What is it?
With a raft of awards under its belt, the C4 Cactus still appears to be a Marmite car, you either love it or hate it. When it was delivered to The Mud Life Towers, the first thing the man from Citroën said when I opened the door wasn’t, ‘Hello Mr Turner, I have a car for you.’ No, the first thing he said was, ‘Sorry about the colour!’ Make no mistake, it's one bold car.
Let’s begin with what the C4 Cactus is, rather what it isn’t. It’s a fun, bold practical family hatch that achieves up to 91mpg, and to achieve that Citroën had to make some weight sacrifices, of which I’ll get to later.
On the road
The first time I drove a Cactus I didn’t really like it, neither did Muddy Madam. At the time it wasn’t something that I could put my finger on, it wasn’t the design, I loved it, neither was it the interior, I loved that too, no, it was something about the drive that felt off. Fast forward 12 months at another press day (click Link), and I figured I had to give it a second chance, and this time it was different, I liked it a lot.
I found the ride enjoyable, it soaked up the ever increasing pot-holes nicely, though attacking bigger bumps proved quite harsh. Having said that, this press car was on the 17" Diamond Cut 'Cross' alloys wheels, and I believe that the 15" wheels offer a nicer ride. You'll find the Cactus a little wallowy if you go a bit mad along country roads, but it’s fun to throw around corners, and the 1.5ltr TD picks up with adequate speed for a car in it’s class.
During my week with the Cactus storm Abigail was annoying the UK, and the Cactus handled it well; sidewinds, huge puddles and the occasional fallen branch were no match for the Cactus.
Off the road
Despite being 2wd, it does handle itself very well on the loose stuff, surprisingly well in fact. Tackling bumpy tracks, muddy ruts, water and balancing on 3 wheels, there wasn’t a hint of wheel spin, but of course I didn’t go extreme. A note of advice though, if you're thinking of buying a Cactus and your normal commute is along crappy roads, go for the 15" wheels.
The interior is light and airy with plenty of headspace, it's also a special kind of funky and Citroen deserve a pat on the back for making it work so well. There's the strap-like interior door handles, Allegro-style steering wheel and the Knight Rider dash amongst other fun touches. Moving the passenger airbag into the roof of the cabin means that there's a lot of storage space in the top-hinged glovebox, and being top-hinged means that the lid won’t smack your passenger’s legs when it’s opened either, top marks again.
The seats are worthy of a mention too, at first glance they look like they’re just large square cushions, but in fact they're large square slabs of comfiness. I did have concerns about the seemingly lack of lower back support, but I needn't have, after a long, 3 hour journey my usually troublesome lower back was fine.
Although Citroën have worked hard on the interior space by decluttering the dash lay out, and I appreciate it, but my only bugbear with the whole experience was the touchscreen in the centre of the dash. On the whole, I don't like them at all, no matter what the vehicle, but in this instance I found myself taking my eyes off the road when I wanted to change the temperature and so on, and because they’re virtual buttons you have to be precise. No, give me proper buttons and knobs any day!
Oh, and whilst I'm being critical, the arm rest is ok and just about holds your smart phone, just don’t expect to use the handbrake with it in place unless you have a double-jointed wrist. Have I mentioned that the cup holders are quite small and wouldn't hold any of our mugs, and the heating seemed to struggle a bit too? The latter may have something to do with the fact that there's no passenger air vent.
Not that it bothered me, but to keep the weight down there's no rear wind down windows for the back passengers, they pop open like proper Mini's used to do. It's also worth pointing out that the rear seat doesn't split, nor does it fold flat. Whilst we're being picky, Muddy madam was dismayed to find, or not in this case, that this particular C4 Cactus Flair Blue HDi 100 in Hello Yellow with Black Airbumps was devoid of a mirror under the passengers sun visor, which is just wrong she concluded.
Engines ‘n’ transmissions
You have a few of options when you buy your Catcus, it's either a couple of variations of the PureTech 3 cylinder 1200cc petrol, or the BlueHDi 100 4 cylinder, 1.6 turbo and intercooled high pressure common rail diesel, which is what we had. Delivering 99bhp and 250Nm of torque doesn’t sound like much, but was more than reasonable thanks to Citroens weight saving strategy. This manages to propel the diesel from 0-60mph in 10.7 seconds and up to a top speed of 114mph.
The 108bhp PureTech 110 version of the three-cylinder petrol (fitted with stop/start tech) claims 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds and a maximum speed of 117mph.
By the end of the week the Cactus and I were besties, I really liked it. Of course it has its faults, which car doesn't, but it was fun to drive, and on 15" rims is able to achieve a remarkable 91.1mph, and that's combined!
Of course, no review of the C4 Cactus can be completed without mentioning the elephant in the room, namely the deformable plastic Airbump panelling on the doors that are designed to soak up car park scrapes. They certainly add to the practicality of the Cactus, and personally I don't mind them as I can't see them when I'm driving, and they can save you a bit of heartache and expense. Prior to the arrival of the Cactus I had the pleasure of driving a Supercharged Range Rover for a week, and after a trip to Sainsburys I noticed that someone had left a nasty dint in the passenger door. Even though it wasn't my car, I was still furious.
With a starting price of £12,990 I never got the impression that the Cactus was at the budget end of the line, sure it lacks some refinement in places, but for me they would never be deal breakers. Like any vehicle, once you start ticking the options list the price starts to inflate, and after various options, this example rolled in at £18.340.
Overall, I applaud Citroën for creating the C4 Cactus, it’s bold and fun to look at, and you're certainly not going to lose it in a car park, especially if you opt for Hello Yellow or Blue Lagoon. Be warned, when you drive a Cactus people will stare at you, it drew plenty of attention, from the odd sly glance to blatant staring. Personally I reckon the Cactus deserves a bold colour, it suits it, but you need to keep an eye on your wardrobe, you wouldn’t want to clash!