Not your run-of-the-mill family hatchback, the Citroen C4 piles on the technology and includes some unorthodox styling features but it all hangs together rather well.
It's a car that had become a rather forgotten choice until the introduction of this second generation version, which aimed to change things with sleeker styling, much improved quality and a range of more efficient engines. It still isn't a French Golf. Actually, it's more interesting than that.
Though it doesn't look it, this car is quite a bit bigger than its first generation predecessor, around 5cm longer (at 4.33-metres) and also a couple of centimetres longer and wider. The really impressive thing though is that, thanks to a stringent weight-saving campaign, it's no heavier. That's quite an achievement, especially bearing in mind all the presumably quite heavy safety kit that has enabled this C4 to achieve a five-star NCAP rating for crash safety. One slight disappointment inside is the absence of the unusual fixed steering wheel boss, which on the MK1 C4, carried most of the car's key switches and was a really unusual touch. You turned the wheel and the switches stayed static. Citroen says that it's ditched this in the interests of saving 3.5kgs in weight: we think it's more likely that buyers just couldn't get used to it.
Whatever the truth, this second generation C4 does deliver a very smart cabin indeed, this objective pursued over a development programme that ran over more than 1.25million test miles. The result is an interior that really is close to the kind of VW Golf quality that its designers were striving for. And it's bigger for passengers than many of its rivals.
Detail touches include being able to alter the backlighting behind the dashboard controls to suit your preferences.
Plus sound alerts which can also be changed to your taste, in the same way that you can modify your mobile phone's ring-tone.
This C4 sits in much the same £15,000 to £20,000 bracket as its predecessor but claims to offer much of a big-car feel to suit downsizers.
On the road, Citroens have always prioritised comfort over handling but the spec sheet suggests that this one may well serve up a slightly more dynamic experience than its predecessor, without compromising the relaxed demeanour which has always marked this car out. You'll need to be after a 1.6-litre engine since the whole of the mainstream range is based around powerplants of that size, in petrol form developing 96, 120 and 155PS, while the diesels deliver 90, 110 and 150PS.
There's plenty of transmission choice too – the usual five and six-speed manuals and a four-speed auto, plus a clever six- speed clutchless manual gearbox.
Included in the powertrain line-up are Citroen's e-HDI units with Stop-Start technology.As well as markedly reducing engine emissions from the HDI engines, this technology means that fuel economy is boosted by as much 15 per cent, enough to represent significant savings.
Diesel drivers should habitually record combined cycle fuel figures in the 60s and the 110PS e-HDI engine will deliver CO² emissions of 109g/km.
Citroen even claim that this model's Energy Saver tyres will save 90-litres of fuel during their lifetime and that alone represents a saving of well over £100 at the pumps. Low insurance premiums (mainly groups 4 to 6) and the added benefit of zero road tax on the lowest emitting versions also beef up the C4's low running cost credentials.