The system where new cars could be compared with rivals after being put through exactly the same tests made measuring safety easy.
But now, as most new cars seem to be able to gain five stars for occupant protection, greater lengths have to be reached before cars stand out as safer than the rest.
It is a happy situation to be in, both as a driver and as a fleet operator, to know that most modern cars reach the highest standards for safety, but Citroen is hoping its latest new model will raise the bar even higher.
Citroen claims the new C4 will offer customers several sector firsts for safety and the issue will for a key factor in winning fleet customers.
Adaptive headlights – which turn in the direction of the steering – are not new to the sector, as Vauxhall already offers them on the Astra and the Ford Focus will also be offered with them.
However, the C4 includes these as standard (in conjunction with bi-xenon headlamps) on top-of-the-range models.
The lane departure warning system (LDWS) – which alerts the driver through the seat if the car crosses white lines on the road at high speed – available on the revised C5 is also available on the C4.
In an attempt to improve security, laminated side glass is also an option. This normally takes 10 times longer to break into than normal side glass, which could result in a thief giving up or allowing more time to raise the alarm. It also keeps the cabin quieter and helps reduce injuries in the event of an accident.
Some versions also have a plastic cover attached to the front door which protects the bonnet release catch while the door is closed.
Where cruise control is fitted, there is also a speed limiter setting, which can prevent drivers breaking speed limits, but can be overridden in an emergency by stepping hard on the accelerator pedal.
Understandably, Citroen is quite optimistic about the C4’s performance in Euro NCAP and is expecting five stars for occupant protection along with three stars (out of a maximum of four) for pedestrian protection.
But the safety message will have to share space with the other major pitch to fleet customers, because there is also a good wholelife costs story to tell, according to Citroen’s national fleet sales manager, John Hargreaves.
He said: ‘The low cost of ownership of the new C4 will be one of its strengths. But as well as low running costs it will also be good from a personal taxation point of view. We customers to know they will not have to pay for the privilege of owning the C4.’
CAP Monitor has set residual values ranging from 28% to 32% over three years/60,000 miles, which is roughly equivalent to the Vauxhall Astra and close to the Ford Focus.
However, Citroen points out that six airbags are standard across the C4 range, while the entry-level Ford Focus has just two.
Hargreaves said fleet sales of the C4 make up to 40% of total C4 registrations, because although the lower-medium sector is split 60% business and 40% retail, the Xsara never had a strong fleet presence.
He said: ‘We need to re-establish ourselves in the lower-medium sector, moving upwards from where the Xsara was. We will be selling the C4 in a different way compared with its predecessor, with restricted daily rental volume and a vehicle that will have strong appeal for user choosers.
‘People are brand conscious, but we think the C4 has enough to make it an attractive proposition against some of the premium cars in the lower medium sector.’
CITROEN C4 FACT FILE
|Model||1.4||1.6||2.0||2.0 auto||2.0 VTS||1.6 HDI 92||1.6 HDI 110||2.0 HDI 138|
|Max power (bhp/rpm)||90/5,250||110/5,800||138/6,000||143/6,000||180/7,000||92,4,000||110,4,000||138/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm)||98/3,250||108/4,000||140/4,100||148/4,000||149/4,750||159/1,750||177/1,750||236/2,000|
|Max speed (mph)||113||121 (auto: 118)||129||128||141||112||119||129|
|0.62mph (sec)||12.8||10.6 (13.1)||9.2||10.1||8.3||12.5||11.2||9.7|
|Fuel consumption (mpg)||44.1||39.8 (tbc)||36.2||34.9||33.6||60.1||60.1||52.3|
|CO2 emissions (g/km)||153||169 (tbc)||186||193||200||125||125||142|
Fuel tank capacity (l/gal): 60/13.2
Transmission: 5-sp man; 6-sp man; 4-sp auto
Service interval (miles): 20,000 petrol; 12,500 diesel
On sale: Now
Prices (OTR): £11,095-£18,395
BEHIND THE WHEEL
BOTH the three-door ‘coupe’ and five-door C4 are a refreshing change from the clean-cut Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus.
Over the next few years, all new Citroens will come with the ‘boomerang’ style headlamps, and bolder chevron grille, but the five-door model has a hint of C3 Pluriel about the rear while the coupe has a unique two-piece tailgate window.
The interior is as radically different as the exterior. The central LCD panel at the base of the windscreen is translucent so that when it becomes exceptionally bright outside, the display just gets brighter, even when driving towards sunlight.
The steering wheel centre is fixed to house a uniquely shaped driver’s airbag that offers better protection than round airbags, and buttons around the perimeter of the wheel operate various controls.
Some of the interior materials were disappointing when compared to the Golf, Astra and new Focus. Instead of a ‘slush-moulded’ dashboard, there is a textured soft cover over a hard dashboard. Some lower specification models do without a rubber membrane covering the grab handles inside the doors making them feel cheap (SX, Exclusive and VTR models have the more tactile rubber coating), and the smoky fake wood trim offered on Exclusive models will not be to everyone’s taste. However, the rest of the interior has much to recommend it, and Citroen has succeeded in creating two different personalities, for the coupe and the five-door.
The coupe feels sportier, while the five-door has a more relaxed demeanour.
A short drive in the 1.6-litre petrol model revealed the coupe endowed with the 110bhp engine to be a frisky performer, with precise and direct steering and plenty of character.
The steering was not very communicative but there seemed to be ample grip from the front tyres and the C4 seemed keen to play on the B-roads around the Leicestershire press launch venue.
There was a little more body roll in the taller five-door version, which I drove with both the 110bhp 1.6 HDi (which, incidentally will only be Euro III compliant from launch, unlike the Euro IV 92bhp version) and the 138bhp 2.0 HDi. Both these engines were quiet and refined, and while the 110bhp variant provided ample power, the 2.0-litre version provided a useful extra surge for overtaking.
The petrol VTS model uses a 180bhp 2.0-litre engine and thrives on high revs. Although it will be relatively low volume, it seemed to offer plenty of fun for the money, with huge grip, even on damp roads, and a zingy engine note.
THE Citroen C4’s adventurous and attractive styling should ensure it doesn’t follow the Xsara into relative obscurity in the fleet market. It is fun to drive and also offers fleets cutting edge technology and safety features unavailable on key rivals.