It’s the slightly oddball car that put the quirk back into Citroen and re-energised the French brand.
It is hard to believe that it is less than two years since the Citroen C4 Cactus arrived on the UK car scene. Since then it has been a bit of a game-changer for Citroen and done much to change perceptions of the double chevron car brand, which was traditionally known for its endearing quirkiness but had become more staid in recent times.
As well as having an endearingly zany name, the Cactus has other distinguishing features that have signalled a fresh direction for Citroen. Most notable are those oddball squidgy pads on the doors, cannily designed to guard against body damage in the scrum of an urban car park.
Officially called ‘air bumps’, they have proved popular enough to be carried over into subsequent new models coming soon from Citroen. These start with the new C3 supermini going on sale here at the end of the year.
Practicality is key with these air-filled polyurethane pads, as Citroen’s design chief Mark Lloyd – a Brit – succinctly emphasises with the question: ‘Why do you protect your smartphone but not your car?’ Good point.
But although they are primarily a protective solution to a familiar modern motoring hazard, air bumps have also become a key cosmetic feature that adds visual character to the car. They come in four colours: black, grey, a sandy colour called ‘dune’, and chocolate brown.
That means a choice between 44 colour combinations in the Cactus range. There are 11 body colours, of which the monochrome obsidian black, shark grey, arctic steel and polar white are by far the most popular, accounting for more than 60 per cent of Cactuses bought by UK customers. But when you notice a Cactus in the traffic, it is probably one of the zanier shades, such deep purple or this hello yellow.
Ride comfort has always been a core part of Citroen’s DNA, and the Cactus is engineered for a cushioning ride quality, with softish suspension damping. It breezes along a motorway, and sops up minor undulations on other roads, although it can become a bit bouncy over some of the sharper potholes.
If you drive the car enthusiastically with passengers on board, they may ask you to ease off a bit because of the rather noticeable body lean on the bends. There are both manual and auto models, and we prefer the manual in preference to the slightly jerky auto that doesn’t do it any favours.
The Cactus isn’t really what you could call a ‘driver’s car’, and isn’t at its best being hustled urgently along a country lane, because of the body roll. What it is, though, is a friendly, comfortable and characterful family car that comes mid-way between a lower-slung hatchback and a more pumped-up crossover model.
Budget family car
C4 Cactus prices start from £12,990, which buys a lowest-powered 1.2 litre, 75 bhp petrol model in base trim, which has a leisurely feel and is rather basic inside. It’s not particularly quick with a 0-62 acceleration time of just under 13 seconds and works quite hard on a longish motorway haul. A popular choice is the 1.2, 109 bhp model with up-range Pure Tech trim. It’s a willing engine with good low-down pull, and a sprint acceleration time cut to 9.3 seconds. A BlueHDi diesel is the most economical choice, with a combined fuel figure in the upper-70s, so 60-ish per gallon is attainable in real-world driving.
Citroen C4 Cactus Stats Review
Model tested: C4 Cactus 1.6 BlueHDi Flair manual
Top speed: 114 mph
0-62 mph: 10.7 secs
Economy: 78.5 mpg
CO2: 95 g/km
Images: Sue Baker