THROUGH the years Citroen has had a slightly schizophrenic attitude towards the C4.

It started out as a refreshingly different take on the rather staid old hatchback theme then it morphed into a crossover SUV named after a spiky plant - majoring on light weight and practicality over gadgets and gizmos - before dumping the Cactus badge and embracing its ‘off-roader lite’ identity (at least for the moment).

It now looks not unlike the Toyota HR-V with the same complex body surfacing and intersecting lines which give it an unusual futuristic look.

The slim double-chevron grille, which extends into the Y-shaped daytime-running lights, and the raised bonnet look distinctively ‘Citroen’ while the rear has hints of Robert Opron’s classic GS. In a market where crossovers are becoming increasingly homogenised the C5 looks daringly different.

But Citroen hasn’t embraced the crossover idea with much enthusiasm, it seems.

Despite the plastic cladding on the wheel arches, the C4 sits lower than the competition and you don’t enjoy the commanding view over other traffic that is such a popular selling point of soft roaders.

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The C4 is soft in other ways, too.

Its suspension majors on comfort so, in the best tradition of classic Citroens of yore, it glides over poor road surfaces and smothers pot holes. Citroen’s clever progressive rate bump stops really works at preventing the worst of British roads reaching the cabin.

The seats, too, are like a favourite armchair. You sink into them rather than sit ‘on’ them and comfort is outstanding.

The downside of this laid back gait is that the C4 offers little for the enthusiastic driver. You won’t find the crisp manners of a Focus or the ‘class swot’ civility of a Golf here.

But the Citroen is a very comfortabl;e car. At speed, road and wind noise are well suppressed, even on poorly surfaced roads. It’s at its very best on the motorway where the chassis tracks straight and the cabin is a haven of peace and quiet at 70mph.

A notable feature of the C4 has always been its extensive use of technology. Some (such as the seat shaking lane departure warning) have become an industry standard. Others (like the smelly perfume dispenser) have vanished into obscurity.

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The new C4’s cabin majors on tech but the car’s budget origins sometimes let the mask slip.

There’s a large 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system but the heating and ventilation controls have reverted back to push buttons and twiddly knobs. The frameless digital instruments are on trend but there’s precious little customisation and while the colour head-up display is still unusual on this class of car it uses a flip up piece of cheap plastic whereas the BMW HUD solution projects information onto the windscreen.

Look closer and you’ll find acres of hard plastics and some rough edges, too.

Thought has gone into making the C4 a practical car. There are large and useful door bins, a hidden cubby beneath the central trinket tray and moulded cup holders in the centre console. In total, Citroen claims 16 storage areas and 39 litres of storage space in the cabin.

But the trinket tray looks as though it should have a pull down shutter to hide phones and other expensive items from envious gazes, and the cover on the centre console is made from a flexible rubber that’s certainly no tactile delight.

And Citroen - in common with other vehicles in the PSA line-up - persists in compromising space in the glove compartment because it refuses to move the fuse box on right-hand drive cars.

The pop out table holder (above the glove box) is a nice touch, though, and it can be configured for a variety of screen sizes.

Finally, the rear spoiler looks good from the outside but when you’re in the driver’s seat you’d trade it for a rear windscreen wiper any day of the week.

The C4 is available with the full range of powerplants: petrol, diesel and electric (the e-C4). With the popularity of diesel waning - and many of us still not ready to wholeheartedly commit to electric - the small capacity petrols are the way to go.

The 1199cc three in the tester makes 129bhp thanks to turbocharging, enough to give the C4 good pace even in fast moving traffic.Top speed is a largely pointless 128mph but the 0-62mph time of less than nine seconds is more useful.

During the test period we returned more than 44mpg in a mixture of driving conditions. Running costs should be fairly agreeable.

So should you buy one?

If you like the looks and prioritise comfort over handling the C4 makes a fairly compelling case. It’s fairly roomy and every model in the range is well equipped.

But the iffy plastics in the cabin and the anaesthetised driving experience means the C4 remains the typical curate's egg: good in parts.