Saturday, 13 October 2007

Citroen C4 Reliability

This is a big step away from my usual postings, but I had to share my experience of owning a Citroen C4 VTR with the wider world.

When I purchased the car I had a six week honeymoon period when I enjoyed driving it and loved the way it looked, I even managed to overlook the rattles and squeaks. After six weeks the pain began. I have had the car for 22 months now and in that period it has been in the garage for warranty repairs 22 times! In total it has cost me over £200 in costs of insuring courtesy cars and an untold amount of hassle, not to mention the fact that I hardly see my car these days, have to drive around in basic small cars and am generally sick and tired of it.

Well I have had a case open with Citroen for some time and am hoping to get some compensation and get rid of my C4 (which I have now not seen for three weeks). I have tried two garages who have both not yet been able to fix the issues. Citroen so far have said 'we want to restore your confidence in the Citroen and will work with the dealer'. Well times are well beyond that now and I want and expect a lot more. I spoke to a friend of mine yesterday who has a lot of experience of managing auto repair centres and he described Citroen technical (the guys that are supposed to help the garages with difficult problems) as hopeless. Even more worrying a technician I spoke to in a garage described the experience as sometimes as helpful as phoning a snowman (it was a cold day).

I'll see what happens over the next couple of weeks and keep this blog updated.

In the mean time, if you are thinking of buying a C4, don't!!!! Go and buy a Ford Focus instead, it may look bland but at least you will get to see it and it won't rattle and break all the time (and it handles better). If not the Focus and you want something that looks good go for the Seat Leon.

The saga continues. I again was told that the issue was fixed (I've lost count of how many times I have been told this now) so I went to the garage (not very optimistically), sat in the car and reproduced the problem immediately. So another week without my car and another £15.50 lost on covering the insurance on the courtesy car. I logged another call with Citroen Customer services who called me back within 2 days and told me that they were very concerned, would contact the garage and that the next step would be to send a Citroen engineer to look at it. About time I would say, after all two dealers have now had 11 opportunities to fix it. Why don't we have a law like Lemons law in the US? Anyway, Citroen Technical have another couple of ideas which parts are ordered for. If this does not help I don't expect any progress until the New Year as the Citroen Regional Customer Services Manager is on leave.

I was promised a call from Citroen customer services today. No call.

Still no call and no contact from the garage.

I called the garage and spoke to one of the really helpful guys on the service desk who told me they believe the issue was with the BSI (I think that's what it was called), the thing that interfaces to the ECU and connects the cables. Anyway apparently Citroen don't think this is the problem and have not authorised its replacement, even though the garage has ordered the part and has it in stock. The Garage have told me that they are going to try swapping the cables round coming from the BSI from the OF to NS doors and see if the fault follows the cable to the other door. If it does then they know the problem is with the BSI. Unfortunately with the Christmas period the engineer at the garage is quite rightly on leave until the 2nd of January so nothing will happen until then. Kindly the garage have allowed me to hold onto the courtesy car which is now beginning to feel like my own car as I have had it for five weeks!

04/01/08 AM
Awaiting feedback from the garage and still no courtesy call from Citroen. I have now spent in excess of £120.00 on insuring courtesy cars.

04/01/08 PM
I called the garage. The BSI cables have been swapped round and the problem remained with the passenger side window. Now all relevant parts have been replaced except the entire door and the ECU. I'm writing to Citroen today and seeking legal advice as this is ridiculous. As it stands the problem has changed again in that it now works OK from the passenger side control but not from the driver side and the issue with freezing after going up and down just twice (which the garage introduced early December 07) is still evident. The garage, who continue to try very hard with this, have been told to expect a call from someone at Citroen in France. I have had to extend the courtesy car cover by yet another week. Between two garages Citroen has now had nearly 8 weeks to put this issue right. I wish there was some proper legal advice on what do to in these situations. The problem is not with the seller as the issue was not there at the time of sale, so the sale of good act as far as I see it does not apply. However there must be some rules about a suitable level of warranty repair!

I've not heard anything more from Citroen or the garage so have now written a letter to Citroen customer services asking for a formal response within seven days with an action plan. I have told Citroen that I will be contacting a solicitor in seven days if I do not have a response or their response is unsatisfactory.

Still nothing from Citroen. I had a call from the garage though who asked me to pop by, so I did. They had the car stripped back when I got to the garage and showed me what they had been doing. The garage told me they had been chasing Citroen technical all week and they were not returning their calls. The garage have been suggesting replacing the BSI for a few weeks now and had the part ordered in, however Citroen would not authorise them to replace the part (presumably because they did not want to pay for it). Well the garage decided to cut their losses, as like myself they have lost money on this problem due to Citroen being hopeless and not giving them suitable advice and having to spend a huge amount of time on the problem. The garage decided to fit the BSI and potentially take on the cost themselves. This has resolved the problem. The window still does not work perfectly due to an over-sensitive window switch on the driver's side, but I can live with that.

Window still working ok, fantastic! I took some chocolates into the garage to thank them for their great work and for going beyond the book. I am pursuing my case with Citroen and have not heard anything back yet. I am bitterly disappointed with Citroen and want to see some financial compensation for the way I have been treated and the hassle I have been put through. Seems like they may be busy though as the C4 seems to be full of electric problems from the stereo switching itself off after 2 minutes if then engine is not running (Citroen's response: go for a 2 hour drive and then try again; how ridiculous) to not being able to get into the car due to a failure in the locking electricals, all within the warranty period. I dread to think what will happen after the three year warranty. The car has to go!

I recieved a call from Citroen customer services regional service manager today who asked me to put together some rough costing of my expenses incurred as a result of warranty repairs. I calculated £280 if you don't take into account by time and £470 if you do.

17/01/08 AM
My Window still works but the new seal they have put on is not tight so there is a lot of wind noise on the motorway. Therefore it is going back into the garage again soon !!!

17/01/08 PM
Today I received a letter from Citroen sincerely apologising for the inconvenience and offering me a 12 month extension to my manufacturer's warranty. I think this is a big step in the right direction, although I'm not sure if it goes far enough to making up for my expenses. However this is not a perfect world and to be fair to Citroen it does show willing to help and that they acknowledge that the experience I have had is not acceptable. I'm inclined to accept the offer and keep the car for another year to take advantage of it. My colleagues are telling me to seek legal advice and push for more. I'm just not sure if I can be bothered.

Well it did not last long. I took the car for a long drive and it has four new problems. The seal on the passenger's window is knackered so it sounds like the Window is open all the time - very annoying on the motorway. The passenger door is no longer aligned with the car body, the internal light will not stay on and the car no longer knows that I have front fog lights! Booked back in for the 04/02/08.

I've not updated this for a while as I lost heart with it all. Since my last post the garage have (across three further visits) managed to fix all issues including cruise control failures, fog lights, wind noise, internal light and another safety recall. Now the car is working 100% I'm quickly getting rid of it. Because I don't want any responsibilty for future problems I have cut my losses and am trading it in. I'm getting myself a Fiat Bravo Dymanic 150T. Can't wait. Hopefully it will be as reliable as the last Fiat I had.


Estella said...

I have a similar problem with the driver can go down..but that's never goes up again! Unless I lock the car from the keys...regarding your case however i'd change the whole car! :P

Rob Head said...

Over a year now of happy motoring with my Fiat Bravo 1.4 T-Jet 150. What a great car! I have had so many people comment on how much better it is than my last car. I tend to agree almost entirely, not just in terms of my experience of the reliability but also the handling and fun of driving it. I have to acknowledge that I do miss a few features of my C4 though, particularly the excellent steering wheel (why other manufacturers don't copy this I really don't know), but I certainly don't miss the constant frustration and the lottery of what was going to go wrong today!

Adam said...

Hello Rob Head,

I'm a happy owner of Citroen C4, I think the handling is great, it turns really sharply compared to other 5 star Ncap cars like Peugeot 308, Hyundai i30 or Kia Ceed. The last two tend to understeer as hell. I'm sorry for you to buy a lemon and it's a pitty, because I really like this car. I have also tried Fiat Bravo and I absolutely loved it, but I decided for C4 because of the price. As I see it, the new facelifted C4 uses more parts from the newer Peugeot 308 and that should improve reliability. The older C4 is uses everything from P 307 which is a very unrealiable car.

Adam said...

Btw. take care of the turbocharger, they require more maintenance than naturally aspirate engines.

Rob Head said...

Hi Adam,
It is good to hear that the C4 is working out well for you and that things are likely to have improved. I like what Citroen do generally, so if the issues I had are now sorted perhaps one day I'll consider buying a Citroen again (although I'll have to move to a different city first). Every brand of car makes lemons every now and again, its just the luck of the draw. My real issue was with the lack of ability of the main service centres to fix anything or even do anything I asked, but that is proably a local issue rather than a national problem.
Thanks for the tip on the Turbo. All is well so far and I'm loving the increase in power from 110 to 150 (my C4 compared to my Bravo) along with a slight increase in MPG!
I hope you continue to enjoy your C4 and I have to agree the steering was very sharp.

Anonymous said...

I had a C4 Vtr as well. In the 2 years I had it, I had loads of issues with it. The immobiliser broke after about a year. Car had to be towed away and have the immobiliser and keys replaced. Speed limiter / cruise control contstantly went. Citroen never could fix it. They replaced it but it still would fail. ECU had to be replaced just before 2 years. Plastics in the boot fell apart after about 6 months and had to be replaced. And the paint on the rear spoiler started to blister after a couple of months. Citroen dealers were shocking and I had to give them alot of hassle before they did anything about it. After 2 years, I traded it in for an Astra H 1.9 CDTI 150. Have had no problems with it in 4 years, great car. Much more reliable and hassle free.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the rear fog light fell out of it socket!