Citroen C4 Cactus: car review

Posted on August 20th, 2014 by James Luckhurst

Bravo Citroën for coming up with something different and so very practical.

Citroen C4 Cactus: car review

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What is it?

A quirky Citroën that marks a welcome return to the French car maker’s unconventional roots. This is a car with bumpers on all four sides.

How safe is it?

It has been designed to meet stringent testing under the Euro NCAP programme, but it hasn’t been crash tested yet, although that is due soon.

Who should buy one?

City dwellers and urbanites who worry about the risk of damage in congested streets. Others who want an unconventional looking car with armchair comfort.

DRIVING AND PERFORMANCE
Citroen C4 Cactus: car review

The driving experience is pleasant if somewhat unexceptional. The Cactus does not feel as pert and taut as a Focus or Golf, and seems set up more for comfort than dynamism. It is worth noting that the Cactus is not based on the Citroen C4, as you might expect, but is on a stretched C3 chassis. Length-wise, it fits between the two.
Performance from the 1.6 litre diesel engine is strong and flexible, and well up to the task of hauling what is a relatively light body – it weighs 200kg less than a Citroën C4. It is gutsy enough to give the car adequate acceleration through the gears and make motorway cruising unstressed with a reasonable margin of power. It is not particularly quiet, though. You hear the engine at work, as well as quite a bit of road rumble from the tyres and some wind ruffle over the bodywork.
There is a softish feel to the way it drives and handles. It holds on to the bends well enough, but has a tendency to lean somewhat on cornering. Body control is reasonable but there is some lurching on the bends if you negotiate a twisty road with any pace. The ride is well cushioned to absorb the bumps, and deals with potholes better than many cars in a similar price bracket. It is a comfortable and relaxing car to drive, although not especially involving.
The steering is well-judged, it is light around town but firms up at higher speed. All-round visibility is pretty good, with no troublesome blind spots. The Cactus feels nicest with a manual gearbox rather than the two-pedal automated manual, which sometimes seems a bit slow-witted and is not particularly smooth through the changes. It is improved by blipping the throttle slightly on down-shifts, but that is not the way you would normally expect to have to drive an ‘auto’.

SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
Citroen C4 Cactus: car review

There is a roomy feel to the car, with decent knee space and headroom. Six-footers can sit in it comfortably. If optimum headroom matters, beware of the optional panoramic glass roof, because it lowers the ceiling height. The seating is unusual in having more of a sofa feel than the conventionally designed seats of most cars, so it is a bit of a throw-back to the tradition of older French cars.
Luggage room is flexible, with an average sized boot at 358 litres, but it extends to 1,170 litres with the rear seats folded down. They do so easily, but do not lie completely flat.
The wow factor of the Cactus is its novel Airbump pads on the sides of the body. These have pockets of air encased in tough thermoplastic with a bubble-design surface. They give the car a funky look but more important they provide highly practical scuff-proofing against minor body damage in urban congestion, as well as guarding against careless parkers.

SAFETY
Citroen C4 Cactus: car review

There are six airbags. Unusually, the front passenger airbag is located in the roof. This is because the dashboard is quite a low-slung design, and a higher site was needed. Other standard safety kit includes hill start assist, tyre pressure monitors and electronic rear door child locks. Euro NCAP crash testing has not happened yet, but a five-star rating is expected. The Citroën C3 this car is based on scored four stars in 2009.

EQUIPMENT
Citroen C4 Cactus: car review

Some corners have been cut to keep the price competitive. There is no analogue speedo, only digital, and rear windows are side-hinged vents rather than being fully openable. There are three trim levels – Touch, Feel and Flair. All versions come with those cushioned Airbumps on the body sides, a seven-inch colour touchscreen on the dash, a DAB digital radio, cruise control and USB socket. Feel trim adds air conditioning and Bluetooth.

COSTS
Citroen C4 Cactus: car review

Prices start from £12,990 and go up to £18,190. That undercuts rivals like the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf, and puts the Cactus more on a par with a Nissan Juke or Renault Captur. It feels like quite a lot of car for the money. Good fuel economy and low CO2 outputs will help keep down running costs. Citroën offers quite a lot of customising options, including four Airbump colours and five seat fabric choices.

WE SAY

Bravo Citroën for coming up with something different and so very practical.

AT A GLANCE:
Price: £15,400
Performance: 0-60mph in 12.6 seconds
Economy: 78.5mpg combined
Insurance: Group TBA
Tax: Band A (£0 first year)

Figures for the C4 Cactus Flair e-Hdi 92