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Driven: Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.

Driven: Citroen C4 Cactus
We drive the quirky French crossover on UK roads - and it proves to be even more appealing than it was at launch.

   



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Citroen C4 Cactus

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: magnificent looks, great interior, lightweight construction, smooth diesel engine, good economy, general space and refinement.

Not so good: ride occasionally feels unsettled at the rear, where's the rev counter?

Key Facts

Model tested: Citroen C4 Cactus Flair Blue HDi 100
Pricing: 17,990 standard; 20,425 as tested
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover
CO2 emissions: 89g/km
Combined economy: 83.1mpg
Top speed: 114mph
0-62mph: 10.7 seconds
Power: 100hp at 3,750rpm
Torque: 254Nm from 1,750rpm

Our view:

Small crossovers are big business these days. There are multiple different takes on the theme - jacked-up versions of normal B-segment hatchbacks, purpose-built machines on bespoke platforms, cars with bits of plastic cladding on them... the permutations are almost endless.

Striding into this arena, however, is possibly one of the most intriguing and beguiling cars for many a year: the Citroen C4 Cactus. Based on the PF1 platform (so essentially making this a big Citroen C3, not a C4), it's a Citroen straight from the Chevron old school: quirky, unlike anything else you can imagine and striking to look at in a uniquely Gallic way.

That's because the body cladding that is normally seen on the lower halves of various 'soft-roaders' has transmuted into the car's idiosyncratic 'Airbumps' - protection from car-park door dings and shopping trolley interface scenarios, a clever way of looking after the bodywork.

And these Airbumps really attract attention. A lot of the launch cars were seen in the bright yellow paint with darker bumps, but Citroen's UK press office saw fit to finish our test car in metallic Shark Grey paint (495) with Stone Grey Airbumps (150) and red door mirrors (50). The end result is suitably space-age and other-worldly, and fellow road users couldn't help but stare at what was essentially a monochrome car enlivened by two tiny patches of red. A friend who has an aversion to lumpy surfaces (he assures me there's a medical name for this... condition) actually felt nauseous looking at it, however, while another denounced it by saying it 'looks like it has been designed by a child', so it's clear the looks will be love 'em or loathe 'em. We're in the former camp.

Inside is also fabulous and speaks volumes about the car's low weight of just 1,225kg. It has no off-roader pretensions at all beyond the rugged exterior, so it is always front-wheel drive and equipped with what, on paper, looks to be a measly 100hp diesel engine, but the thin doors with unusual leather strap pull handles, quarter-light rear windows (no winders back there) and feeling of light and space set you up for the driving characteristics, which we'll come to in a moment. Otherwise, your eye is drawn to the dots on top of the glovebox and the two display screens, one in front of the driver and one in the centre console. This car was equipped with both a black leather and cloth pack (695), and a thermally insulated panoramic sunroof (395) - we'd recommend specifying both. It all looks fantastic, although one minor gripe: there's no rev counter. The last car I went in that was so lacking was my mum's old N-reg Fiesta 1.1 with a god-awful CVH engine. You get a gearshift indicator for economy but no visual indication of when the Blue HDi motor is running out of puff.

This facet should give you a clue as to the driving manners. While nothing like as soft and supple as, say, a Citroen CX, the C4 Cactus is definitely one of the finer-riding machines in the marketplace. Apart from a very few occasions when on a rough road, where the rear suspension feels jittery, it is superb at smothering surface imperfections into submission. The diesel engine is punchy enough in this body shell, with economy impressive but nowhere near the official 80-plus-mpg. Admittedly, we never took it for a lengthy run on either a motorway or dual carriageway, but on normal A- and B-roads, plus nipping around in towns and cities, it returned 62.7mpg over 374 miles and there was still an indicated 180 miles left in the tank.

Thing is, it has surprisingly communicative and accurate steering that is more engaging than it really needs to be. And while there's a bit of body roll on the softly-sprung suspension at first, it'll cling on in the bends for quite some while. This means that, while we can't ever envisage any owners doing such a thing, if you press on in the Cactus, you'll find it's no barren wasteland when it comes to a sport of driving pleasure.

And given that it costs a fairly reasonable 20,425 when laden with pretty much everything you could want, the Citroen C4 Cactus Flair makes a very sturdy case for itself. It has character in abundance, pleasant cruising manners, a serene ride, a decent chassis and the sort of looks that can stop traffic at 50 paces. In short, there's very, very little to dislike about the Cactus, and lots and lots to love. It's a brilliant small crossover and exactly the type of car that Citroen needs to be punting out range-wide in the near future.

Alternatives:

Kia Soul: recently revised and comes with mega manufacturer's warranty, smooth ride and excellent interior. Styling a bit Postman Pat for some, so pick your colour combinations wisely.

Renault Captur: jacked-up Clio can be personalised and is a decent steer, but it doesn't have the character or charm of the Cactus.

Skoda Yeti: probably the Cactus' main rival, as it's always been one of our favourites in this class. Around 16,600 gets you in a basic S model; load it up like the Flair and it'll become more expensive than the Citroen.


Matt Robinson - 3 Nov 2014



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2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.

2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Max Earey.2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Max Earey.2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Max Earey.2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Max Earey.



2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.
 

2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.
 

2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.
 

2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Max Earey.
 

2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Max Earey.
 

2014 Citroen C4 Cactus. Image by Citroen.
 






 

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