Update: The production version of the Citroen C4 Cactus has already been spied testing, just a week after the concept was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
At the time, Citroen was keen to stress that the Cactus was more than just a concept car and that it directly previewed what will soon be the latest addition to the C-line family. And that claim has been proven by spy shots of a heavily disguised production version of the C4 Cactus.
Although the front end looks to have been changed significantly, if you look closely at the headlight cluster you can see the camouflage is hiding additional detailing which matches that on the Cactus concept. The rounded body and alloys wheels also remain unchanged from the concept.
The Citroen Cactus concept
The Citroen Cactus concept, which was the star of the French firm’s Frankfurt stand, picks up where the 2007 C-Cactus concept left off. It introduces a new back-to-basics design philosophy for the French firm’s non-DS, C-line models. And it directly previews a model called the C4 Cactus that will be revealed in February 2014.
This won’t be a budget model, though, according to Citroen CEO Frederic Banzet: “We’re not aiming for low cost, but the price will be competitive. We are trying to replicate what we did in our history.”
When it arrives in six months time the showroom-ready C4 Cactus will be an addition to the range, rather than replacing the current C4.
But the simplistic approach is expected to diffuse through all future C-line products, creating a much clearer line between them and the more elaborately designed and premium-feeling DS models. In turn that will leave a little more room for Peugeot to establish itself in the mainstream gap this shake-up should help to create.
The Citroen Cactus design
With dimensions of 4.21m long, 1.75m wide and 1.53m tall, the Cactus concept is slightly shorter than a C4 and the same height as a DS3, but features a raised floor pan for a slimmer profile and a semi-crossover stance.
The original C-Cactus concept was a more conventional hatchback shape – this is a clear reaction to the booming demand for slightly raised and rugged family cars.
When the concept was unveiled at Frankfurt, Cactus designer Mark Lloyd told us: “We asked ourselves what was really important to customers. One theme that emerged was a need to reduce the stress and complexity of living with a car, our aim therefore was to simplify everything.”
Evidence of Citroen’s less-is-more mentality - something it’s excelled with in the past with models like the 2CV - is everywhere on the Cactus concept.
There’s barely a crease on the rounded bodywork, while the slim and simple headlights are lifted from the new C4 Picasso. Exterior flourishes are limited to a novel ‘floating’ C-pillar and roof rails that look like a pair of up-turned skis – both will be toned-down, but carried over for the production car.
Citroen are particularly proud of a new innovation called Airbump – the grey inserts you can see at the front, rear and sides of the car. Made of a durable material dotted with supple pockets of air, it’s designed to protect the Cactus from small everyday dings and scrapes, while giving the car a distinctive look.
For the production car a choice of four Airbump colours will be offered and it seems durability test have been going well: “At one point we tried slinging a shopping trolley full of car batteries against the side of the car, and it was fine,” Lloyd revealed.
The Citroen Cactus interior
The minimalist theme is even more pronounced on the inside, where the designers have created a serene and laid-back atmosphere.
“Comfort is at the heart of what Citroen is all about,” Lloyd told us. “And that’s not just physical comfort, but mental comfort, too.” Two reclined bench seats, front and rear, create a more sociable setting, while all the usual clutter of buttons on the dashboard and centre console has been removed entirely.
In place of an instrument cluster is a seven-inch screen, while a second, central eight-inch screen controls all the climate and infotainment functions.
A full-length panoramic roof floods the interior with light, while unlike the concept, the production car will get B-pillars and windows. Soft tan leather and organic-feeling fabrics are used throughout the cabin, but you can expect less-expensive materials in the production car.
The Citroen Cactus engine line-up
Under the skin is the first real application of PSA’s Hybrid Air powertrain. By combining conventional petrol engine and automatic gearbox with a hydraulic pump and motor powered by compressed air - rather than a battery – it returns fuel economy “in excess of 94mpg.”
Conventional petrol and diesel engines will power the production car initially, but Citroen hinted that the Cactus could be the first production car to get the technology in a few years time.
Simple ‘D’, ‘R’ and ‘N’ buttons, along with paddles behind the wheel, control the automatic gearbox - a manual option will also be offered on the production car.