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Driven: Citroen C4 Cactus facelift. Image by Citroen UK.

Driven: Citroen C4 Cactus facelift
Oh dear. What on Earth has happened to the once-lovely Citroen C4 Cactus?

   



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Citroen C4 Cactus Flair PureTech 110

2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 2.5

Good points: it's still roomy and relatively cheap, compared to C-segment hatchback rivals

Not so good: sloppy suspension control, bland looks, underpowered engine

Key Facts

Model tested: Citroen C4 Cactus Flair PureTech 110 manual
Price: C4 Cactus range starts from 17,270; Flair PureTech 110 from 19,990, car as tested 20,540
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 104g/km (VED Band 101-110: 145 in year one, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 55.4mpg
Top speed: 122mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: 110hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 205Nm at 1,500-2,000rpm
Boot space: 358-1,170 litres

Our view:

Oh, good grief! What has happened here?! The original Citroen C4 Cactus was one of our favourite models from the French marque for many a year, but if we had any criticism about its dynamics, it was that the vehicle needed softer, more Citroen-y suspension than it was equipped with. However, come midlife model facelift time, Citroen decided to completely alter the Cactus' ethos, transforming it from a funky, affordable crossover to a supposedly luxurious hatchback. We weren't convinced when we first saw the styling but Dave's international drive of the 2019MY C4 Cactus looked promising.

Unfortunately, having spent a week and 368 miles in its company on the UK's rucked-up roads, we felt utterly deflated - like a party balloon left out for five weeks after the event. Honestly, this has to be one of the most dispiriting midlife facelifts of a car we've ever encountered. The Citroen has been completely shorn of all its character. The outside is clearly still the C4 Cactus shape, but denuded of both its distinctive Airbumps (OK, they're still there, just about, lower down on the body but they're a lot less prominent than they were - how can you have a Cactus without any spikes?) and also its roof rails, and given totally different light clusters front and rear, the resulting design is painfully 'meh'. It's not distinctive. It's not pretty. It looks like you've caught it in the middle of the transmogrification process from its former crossover self to a new hatchback, but that process is not quite complete, leaving behind an uncomfortable half-and-half hybrid shape that combines the less-desirable features of each.

The weird thing about the exterior changes is that they're not transferred over into the interior. The same sparsely-trimmed cabin that has been seen since 2014 is retained, but while we loved it in the quirky bodyshell of the pre-facelift C4 Cactus, it doesn't make any sense in the sanitised, hatchback-esque form of the post-facelift Citroen. So you sit there looking at the rev-counter-less display and the bobbles on the passenger dash and the thin door cards with door pull-straps and you think 'no one's going to buy this instead of a Volkswagen Golf'. It's simply redolent of what the Cactus once was and that makes you even sadder.

However, the biggest crime here is the suspension. Oh, it's soft now, no doubt about it. But it's all wrong; too soft, too lily-livered when it comes to keeping the shell of the Citroen in check. The body and wheel control of the C4 Cactus is all to pot, so while it's reasonably smooth and adequately refined on a motorway, on a bumpier, two-lane road the passenger compartment becomes oddly floaty and out of sync with the suspension, which fast runs out of answers to any moderately challenging sequence of compressions and imperfections. It makes the C4 Cactus uncomfortable to travel in and hopeless for handling, where the levels of imprecision relating to the flimsy steering and wobbly body control mean you will not want to hustle it along in the slightest.

All of which leaves us both upset and furious in equal measure. The pre-facelift C4 Cactus was a gnat's away from true greatness; it needed its suspension softening off by about 10 or 15 per cent, and it would have been near-perfect for what it was. Instead, Citroen has gone way too far and - at the same time - has decided to strip all the character out of its contender, in the hope of somehow convincing us it's a viable alternative to a nicely sorted C-segment hatchback. Well, it isn't. It's just deeply confused and saddled with substandard suspension. We know PSA can do good ride quality - several current Peugeots are lovely to travel in and the DS 7 Crossback, with its fancy camera-based system, is a doozy. Maybe Citroen ought to look there for inspiration for the revised C4 Cactus, because right now, inspiration is sorely lacking with this machine.

Alternatives:

Hyundai i30 Fastback: If you want a proficient, affordable and slightly-different-looking C-segment machine to the norm, then Hyundai's swoopier i30 is a better bet than the Cactus.

Peugeot 308: Not everyone will get on with the i-Cockpit interior and the 308 isn't exactly flawless otherwise, but Peugeot shows Citroen how to do a Golf-challenging hatchback properly.

SEAT Leon: The Spanish contender might have been around for aeons now, but it still looks great and drives oh-so-crisply. Citroen doesn't stand a chance, in the face of this.


Matt Robinson - 23 Aug 2018



  www.citroen.co.uk    - Citroen road tests
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2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 110. Image by Citroen UK.2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 110. Image by Citroen UK.2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 110. Image by Citroen UK.2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 110. Image by Citroen UK.2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 110. Image by Citroen UK.

2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 110. Image by Citroen UK.2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 110. Image by Citroen UK.2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 110. Image by Citroen UK.2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 110. Image by Citroen UK.2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 110. Image by Citroen UK.








 

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