While South African roads are awash with so many vehicle models, at least one car will always stand out from the crowd. We put Citroën's C4 1,6 HDi through its paces...

While South African roads are awash with so many vehicle models, at least one car will always stand out from the crowd - Citroën's C4 1,6 HDi.

From the front, the C4's styling is refreshingly different with its cutting edge grille treatment and clever use of the French brand's trademark double chevron. Its quirky styling injects a blast of fresh air into a market dominated by the conservative and often bland VW Golf, the Opel Astra (though to a lesser extent), and Toyota's RunX further down the pricelist.

This car's idiosyncratic looks make it really hard to miss, even in the usually nondescript grey model I drove in five-door guise. Inside, the cabin is as exciting as the exterior, and I was itching to try my hand at Citroën's alternative take on the humble steering wheel.

Initially, sliding behind the steering wheel was comparable to a great act of faith as I was faced with industrial seat coverings and a shallow driver's chair. Yet, once seated, it proved quite comfortable, though finding a good position was tricky. Despite the time spent adjusting the steering wheel and the seat, I usually found myself either slumped behind the wheel, or crouched over it!

The facia was a riot of electronic displays and large open plastic spaces. Firstly, the large digital display showing your speed (in large numerals), as well as the temperature, fuel level indicators and other warning systems is mounted at the base of the windscreen.

The rev counter, headlamp and indicator gauges are housed just ahead of the steering week and depending on how short or tall you are could perhaps be a big obscure. The airconditioner and radio controls are housed in a more conventional centre console with a corresponding digital display positioned just above it.

So, with plenty of digital toys to occupy you, growing bored behind the steering wheel is not an option. However, the stationary steering wheel hub delighted me for all of five minutes before the novelty wore off and it could easily have been any steering wheel. Great news is that the steering mounted controls for the radio and other functions remain stationary too.

Another impressive feature of the 1,6 HDi was its engine delivering 83 kW at 4 000 r/min and healthy torque of between 240 and 260 N.m from as low at 1 750 r/min. This guarantees enough low-down grunt to give you a healthy shove into your seat and slap a silly smile on your face. The ride was very comfortable and the handling very accurate. The brakes, too, posed no problems at all.

With prices ranging from R174 995 for the petrol-powered 1,6 -litre, to R249 995 for the more powerful 2,0-litre VTS model, and close to R195 000 for the diesel, this French mover has landed straight in Golf/Astra territory. If you are eager to break out of the mould of mediocrity, the C4 will welcome you with open arms. Albeit, arms already laden with gimmicks, knobs and digital displays...

A full road test of the Citroën C4 1,6 HDi appears in the August issue of CAR magazine, on sale Monday, July 25.

Original article from Car