As the new Ë-C4 X backed into my drive, I felt a bit like I was watching one of those deep-sea documentaries where something unexpected looms into view. Fish analogies don’t make the stuff of dealership brochures, but stay with me. Evolution, both in marine zoology and cars, can take interesting turns. In Citroën’s case, the crossover Ë-C4 has spawned this elongated version, largely, I suspect, in response to that obstinate French nostalgia for saloons, which was a trend over here that became somewhat niche after the death of the repmobile.
But whether you see this as an extinction dodger or a lifeline option in a sea of samey SUVs, the X on the voluptuous flanks of this sedan Citroën denotes something very different. And, aquatic comparisons aside, it’s undeniably refreshing and, dare one use the word in saloon circles, exciting.
The back story on the X might look like a move that’s all about aesthetics when viewed from the car park. There’s a passing echo of Porsche 911 in those haunches, but the change is hugely practical for passengers: as well as a 510-litre boot, the 9.4 inches of extra bodywork brings in the kind of leg space you’d expect in a far larger execmobile. There’s something of a hump in the middle of the bench, though, and an inset, tilt-down panel for drinks holders and a boot-access hatch, so a fifth passenger won’t sit so prettily as the other two.
Up front, apart from the leather trimming of everything that’s commensurate with this top specification car, the X is an identikit of the model we said goodbye to last issue. Until you start driving. The first bit of theatre comes in the Shine (and Shine Plus) specification’s ascending screen for the head-up display. As well as showing speed, it also allows, by confirmation off the steering controls, access to the smart cruise control system. A question mark accompanies an ‘OK’ sign; confirm it and it then asks if you want to drive at your current speed or accelerate to the legal limit. For this Luddite, this is all very AI, but on a long motorway day it’s something even I can master and, combined with the safe lane-keeping technology, helps make the X a convincing cross-country interloper.
None of that impression, of course, would materialise if the car didn’t get the basics right. It does. Ride, stability, composure over cracks and bumps, fending off wind noise… throw a range of real-life factors at it and it’s never flustered. The car feels markedly heavier than its hatch sibling (which it is, to the tune of 23kgs) but given the low-centred gravity of any EV, that solidity here feels like meaty value rather than engineering lard.
If the workshop could have tightened the turning circle, which is the same as the hatchback yet feels longer with the extra bodywork, and maybe positioned the rear parcel shelf less prominently, I’d be even more impressed, but in day-to-day running and, despite the saloon feeling less lively and frolicsome than its hatchback sibling (performance figures, say Citroën, remain the same), this feels like an affable partner for long term life.
Early impressions on the issue of range, however, tell me I may be in for more expenditure on long journeys. The hatch could squeeze nearly 200 miles, all going perfectly, from its reserves; despite delivering an upgrade here that stretches official range by (checks notes) three miles, the car’s heavier body looks likely to easily chomp that little benefit. Driven, as I did this month, on a motorway-heavy 460-mile day out and having to charge at 65p/kWh, when it costs you 9p/kWh back home, is no joy. A range-boosted 154bhp option that stretches the range to 260 miles arrives this autumn. Thankfully such expeditions are rare, but a long day in X is nonetheless no bad thing. All said, it’s a promising start to the adventure.
Date arrived 28th July 2023
Economy (on test) 4.5 miles/kWh
Range (combined) 222 miles