The Citroen C4 Cactus is a return to the quirky and different car that Citroen used to be famous for - rather than build yet another competitor for the Volkswagen Golf, the company was determined to create a car that broke the mould, to address the needs of modern customers by taking radical steps both in its design and innovation.
The car was revealed recently at the Geneva Motor Show, but it's not a concept car - it will soon go on sale in the form you can see in our pictures.
It looks very similar to a concept version we saw in 2013, with a floating roof, split front lights and protective side panels. One of the most striking features on the car are the AirBumps on the car's front and rear bumpers, and on the car's sides.
These air-filled plastic bumps act like bubble wrap and are designed to help prevent damage caused by low-speed collisions. Buyers will be able to choose between ten different exterior colours, with four hues for the Airbump panels and three interior themes.
The Citroen C4 Cactus will be priced from €13,950 when it goes on sale in France later this year. While UK pricing has yet to be confirmed, a spokesman for Citroen UK has told us that figure will translate to a starting price of around £13,000 for the model when it arrives on UK shores in October.
That ballpark figure means the C4 Cactus will undercut the Citroen C4 by between £1,000 and £3,000 throughout the range, with prices likely to rise to around £18,000 for the range-topping Cactus.
The Cactus is set to be a template for all the ‘C-line’ models in the future. The ‘DS’ sub-brand will continue, but cars from the standard range will all feature the same striking design, simplified interiors and clever technology as the Cactus.
At a special preview event held in Paris, designer Mark Lloyd told Auto Express: “People have moved on in the way that they use products, but the car industry is very traditional, and has not moved at the same pace of change as consumers.”
For the Cactus, that means offering C-segment styling and space with B-segment running costs. Thanks to clever packaging and extensive use of lightweight materials – like for the bonnet – the Cactus is a huge 200kgs lighter than a standard C4.
The newcomer shares the same 2.6m wheelbase as the C4, but it’s actually based on the smaller chassis that underpins the DS3. The roof rails and chunky body give it a big car look, but the Cactus is shorter than hatchbacks like the VW Golf.
With a 358-litre boot and decent rear legroom, it also boasts better practicality than compact crossovers like the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur - both of which Citroen sees as key rivals for the Cactus. To save weight the rear windows pop-out rather than winding down, and there is no split/fold action for the rear bench.
Four engines will be available at the UK launch in October. The first are a pair of three-cylinder petrol engines, one turbocharged and naturally-aspirated, making 81bhp and 109bhp respectively. The diesel models both have a 1.6-litre capacity, and both meet the strict Euro 6 emissions regulations, with 91 and 99bhp each.
The entry-level petrol tips the scales at just 965kgs – almost 300kgs less than rivals like the Nissan Juke and Fiat 500L and as a result the cleanest diesel model will emit just 82g/km while returning an amazing 91.1mpg.
The Cactus is just as cutting-edge inside too, with a number of innovative touches that are designed to make it comfier and easier to live with than a normal hatch. Two digital displays have replaced the traditional dials and dash buttons, with a seven-inch touchscreen in the centre console controlling all major functions. The infotainment system features several apps including live traffic updates and auto versions get a set of three buttons instead of a conventional gear selector. This six-speed gearbox is an updated version of the ‘ETG’ semi-automatic gearbox.
Citroen says it has improved the throttle response and changing times of this gearbox, and also made it less susceptible to creeping in traffic and at low speed but manual versions are predicted to make up the majority of Cactus sales.
On higher spec models a full-length glass roof will be optionally available, which uses the same glass technology as high-end sunglasses to block UV radiation and control the temperature in the cabin and remove the need for a heavy blind. The passenger airbag has also been built into the roof, which means the dash can be mounted further down the cabin to provide a greater feeling of space inside.
Citroen is planning on giving people a new way to pay for their Cactus too. Buyers will be able to choose a monthly price plan similar to a mobile phone contract, with insurance, finance and other costs rolled into a single monthly payment or even choose to pay per mile covered – although at this stage they were not clear on the details of how this kind of scheme would work in the UK.