Citroen C4 Cactus diesel review

13 Jun, 2014 12:45pm Joaquim Oliviera

The Citroen C4 Cactus is a new small family car with a unique design, a comfortable ride and an affordable price

Verdict

4
The Citroen C4 Cactus 2014 is lower than a C3 hatch and has no four-wheel drive option, so isn’t so much an SUV as a new take on the modern family car. The radical interior is simple and soothing, while the exterior design is rugged and chic at the same time. The weight saving measures require a few compromises, while the diesel engine and gearbox could be more refined, but Citroen has broken the mould to create a comfortable, fashionable and affordable small car - a return to what it’s good at.

Every now and then a car come along that captures the public’s imagination, because it goes about things a little differently from the rest. While the boom in SUV sales has seen a wave of new small SUVs built to the same formula, Citroen has drawn inspiration from past mould breakers like the 2CV and DS, and chosen a very different path for the new C4 Cactus.

The idea at the core of the Cactus was to strip away any superfluous features and equipment that have become the norm on modern cars, leaving something that’s lightweight, affordable and a calming place to spend time. Evidence of this pared-back approach is everywhere, from the pop-out rear windows (an 11kg saving) and single-piece folding rear bench (a 6kg saving) to the slimmed down dashboard with just two screens to control the car’s interior functions.

As a result the C4 Cactus tips the scales at just 965kg – 200kg less than the equivalent C4 hatchback, despite offering similar amounts of legroom in the back and just 22 litres less boot space at 358 litres (expanding to 1,170-litres with the back seats down). The Cactus is based on a C3 chassis, but with a stretched wheelbase of 2,595mm (roughly the same as the C4 and 140mm longer than the C3), while the overall length of 4,157mm is halfway between a C3 and a C4.

Citroen C4 Cactus 2014 rear tracking

What’s curious about its dimensions though is that it’s 40mm lower than a C3 and 10mm lower than a C4, despite 10mm more ground clearance – essential to achieve those trendy SUV proportions. Miraculously, there’s plenty of space inside even for six-footers, although ordering the optional panoramic roof will shave off precious mm of headroom in the rear.

Such a forward-thinking car deserved a unique design and the smooth surfaces and space-shuttle styling look fantastic in the metal. It wouldn’t be a Citroen without some quirks though and roof rails that resemble upturned skis plus the rugged cladding give it a true SUV feel, regardless of the compact dimensions.

The Airbump panels in the doors, available in four colours, are bound to split opinion, but do serve a practical purpose by helping to avoid damage from supermarket trolleys, poles, car doors and other potential car park hazards.

It’s the interior that steals the shows though, with a lounge like feel that’s unlike anything else on the road. Features like the one-piece front bench, huge glove box and leather straps instead of door handles give it a wonderfully traditional and cosy atmosphere, while a radical dash design mixes in an ultra-modern edge.

Dominating the interior is a seven-inch colour touch screen that controls everything from the air conditioning to the infotainment, so besides a slim row of buttons directly beneath the screen, it’s minimalist to the extreme. The instrument binnacle has been totally replaced by a digital display, too, while a few buttons on the steering wheel place some controls at your fingertips.

In terms of quality, a soft-touch material on the top of the dash makes sure the areas in which Citroen have spent the money are right in your eyeline, while the rest is made up of hard plastics, nicely textured to appear more premium than they actually are.

Citroen C4 Cactus 2014 boot

We had the chance to drive the 91bhp 1.6 e-HDI model capable of returning impressive economy and emissions of 81mpg and 92g/km. It’s still not the cleanest model in the range though, that honour goes to the 99bhp BlueHDI model with figures of 88.3mpg and 82g/km. A range of three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrols are also available with 74bhp, 81bhp and 108bhp - the latter is turbocharged.

With relatively little weight to haul along our test car felt quite sprightly on the move - not so much during initial acceleration but during mid to high speeds where you really appreciate it has twice the torque of the petrol units. It’s an engine that prefers to be stroked along gently rather than thrashed - do so and the engine noise can become intrusive.

It’s a similar story with the ETG6 automated manual gearbox - the only option on this model. Try to drive the car hard and bang through upshifts with the steering-wheel mounted paddles and you’ll end up nodding back and forth in your seat as the cogs slowly part and reengage. However, take things more slowly with a slight lift on gearshifts and you can learn to drive around it.

Citroen C4 Cactus 2014 front on

The Cactus’ ride marks a return to form for Citroen, with a beautifully cushioned feel that lets you sail over bumps and ruts in the road. Clearly, the soft spring and damper setting require some compromise in the corners, and the Cactus does tend to roll about, understeer and the ESP light flickers at the slightest provocation, but with relatively little mass to keep in check, body control is better than you might expect.

Predictably, the steering is light in feel and offers very little feedback, requiring three turns lock to lock, but is precise enough for everyday errands. And its this everyday useability that really defines the C4 Cactus - it’s not perfect by any means, but because it doesn’t pretend to be particularly sporty a lack of steering feel and high-speed body control really doesn’t matter. It’s a car that finds other ways to make you feel good.

Disqus - noscript

Neat styling, no chrome, simple interior, hefty roof rails = I want one.

About as stylish as a breeze block!

ugly French eurojunk!

DAFUQ is that ??!! lol the doors look like the seats you see in
restuarants / bars, which is fine but on a exeterior of a car... is No No... give me a Auris/i30/Swift/Cee'd anyday, boring as some say but I rather boring than Monstrocity !

Yikes, can't say any of your alternatives are exactly handsome.

I rather like this. But with such a low kerb weight, it's crying out for a cammy naturally apirated petrol engine and a real manual gearbox. 1.6 16v +130 hp + 6 speed manual = perfect!

Width? CdA? real world MPG?

I cannot see those seats being a 'one-piece bench'.

Not for me so ugly, i think Citroen might lose loads of money on this venture. love my new grand c4

Nope I agree for sure but I rather boring than monstrosity ! Oh I don't own any of the stated either !

Looks day as a brush. I wouldn't have it any other way.

This is brilliant. A 'proper' Citroen. I reckon this will be remembered as a milestone like the 2CV and DS.

I hope they give buyers the option not to have those nasty plastic side panels. Without them I think it would look quite cool. The roof rails are also a bit naff. Why not save weight and money and make them optional?

Mixed feelings on this. It looks unique but it's so ugly I could never bring myself to buy one.

What a stupid looking car.

Tell you what all those berating this quite different look will I,m sure have to bite their tongues when this will prove to be a winner . I agree that to some it may be not to their taste in design and looks . But Citroen always were quirky not for them always boring main stream. lighten up and have fun , this car will have those who drive and own beaming from side to side. great for young families who are adventurous and active not for them boring Golfies, / Audis but get out there and have fun in cars like this Well done Citroen . Suddenly Peugeot /Citroen Renault are putting Va Va voom back into car ownership Great .

This car will sell in bucket loads, and i bet they have a huge waiting list for them too, it is about time that car manufacturers gave the buyer back comfort and convenience, rather than back jaring, teeth chattering rides, I for one will definately be testing this when it is launched, and will have a relaly god look around it at Goodwood next week.

Sorry, you got that wrong, it is BMW drivers, and always has been

Totally agree, there is NOTHING from the BMW stable that excites me at all, they are all dire, and the X6 and X4 are really stupendously hideous....

I would rather not drive than have any of your choices, you and others have really not got Cortoen have you, they have always been quirky, that is the point, the curent C4 Picasso was the start, this new C4-Cactus is the second stage.

You wait until the next stage is lauched, that will blow your socks off, Citroen are going back to its roots, and about time too, if you think the DS range is just for the DS models, the new Citroen saloon, is, well, a hark back to the past, and its looks are pure nostalgia.

Thank you for a great comment, Citroen is Back, and this and future models will carry this design forward, and it will give them a young youthful appeal, to get more people in their cars, it has only just begun, just wait for the next stage.

Typical AE showing the Citroen in the worst and ugliest colour combination. Blatantly showing French cars in a bad light to benefit VAG! Disgusting behaviour!

These are Citroen's press pictures.

Key specs

  • Price: £13,000 to £18,000 (est)
  • Engine: 1.6-litre four-cyl turbodiesel
  • Power/torque: 91bhp/230Nm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automated manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 11.4 seconds
  • Top speed: 113mph
  • Economy/CO2: 81mpg/92g/km
  • On sale: July 2014
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