New Citroen C4 Cactus PureTech 110 petrol UK review

Big changes set the facelifted C4 Cactus up to challenge for Citroen in both the hatchback and SUV segments

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The charm of the Citroen C4 Cactus remains intact despite its heavy facelift and slight repositioning in the French firm’s line-up. The SUV’s more conventional outlook may be a disappointment to those enamoured by the previous model’s quirks, but Citroen’s strong new emphasis on comfort impresses from behind the wheel. Those lusting for a family car that’s sharp to drive should look elsewhere though.

Carmakers go to varying lengths with facelifts of their cars, though few mid-life updates you’ll see this year will be quite as extensive as the one performed on the new 2018 Citroen C4 Cactus. Not only has Citroen changed it significantly from a design point of view, the new Cactus is pushing into new market territory.

While the previous C4 Cactus was a de facto crossover, the updated model is intended to fill a new, regular C4 sized hole in the Citroen line-up – the firm’s true Volkswagen Golf rival has been put out to pasture, with a replacement still a few years out. As such, the fresh C4 Cactus has been substituted-in as Citroen’s C-segment family hatchback offering. 

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Beyond the spin you’ll see that the dimensions and ride height remain exactly the same, but the new car cuts quite a different look. With Aircross branded models now firmly positioned as Citroen’s SUV offerings, the Airbump panels daubed down the car’s flanks have been reduced to lining the bottom of the doors. It’s the same story with the tailgate – more conventional-looking than before with new taillights. The roof rails have been removed to distance the Cactus from its crossover past, and the car’s front end has been updated to appear more in tune with Citroen’s latest family face.  

The interior is pretty familiar and doesn’t change a great deal, though UK cars come with Citroen’s new Advanced Comfort Seats as standard. These use a new high-density foam which Citroen says is softer and more comfortable. You’d probably have to sit in the old and new seats back-to-back to really sense a difference but the new ones are more sculpted and add a bit of additional snugness to the gracefully ageing – though plasticy in places - cabin.

Interior space remains as before, so that means adequate room both front and rear occupants. A boot sizing up at 358 litres with the seats in place puts the C4 Cactus on a par with the practicality served up elsewhere in the class and more or less equal with something like the SEAT Leon, but many more family-focused hatches in the C4 Cactus’ freshly adopted market are more practical. For instance, the Honda Civic is streets ahead with 477 litres of boot capacity on offer.

Under the bonnet the most popular option with UK buyers will remain the PureTech 110 three-cylinder petrol engine linked to a five-speed manual gearbox. It’s still an impressive small engine, serving up its 108bhp and 205Nm of torque gladly and being a solid all-round performer in town and on motorways, with decent fuel economy figures. A bit of additional sound insulation on this new model means that trademark three-cylinder thrum is kept well distanced from the cabin too, though the five-speed manual it’s linked to feels loose and isn’t much fun to rifle through. 

Driving engagement isn’t really the C4 Cactus’ strong suit – a twist of the light and bereft of feel steering wheel will tell you that much. Instead, what you’ll notice while driving is that this new car rides very well. The new Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension system (standard on all but the entry level Feel Edition model) hits back at potholes and speed bumps impressively to deliver a cosseted ride nearly everywhere. It’s trademark Citroen, but it does mean that the car’s setup is overwhelmingly soft, and more vigorous driving easily induces plenty of body roll together with the odd side-to-side wobble as the car’s mass gets too much for it.

Equipment wise, range topping Flair cars will be the most popular with British buyers, boasting a spread of new safety and assistance features as standard. Automatic emergency braking is now present, as is traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, driver attention warning, a coffee break alert system and keyless go. Feel trim cars go without these systems but they are on the options list, while blind spot monitoring is optional regardless of trim. A seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system is fitted across the board. As before, this set-up is slick to use, but it’s the only way to change climate control settings – not ideal on the move. 

Regardless of trim, the list price of any C4 Cactus is competitive, as are the firm’s monthly PCP offerings. As such, it’s still attractively priced car for families looking for something a little bit different.

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