Friday, April 12, 2013
The Citroen C4 Aircross is the third release of the same sub-compact SUV.
Essentially, the $32,000 Citroen C4 Aircross is a differently-styled version of the otherwise identical Mitsubishi ASX and Peugeot 4008. All three are designed, engineered and built by Mitsubishi in Japan, but the deal with Citroen and Peugeot increases production output from the same plant. Australia is one of few markets that sells all three versions of the same car.
A Citroen-designed front and rear end separates the C4 Aircross from the other duo, but the interior design between them is identical. Specification differences also separate each, with the C4 Aircross 4×2 Exclusive priced from $31,990 driveaway, and the 4×4 Exclusive from $33,990 driveaway.
Both Citroen C4 Aircross 4×2 and 4×4 Exclusive score 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, reversing sensors and camera, and part-leather trim standard.
The latter two features aren’t available on the similarly priced – $500 cheaper, but not driveaway-priced – Peugeot 4008 Active, but the Mitsubishi ASX Aspire counters with standard electric-adjust front seats, satellite navigation and Rockford Fosgate premium audio (but only 17-inch alloys) for $1000 more than the C4 Aircross (again plus on-road costs).
Whichever version you choose, you’re essentially sacrificing interior space compared with the likes of the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester, but gaining substantially more standard equipment. The more highly-specced Citroen C4 Aircross sells for the same money as those base models.
The Citroen C4 Aircross is available exclusively with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), the only difference being that the cheaper model only drives the front wheels, while the more expensive version has all-wheel-drive with 2WD, Auto and Lock modes.
Weighing 1395kg in front-wheel-drive guise, and 1460kg in all-wheel-drive spec, the C4 Aircross is heavy for a car packing only 110kW of power and 199Nm of torque. Those are typical figures for a $20,000 hatchback, most of which come in at 150-200 kilograms less.
For the 4×2 Exclusive tested, Citroen claims 0-100km/h in 10.2 seconds and a 7.9L/100km fuel consumption average. The 4×4 Exclusive adds 0.3 seconds and 0.2L respectively.
On the road, the C4 Aircross feels its girth and struggles to move off the line with verve, nor slide into traffic gaps with ease.
The CVT may take some of the blame, being slow to wind-up accelerating from standstill, but it quickly gets the engine into the area of the tachometer where it’s producing its best – somewhere between where maximum torque is delivered (4000rpm) and maximum power is on tap (6000rpm).
The Mitsubishi-designed engine is noisy and uncouth, however, so occupants are regularly treated to a loud engine soundtrack, affecting both driveability and refinement.
Even in undemanding conditions the throttle needs to be pressed harder than is ideal to the detriment of economy – our test loop comprising commuting, freeway and harder driving recorded 11.5L/100km.
The ever-growing trend to put 2.0-litre non-turbo engines in relatively heavy SUV models also affects the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester, but they all have the option of larger 2.4- or 2.5-litre engines.
Likewise the Mitsubishi ASX is the only triplet available with a 1.8-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine, which offers plenty of grunt and superior economy.
The Citroen C4 Aircross otherwise drives decently with steering that is light and accurate – though the electro-mechanical system lacks tactility and immediacy – and a suspension tune that is quite soft but teams with a nicely balanced chassis.
There’s plenty of bodyroll, which allows keen drivers to feel what each end of the car is doing, but also lots of grip from the 18-inch Bridgestone tyres and competent stability control to keep things safe and controlled.
Unfortunately the C4 Aircross regularly crashes over larger potholes, sending shivers through the body and steering wheel. It also feels choppy over busted-up tarmac – all too common on the outskirts of Australian cities and beyond – reducing overall comfort levels.
The Citroen C4 Aircross is better suited to urban duties where it rides over bumps more comfortably, offers good visibility, and is easy to park thanks to its compact dimensions and standard reverse sensors and camera – although the camera itself looks awfully aftermarket, screwed in beside the rear numberplate.
Soft-touch dashboard plastics and supportive, comfortable front seats are the cabin highlights, however the C4 Aircross would benefit from the ASX Aspire’s colour touchscreen as the standard audio controls appear dated.
Rear seat space transcends the sub-compact SUV class, with legroom in particular challenging larger SUV models. Less interior width means squeezing three people across the back will be a challenge, however, and the C4 Aircross also lacks rear ventilation.
A 384-litre boot is also less than even the smallest of compact SUV models – the Volkswagen Tiguan offers 395 litres. The C4 Aircross offers a full-size spare tyre, which is commendable, but it also makes for a higher-than-ideal loading height in the rear.
Although the Citroen C4 Aircross is average to drive, lacks refinement and certainly misses expected French flair, it is also well priced, well specified and competitive with rivals such as the Subaru XV and Nissan Dualis.
Look beyond that breed of flawed sub-compact SUV models, however, and most traditional small wagons offer more space, smarter versatility, and are considerably better to drive. That list includes the Hyundai i30 Tourer (from $22,990, with 528-litres of luggage space), Opel Astra Tourer ($27,990/500L) and Volkswagen Golf wagon ($26,990/505L).