Citroën is a company that has historically been known for its technology and general design talents.
In terms of both technology and styling, its DS of 1955 was arguably one of the most significant step-changes ever in the auto industry; the almost equally radical CX that followed took the company to the edge of bankruptcy; and the Xsara of the 1990s was an example of vehicle creation without flair or character that nevertheless met the market requirements of the day.
But now Citroën is trying once more to find the sort of engineering and aesthetic signature that singles it out from the herd. Its new DS models are helping it do so, and it hopes that its new C4 five-door hatchback, revealed at the 2010 Paris Motor Show, will complement this move.
It may help, but it is a car that really takes the middle ground in terms of both looks and technology. It uses PSA Peugeot-Citroën’s established Platform 2 using MacPherson front suspension but with a new design of flexible transverse beam at the rear and hydraulic steering with an electric pump. In Europe, the sector’s average owner age is about 57 and such facts dictate the potential vehicle for their needs.
The new C4 has certainly been the subject of detail design and engineering focus. The microhybrid diesel version, designated e-HDi, has a very effective stop-start system, combining a reversible alternator with a diesel engine designed and developed in collaboration with Valeo. The program stretched over several years to achieve a satisfactory NVH and start-up solution. The result is impressive, with an engine off-to-start time of only 0.4 s. The engine is stopped at 8 km/h (5 mph) during the deceleration phase.
Main comfort functions remain available during engine off. Fuel/emissions savings is said to be some 15%. The 1.6-L 80-kW e-HDi engine achieves 4.2 L/100 km in the combined cycle and emissions of 109 g/km. The engine drives through a robotized six-speed transmission.
The e-HDi’s frugality is complemented by new-generation Michelin Energy Saver tires, claimed to reduce emissions by 5% compared to regular types and cut fuel consumption by 0.2 L/100 km.
A part-by-part weight-savings program has seen 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) taken out of the steering-wheel hub area, 2 kg (4.4 lb) from the use of laser welding of roof and doors (a first for the PSA Peugeot Citroën Group), and 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) from flow-formed wheels.
Achieving required NVH levels included the use of an acoustic laminated windshield with a damping film and particular attention to sealing of bodyshell and doors.
The car’s materials comprise 70% metals, 5% miscellaneous including glass, 5% fluids, and the remainder polymers. PSA Peugeot Citroën aims to include 20% of green materials (natural fibers such as linen and hemp), nonmetallic recycled materials, and biomaterials in vehicle polymers by 2011.
The new C4 uses 15% of green materials out of a total 200 kg (440 lb) of polymers.
Available with a wide choice of gasoline (developed with BMW) and diesel engines, a forthcoming C4 1.4 e-HDi will achieve CO2 emissions of 99 g/km.
The C4, which has undergone a 2 million km test program, is built at Citroën’s Mulhouse, France, facility, which has ISO 14001 certification. Electricity and water consumption per vehicle has been reduced 14-fold over 30 years (9.5 m³/vehicle in 2009) and CO2 and VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions divided by 10 over a decade.