Funky, French and fun – not your dream girlfriend but the new Citroen Cactus. As Car Couture waves goodbye to another test car today, there’s no doubt this unusual crossover is going to be a massive hit in the UK.
The appeal goes way beyond those padded air cells on the doors too. This is a car that dares to be different and most importantly, it’s well within reach of many new car buyers.
The futuristic design also gives a big hint of what we can expect from Citroen over the next five years. It won’t be to everybody’s taste but Skoda, Ford and Vauxhall should be running scared.
We think it needs a more sprightly engine but perhaps a lukewarm version is on the cards. For now, the Cactus is going to give mainstream car makers a spikey wake-up call…
Those of you that are still growing hair probably don’t remember cars that had a bench seat up front. Imagine that – one enormous seat that stretches from door to door!
Back in the sixties, cars like the Ford Consul and Zephyr were equipped with such luxuries. There were rarely safety belts, so you can imagine the consequences of sitting a child between two adults in the middle.
The Cactus can be tweaked up to have a bench seat too, although it’s definitely not for a third passenger. It’s just one of several quirky features inside the car that raises an eyebrow.
Others include leather strap door handles and a minimalist dashboard, with most functions controlled from the touchscreen unit. It all works beautifully, except for the driver’s seat, which seems to have restricted for-art adjustment. No idea why but it even makes me feel ‘tall’ at 5ft 10ins…
Driving the Cactus is quite a bizarre experience. You forget the Citroen looks so oddball from the outside and that it turns heads wherever you take it.
I have to say, most people I’ve asked think it looks ‘awkward’ at best but I am warming to the futuristic design. There are lots of clever touches, like washer jets incorporated in the wiper arms (presumably to further reduce drag) and those daytime running lights situated high up the bonnet.
If the Cactus was bigger – and I’m thinking proper SUV-size here! – it would rival the Porsche Cayenne for road presence. But when you see the Citroen in the metal, it’s very small indeed (like Mini size).
One feature I don’t like is the acceleration from a standing start at a junction. As you pull out, there’s something of a dead-spot on the accelerator, which is seriously disconcerting. That’s probably not a problem with the petrol models but has given me a few anxious moments….
They’re called Airbumps and it’s what marks the Cactus out from all the rest. Tough, polyurethane panels filled with air that give the quirky Cactus its ‘unique selling point’.
They’re not meant to protect your paintwork in a proper shunt but rather see off the dents and dings that happen during everyday, mostly urban driving. And let’s face it, in Citoren’s homeland, the French are buggers for bashing your bodywork.
You can choose four different colours for the bumps – and if they get scruffy over the years, you can replace the door panels with nice new ones for £150.
I’m not sure we’ll see Airbumps appearing on other cars but you have to applaud Citroen for such a novel idea. In the spirit of the 2CV and DS, this is a car that dares to be different…
Not often I want to recommend a petrol engine over derv but what the new Cactus really lacks is a bit of poke. A 100bhp HDi might sound perfect for this size of car – it isn’t.
The Cactus seems to have a range of super-frugal engines that sell on economy. However, even the 100bhp is tiresome to drive at low speed. It has very little pick-up from a standing start and twisty, low-speed roads mean plenty of gearbox changes.
Things improve slightly at high speed, where the five-speed Cactus we have on test moves along nicely. It’s when the revs drop that you have to start working the Citroen hard!
So, the PureTech 110bhp petrol might be worth a look. It still returns excellent mpg and has that extra bit of shove from under the bonnet. I’m getting 50mpg from the HDi – the official mpg figures are much higher but to achieve any kind of satisfactory performance, that is simply not possible…
It’s just natural – you see a padded car and you automatically want to check out how good those ‘air bumps’, as Citroen prefer to call them, really are. The idea is a good one. Protect the paintwork by effectively bubble wrapping the bodywork.
What has surprised me is how well the Cactus looks. I also didn’t realise how small the Cactus actually is! I’d say it’s just a bit more spacious than one of those Botox Minis. It’s quite tiny.
Also, why on Earth hasn’t somebody thought of an idea this simple before, to cope with the bump and bash of urban living? Maybe they have but I can’t recall such an ingenious idea.
So, if you buy a Cactus, be prepared for a a lot of people poking and prodding your car. I’m not sure it could cope with a full-on road rage attack but air bumps could be the way forward for angry drivers too!
Love it or hate it, the Citroen C4 Cactus has got people talking. Even those who care nothing about motoring are wondering what this ‘padded’ car is all about. Is it a concept, is it for real – or is it just ‘French’?
True, only Citroen could design and then sell cars like the 2CV, DS and CX. So why should we be taken aback by the whacky little Cactus?
I’ve only driven the car 12 miles to the station and back but already I’ve had more looks than I would with a topless supermodel on the front passenger seat. That includes one woman who almost managed a head-on in her Volvo XC90.
Most people will consider it an SUV – which puts it in the same category as the Renault Captur (see previous test), Nissan Juke and the Skoda Yeti.
However, none of those models will turn heads like the Cactus. It’s unusual, different and bordering on cool. Something you can’t say about a Yeti, of course…