The ride is one of it's outstanding attributes
Front occupant space is good but there's only one bottle holder between the seats and it is too shallow for tall bottles. Rear legroom and headroom are marginal for those over 175cm but that's common in most small hatches.
The ride is one of it's outstanding attributes, providing you're after composure and compliance rather than expecting waft-along serenity. It is marginally firmer than most Asian hatches so bumps and ruts can be felt without unduly unsettling the car or occupants. The lightweight engine helps prevent the car running wide in turns and the mill willingly accelerates from 80km/h to highway speeds.
The Exclusive model tested has a standard driver seat massage but power adjustment fore/aft (or of the seat back) wasn't included. Go figure.
Chasing the top-end of the small car segment is going to be a tough ask against established players. The C4 is far from a lemon, its six-year warranty sweetens the deal but it lacks brand recognition compared to a Mazda3 or VW Golf.
Price: Citroen says it has added more than $5000 of calue to the C4 and the $29,990 starting price is comparable with many mid-spec rivals.
Equipment: Powered seat (and reversing camera on the Seduction) apart, the C4 has all you can ask for this side of autonomous emergency braking.
Performance: The 100km/h sprint won't pin the ears back, though more steering resistance at speed wouldn't go astray.
Design: A bolder chrome chevron badge on the grille and the touchscreen are highlights. Soft-touch plastics can be found on the contact points.
|Exclusive||1.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO||$14,080 – 18,480||2015 Citroen C4 2015 Exclusive Pricing and Specs|
|Seduction||1.6L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO||$8,360 – 11,770||2015 Citroen C4 2015 Seduction Pricing and Specs|
|Seduction E-HDi||1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$10,010 – 13,750||2015 Citroen C4 2015 Seduction E-HDi Pricing and Specs|
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