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Driving Impression: Citroen C4 Aircross HDi 115

3 February 2014

Don’t be fooled by the Aircross’ suave and attractive exterior. It might look like a legitimate sibling of the DS3 and C3, but Citroen’s crossover doesn’t actually hail from the land of berets and baguettes. Under that French exterior beats a proud Japanese heart.

The Aircross, you see, is essentially a re-badged Mitsubishi ASX. The C4 Aircross shares pretty much all of its underpinnings with Mitsubishi’s little SUV.

This relationship is evident as soon as you enter the cabin of the Citroen. The interior has been given a slight infusion of French flair, but it still looks an awful lot like that of the ASX. Not that this is a bad thing, mind you. The cabin of the Aircross is a very nice place to spend some time. It is plush and comfortable, and has an upmarket feel.

What the C4 we tested didn’t share with the ASX, though, was its 1,6-litre oilburner. The Mitsubishi is available only with a two-litre petrol mill, but Citroen offers the option of a 1560cc diesel powerplant that develops 84 kW of power at 3400 r/min and 270 Nm of torque at 1750 r/min.

Now, 84 kW might not sound like a lot of power – and it isn’t – but the Aircross can feel surprisingly brisk when you put your foot down. Thanks to that healthy torque figure of 270 Nm, the Citroen has no problem accelerating.

However, the engine doesn’t have a lot of low-down torque, and can feel pretty lethargic at anything below 1750 r/min. If your revs dip down to 1500 r/min or below when shifting gears, the Aircross bogs down and can be a bit frustrating, to be honest. But keep it in the 1750 – 2000 r/min range, and it feels very nippy. Luckily the vehicle is available only with a six-speed manual shifter, meaning that you’re always in control of the revs.

On the road, the C4 handles well. Perhaps it doesn’t quite boast the ultra-smooth ride that Citroen is so renowned for, but you couldn’t call the Aircross’ ride anything other than comfortable. It also feels remarkably agile and composed around corners. When you’re accessing peak torque around 1800 r/min and allow the C4 to attack a corner, it offers a downright fun ride. In those moments it is tough to believe that it is powered by a diminutive 16,-litre oilburner that offers a mere 84 kW.

The Aircross does perhaps feel a tad skittish when the road surface becomes uneven, so it isn’t the best gravel traveller in the business. But the HDi 115 is available on in 2WD, and very few owners will ever venture off tar, so it’d be unfair to detract too many points because of this. Considering its typical application, the C4 is comfortable and composed, offering a very decent driving experience.

How is the Aircross priced? Well, at R354 900, it might be slightly on the expensive side. You could purchase a similarly-specced ASX for R327 900, but then you’d have to settle for a thirstier two-litre petrol mill. If you have your heart set on a diesel crossover, the C4 is definitely worth looking at.

There is something undeniably suave and charismatic about the C4 Aircross. Of all the expensive SUVs and 4x4s that I’ve test driven and taken home for a weekend, my fiance has only really been absolutely crazy about two of them. The one was a lime green Jeep Wrangler. The other was the Aircross. The Citroen has a certain X-factor that sets it apart from its competition.