Home » The French May Have Accidentally Built The Perfect Car For America

The French May Have Accidentally Built The Perfect Car For America

Now that Citroën is part of Stellantis, the same megacorporation producing Jeeps and Dodges also makes some gloriously French cars. There’s the handsome and bold Peugeot 508 SW Sport Engineered wagon. There’s the cute-and-fun Citroën Ami. Then there’s this: The more affordable Citroën C4 X. Part sedan, part crossover. All-electric or all-combustion. Would it be the perfect car for a divided America?

North America has been without new French cars ever since Peugeot decided to pack it up in 1992. Three decades on, the situation remains unfair, since the rest of the Western Hemisphere gets to enjoy them. Go to Mexico, and have a great time spotting the new Peugeot 408, or a Renault that’s likely to be badged as a Dacia in Europe. When it comes to Citroën, the brand sold 48,600 cars in South America in 2021. 

Citroen C4x

Europeans crave their crossovers as much as the rest of the world, which meant Citroën, the once glorious and now cheap and cheerful brand of Stellantis had to come up with quite a few urban warriors. The regular third-generation C4 is a compact SUV with the fashionable coupé roofline that exchanges some space for style. Add the “X” to C4 and you get a sedan wannabe that’s not only more spacious in the back, but also comes with the extended butt certain markets seem to prefer over hatchbacks.

Even better, the C4 X and ë-C4 X are the rare-for-now combo where you can get an identical version of a car in either electric or gasoline variety. I got the chance to drive both back-to-back.

What They’re Like

Citroen C4 InteriorCitroën made sure both cargo space and room inside is the same regardless of the powertrain. They also tried to jam as much of their flagship C5 X five-door’s entertainment, safety and comfort technologies into the smaller platform as the spreadsheets would allow, which led to a fairly well-equipped five-seater for the money.

The upgraded Stellantis BEV platform already used by Peugeot, Opel, fancy DS and others looked promising enough to land the Jeep Avenger the European Car of the Year award just a month ago. The Citroën ë-C4 X doesn’t get that tech, which means it’s still on the 50 kWh battery pack for an estimated WLTP range of 224 miles and 100 kW DC charging, using a 136-horsepower permanent magnet motor on the front axle. 

C4exTorque can peak at 132, 162 or 191 pound feet depending on the driving modes, and with such performance, this mid-size BEV package starts at the equivalent of around $43,000 in Europe. To compare, the entry gasoline model costs just north of $23,000.

A fairly recent Citroën innovation is the Advanced Comfort suspension that replaced the much loved/despised hydropneumatic system of the past. This uses two progressive hydraulic bump stops in conjunction with the shock absorbers and springs (one for compression and the other for rebound). These bump stops are only activated by major impacts, so they can gradually slow down the chassis movement by dissipating the energy. Here’s a video talking about some of what the system entails:

Driving the 136-horsepower battery-electric ë-C4 X before hopping into the 131-horsepower three-cylinder gasoline C4 X shows how much difference 650 pounds can make in driving characteristics alone.

In the ë-C4 X, the first thing you realize is how numb the steering is. No feel at all, and that leather-wrapped steering wheel isn’t even all that eager to turn. It just wants to stay in the middle, suggesting that you should drive in a straight line at a steady pace, hoping to get the most out of a 767-pound battery pack that is actually smaller than the advertised 50 kWh. You then notice how good the ride is. Not insanely soft, by no means floating all over the road, just very forgiving over bumps that are hard to find over the shockingly perfect Spanish roads. 


The third thing that becomes evident soon is, whether or not you engage sport mode, the ë-C4 X won’t turn into a sprinter. Sure, close to two hundred pound feet of torque can get a car moving even at 3,500 pounds, yet the dynamic qualities making EVs so quick in real life don’t really show up in this electric Citroën. Instead, order this thing with the right trim, and you get the cheaper pop-up variant of the head-up display, inductive phone charging, a 10-inch touchscreen with wireless integration, heated steering, plus the properly comfortable leather seats developed alongside the active suspension system. For fans of the French way of cruising, the ë-C4 X can deliver.

Next to eastern cultures generally preferring traditional sedan proportions, the whole point of this design exercise by Sylvain Henry was to give the compact C4 a rear bench with a more reclined, 27-degree seatback, plus a trunk that offers 48 cubic feet with the seats folded down, or 18 cubic feet with five adults onboard. 

C4x BackOnly fourteen European countries will get the ë-C4 X, while the rest of the world will get a diesel four-cylinder or a gasoline threebanger in two tunes. It’s great that, apart from the trim, there’s no difference between the cars, so the functionality remains the same. However, once you start driving the 1.2-liter turbo car, you realize that a weight saving of 650 pounds alone can pretty much transform a 131-horsepower crossover.

These small direct-injection engines may not represent the last word in quiet refinement, but paired with the smooth eight-speed Aisin automatic transmission, this coffee miller of a three-cylinder has peak torque of 169 lb-ft and at least hints toward spirited driving. The active suspension firms up through the corners, but the ride is much less forgiving than in the BEV, presumably due to the lack of weight that could make the most of those hydraulic bump stops. 

C4 X Engine

On the plus side, the setup of the variable-assist steering system is much closer to what I expect from a daily hauler, and these changes make for a more coherent driving experience overall. However, if somebody wants a manual transmission in the C4 X, the only choice is the 102-horsepower base car, which is only 141-pounds lighter than the tested 131-horsepower version.

What Makes It French

French cars on the affordable side always feature some quirky design solutions to add playfulness to the picture without breaking the bank, and Citroën certainly isn’t the type who would just stop at its colorful Airbumps on the doors. Inside the C4 X, there’s a total storage space volume of 39 liters, including their Smart Pad Support. This was introduced on the original C4 and the C4 X is basically the same vehicle ahead until you get to the back.

Og Cactus

For the front passenger, above the sufficiently sized soft opening glovebox, there’s a separate dashboard tray layered with a grippy surface to keep fragile electronic items or other valuables safe. In case you keep a tablet there with its dedicated frame, above the retractable tray is the pad support unit for it, which pops out to mount a tablet securely.

Once done, everything can go back to the sliding drawer, and the rest of our junk can still disappear into the glovebox. What happens during a crash with a tablet mounted in front of you? If you think about it, I’m pretty sure the airbags can take care of the situation just fine. Here’s a video of it:

People can go nuts for sedans. Remember such weird three-box creations as Brazil’s Ford Super Duty-based Tropiclassics? No? Well, Europe produced its fair share of mutants as well. 

Affordable cars that started out as cheap and honest hatchbacks, only to then grow a trunk, like the crime that the Renault Thalia (Clio Symbol) was. Compared to those, the C4 X is a win. It’s the crossover-turned four-door thing Citroën describes as an “elegant, desirable and accessible new cross-design.”

Could This Work In America?


This is a big step back from the original C4 Cactus in terms of weirdness and reflects what’s likely to come from the French. As Stellantis tries to decide what it means to be a global company with so many regional variants it’ll likely have to find platforms and designs that can work in a lot of places.

There’s still a lot of je ne sais quoi in the C4 X that would probably disqualify it from ever making it to the United States. Plus, this is still a mid-range car and the profit margins are likely too low to risk it. The best thing it has going for it as a potential American car is its higher seating position, which all of you seem to enjoy.

Stellantis does have a brand that needs products, however, and has always benefited from borrowed style. Could this work as a Chrysler? Yeah. In fact, just take the nicest cars from Peugeot and Citroen and add a set of winged badges to the nose and you could have some winners. In terms of quality and tech, French cars are now way better than a decade ago, which means it’s time for the clever badge engineering magic that the American carmakers know so well.

Photos: Citroen, Mate Petrany

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40 Responses

    1. Yeah, I immediately saw the application of ersatz junk on a lumpy shape and thought Infinity. So maybe I was thinking more up market than you. Still butt ugly.

  1. Higher riding sedans seem to be popping up more and more. The Toyota Crown is a similar concept, and Ford has the Evos in China, though both have faster rooflines it looks whereas this is more traditional sedan. The newer Peugeot 408 is similar IIRC too.

    It could breathe some life into sedans again – I don’t think it would make a major dent in crossover sales, but certainly an alternative for those that want or need the higher entry/exit. This seems to be closer in size to a Corolla or Civic in length but not sure how it compares in interior dimensions.

    Some might say Subaru had the Outback SUS years ago and that flopped, but Subaru wasn’t exactly achieving high sales volumes for the Legacy sedan either, so not to say it couldn’t work in today’s market.

  2. The perfect car for America should have bubble domes, tailfins, shag carpeting, a separate, soundproof chamber for the back seat, giant size cup holders everywhere, an exhaust so loud you’ll think the world’s ending, and have 3 separate horn buttons that all play La Cucaracha

  3. I want to see a modern take on the “Goddess”, a Citroen DS. Going for that spaceship look, it could have a Cd value approaching that of a university-built solar race car, into the low 0.1X range. Even if it weighed 5,000 lbs, it would be a sub-150 Wh/mile EV on the highway with that sort of slipperiness(although city consumption would be double that), and it would ride like a floating couch with hydraulic suspension.

    With that sort of slipperiness coupled with a large enough battery pack(appropriate for a heavy car), it could be a very long range vehicle. A 1,000 mile range per charge on the highway is a feasible design goal with the tech we have today, which not only would be appropriate for a luxury car, but would bypass the need for fast charge stations. Being able to drive an entire day without ever needing to stop to charge would be befitting of a luxury vehicle.

    The French are weird enough with their car designs that such a thing may even be acceptable to them.

  4. Call me weird, but I liked the looks of the Subaru Legacy Outback Sedan. This C4 X makes me feel funny feelings inside. If it managed to “cross over” to the US and maintain its Europe pricing in the process, I’d be interested.

  5. Hey Mate! Glad to see you on here 😀

    We did get a few French cars post-92: the smart car and the last (real) Toyota Yaris sold here (not the rebadged Mazda2, but the real Toyota-made one)

    Also, yeah I agree, we need more cool French cars here.

    Besides the Stellantis/PSA connection, Renault could sell their cars here as Nissans and Mitsubishis:
    Mitsubishi Twizy
    Mitsubishi Zoe
    Mitsubishi Kwid
    Mitsubishi Sandero
    Mitsubishi Lancer (rebadged Megane)

    The RS can the the Evo XI
    The GT can be the new Ralliart
    The Estate would be sold here too

    Mitsubishi Duster
    Mitsubishi Mighty Max (Oroch)
    Mitsubishi Triton/L200
    Mitsubishi Montero (Sport, since the regular Montero was killed off worldwide, but we don’t need to use the Sport name here, just call it Montero)

    Nissan Twingo
    Nissan Sentra
    Nissan Altima
    Nissan Leaf
    Nissan Z (but also offer a ZX with T-tops)
    Nissan GT-R
    Nissan Rogue
    Nissan Pathfinder
    Nissan Patrol
    Nissan Navara
    Nissan Kangoo
    Nissan Trafic
    Nissan Master (could be rebadged as the NV series)

    or maybe the last 3 could be sold as Mitsubishis ????

  6. “What Makes It French” – apparently a plastic tray on the passenger side dash for an iPad.

    God, I miss the old Citroën. You missed the biggest reason why this would sell well in America: it’s incredibly boring. Even the regular C4 has the decency to look weird. This is just dull as hell.

  7. This will prolly come to the states rebranded as the next Jeep CUV just like the Compass, Renegade, and Cherokee. Lets see they can revive the Eagle model with this.

  8. Bring da Françoise, bring da Quirk!
    I love French cars, from the 2CV my wife used to daily in Germany to the Peugeot 505 I used to own, to the amazing and still futuristic Citroën DS. They’re innovative, quirky and wonderful and bringing them to the US would vastly improve choice and competition in the market. Sure, they wouldn’t sell a ton, but they’d sell.

  9. Please don’t show that video to Torch. He might explode with joy at the sight of three separate physical buttons for the glovebox/tablet drawer/’smart pad’.

  10. I dunno, it’s too “foreign” for MAGA America and too underpowered for coastal elites. Maybe it would scratch just the right itch for a handful of rural New England weirdos who used to buy Saabs?

  11. Hot take, none of these new Aisin transmissions are good. Sure they work and are reliable, but their gearing just feels much worse than comparable ZF boxes.

  12. I was in Morroco last week and saw all kinds of quirky French whatever’s driving around, including the OG Cactus. It inspired me to think, “Seriously, why can’t we in North America get any of the fun French stuff?”

    If it were me running the show at Sellantis, I’d bring over a whole sampler pack of Citroen, Peugeot, and DS cars over here and send most of them off to the Fiat Alfa dealers to give them something to sell besides the 500x and the occasional Stelvio or Giulia. A couple re-branded additions for the Chrysler dealers wouldn’t hurt either,

    That would perk things up at those Fiat Alfa dealers and might even keep some of them off life support and get some of them truly profitable and enthused about the goodness that can come from the Stellantis merger. A win for them, and a win for us buyers of interesting cars too, right?

  13. Looks an awful lot like a Mach-e to me. it would need to upgrade the performance and range to be competitive in the higher end market. as well as offer AWD. But that worked well enough for the Mercedes 300C that I suppose it could work here too. Defrench the slow bits, add some bits for snowy areas and go for it. definitely more attractive than the Hornet, but I have to say, it has rarely worked out to just badge engineer Euro Cars in America without considering the actual American tastes and needs. As is, it would basically have to be the 200X or something like that.

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