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Click to view picture gallery“Citroën’s new C4
  is not only distinctly
  Citroën, but it’s
  automatically better…”

Not that long ago automatic transmission systems used to be considered expensive to buy, expensive to use, guilty of sapping engine power and sorely lacking when it came to providing driver involvement.

I'm pleased to say that technology has changed all that. Today's fully-automatic systems with their manual/auto settings are more fuel effic-ient, absorb less engine power and provide genuine driving enjoyment — although they are still more expensive than manual gearboxes.

However, Citro
ën — the brand that has worked hard to become the value-for-money champion — is becoming increasingly well known for introducing new technologies at affordable prices.

In the summer, Citro
ën stepped up a gear when it introduced a new six-speed, electronic clutchless manual gearbox system. These were for the 1.6 HDi 110bhp diesel models of their popular C4 range of five-door hatchback and three-door coupe models, and this semi-automatic transmission only costs £500 more than a manual gearbox. Diesel C4s fitted with this new transmission return better miles per gallon than conventional manual models and they also have lower emission levels.

For instance, the C4 1.6 HDi EGS SX Hatchback has a CO2 emission level output of just 120g/km — which puts it in Band B for road tax
at £50 a year. For those commuting to and from, or living in, London, that makes this C4 exempt from the Congestion Charge. And it is the only family-sized non-hybrid car to be exempt.

For the record, the C4 1.6 HDi EGS SX five-door hatchback retails at £15,990. But with the current Citro
ën cashback offers in place, the retail price is a very attractive £14,490. At the moment, with their latest financial offers, the C4 range prices start at £9,995 — which is a lot of family car for the money whichever version you choose. Figures that all stack up to new technology that really works for real customers at sensible prices.

The clutchless manual — or automated manual gearbox, as it is also called — doesn't blunt performance either. The 1.6 HDi turbodiesel direct-injection engine produces 110bhp and 177lb ft of torque from just 1,750rpm. Top speed is 119mph, with a 0-62mph time of 11.2 seconds. Official fuel economy is shown as 62.8mpg in the combined cycle and my test car returned a commendable 50.4mpg in real-life conditions driving on all types of roads.

I am not going to explain in detail the specification of this particular C4. Suffice to say that the SX specification is the best-seller and it offers very good value for money. The styling, inside and out, is distinctively Citro
ën: clean and sharp. The facia layout and controls, again, are typically Citroën; and once you learn where everything is,
it all seems very logical.

But where this road test really matters is in giving you an explanation of what is so special about the C4's new transmission.

The Electronic Gearbox System (or EGS), combines the convenience of an automatic with the driver involvement of a manual. This practical system has impressive green credentials, which are further enhanced by the fitment on these models of Citro
ën's Diesel Particulate Filter System.

The EGS system does away completely with the need for a clutch pedal, and gives the driver the flexibility to choose between a manual mode — with paddleshift or lever gearchanges — or an automatic mode. A Sport function is also available, while a hill-start assist feature contributes to improved safety and ease-of-use.

Thanks to the automated gear changes and clutch control, the electronic gearbox system returns fuel savings of up to 6 per cent over conventional transmissions and, says Citro
ën, a frugal 63mpg on the combined cycle is achievable with CO2 emissions of just 120g/km.

Using new electro-hydraulic actuators to ensure gentle and smooth gear shifts, the system can also recognise, and automatically adapt
to, individual driving styles. In manual mode, the driver maintains full control of the gear change by using either the chrome-plated, rally-style paddles that are set behind the steering wheel or the sequential gear lever which can be flicked forwards or backwards to change up
or down.

For a more responsive driving style, a Sport function is available in
both manual and automatic modes. Engaged by pressing the 'S' button next to the gear lever, the Sport function speeds up the gear changes: from 0.8 to 0.4 seconds in manual mode and from 1.2 to 0.5 seconds
in automatic mode — far quicker than a normal gear change process.

The hill-start assist makes it easier to pull away on slopes by prevent-ing the car from rolling, thereby giving the driver time to accelerate away safely and confidently. Activated on both uphill and downhill slopes with a gradient of 3 per cent or higher, the control holds the car steady for two seconds after the brake is released.

In today's real-life motoring conditions, where we spend much of the time in stop-start traffic or on slow moving congested motorways, an automatic transmission makes more sense as it is easier to use and less tiring. Up until now there has been a shortage of diesel-powered, medium-sized family cars with automatic gearboxes, and where they are available they are expensive.

The Citro
ën EGS system does away with that and for an extra £500 you get a transmission that operates as a manual or automatic system — depending on how you want to drive.

The C4 is a roomy, nice to drive family car. Add the latest economical diesel engine and EGS, and you get a pretty impressive package. You'll also pay less in road tax — and personal tax, if you are a company car user. While it takes a little time to learn how best to use the EGS set-up, there are a lot of plus points in its favour — including affordable motoring; the fact that it's cost-effective to buy and to run and it also offers a 'best of both worlds' transmission that makes perfect sense for today's real-world customers. Nice one, Citro
ën! — David Miles

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Citroën C4 1.6 HDi 110 EGS SX Hatchback
| £14,490
Maximum speed: 119mph | 0-62mph: 11.2 seconds
Overall test MPG: 50.4mpg | Power: 110bhp | Torque: 177lb ft

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