Citroen C4 Cactus

A probable world first for any car, the unusually placed airbags are one of many things that define the Citroen Cactus’ personality – it is simply like nothing out there, and the French are decidedly adept at making such cars. The Cactus’ roof-mounted airbags for example, were engineered in a bid to enhance spaciousness in the front dashboard. Can it go beyond being creative however – into actually being a truly refreshing car that one would not tire of? Let’s find out.

Citroen C4 Cactus


A probable world first for any car, the unusually placed airbags are one of many things that define the Citroen Cactus’ personality – it is simply like nothing out there, and the French are decidedly adept at making such cars. The Cactus’ roof-mounted airbags for example, were engineered in a bid to enhance spaciousness in the front dashboard. Can it go beyond being creative however – into actually being a truly refreshing car that one would not tire of? Let’s find out………..

You either like it or do not, but the design of the Cactus really caught my eyes on first sight and that good impression never left. From zip-thin daytime lights up front, to the quirky “Airbumps” feature surrounding the car to protect against small accidents and door dings, really useful in shopping areas where small parking spots abound, the Cactus was designed to get bystander eyes peeled whenever it passes by...it is quite different to most other cars, and I came to really like this.

With carefully designed 2/3 side panel and 1/3 glazed area proportions and short front and rear overhangs, the car looks rugged and never reduces to being boring. Unfortunately, my rear passengers do not take too well to the manually-operated pop-out rear window, which on the other hand at least saves 11 kg.

The interior is a cosy place to be, with sofa-style front seats that make it feel very spacious. Gearbox operation is dead easy via a pushbutton system, and most other functionalities are accessed through the decent 7'' touch screen. A slight annoyance is the driver’s left footrest that is maybe a bit high, and rear headroom that curves down oddly causing some bumped heads. Legroom is also average in the rear, although Citroen claims it is similar to the C4. Apart from having no rear air-con vents, everything feels quite chic and modern.

The large optional panoramic sunroof has four layers and is specially designed to keep the heat out and protect from UV rays, an alternative to having a convertible that subjects you to sun, rain and wind.

I wish Citroen paid as much attention to the car’s drivetrain as it did to its interior/ exterior appearance. Whilst saving about 200 kg over a Citroen C4 and offering extremely low 3.6L/100km fuel consumption and low 94g/km emissions, the car labours with its slow semi-automatic gearbox.

In slow traffic, and at low speeds, the gearbox lumbers on its changes, a bit different to a traditional torque converter automatic, however, after being with it for a while you get used to it and find the best way to use it. Stepping on the pedal, the motor is punchy with plenty of acceleration, and changes gears much more quickly, with a 68kW/230Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that is an able performer. In fact, once you hit the highway the car cruises effortlessly.

Fairly softly sprung, the car is plush and comfortable on uneven roads, whilst still handling well – give the car a nice road and the chassis will willingly oblige. The electrically power assisted steering is pretty direct and true.

My conclusion on the Cactus is that it is an excellently engineered car and credit has to be given for innovative features that are definitely not just superfluous. Even the gearbox choice was reportedly down to weight-saving measures. Citroen has painstakingly kept weight to minimum, and made low fuel consumption key, with small turbocharged engines that perform very well in this quite brilliant car. The Citroen Cactus ticks all the right boxes.

If you are not particularly after a performance car, but enjoy something truly innovative, unique, interesting, and very functional, chic and plain fun, different from the rest and extremely economical and low pollution in fact, you could view this as just the right car for you.
Petrol:
  • Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol
  • Power: 81kW at 5,500rpm
  • Max. Torque: 205Nm at 1,500rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual
  • Fuel Tank: 50 litres
  • Fuel: 4.7L/100km (ADR Combined)
  • CO2: 107g/km (ADR Combined)
  • Safety Rating: Four-star EuroNCAP

Diesel:
  • Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
  • Power: 68kW at 4,000rpm
  • Max. Torque: 230Nm at 1,750rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automated manual
  • Fuel tank: 50 litres
  • Fuel: 3.6L/100km (ADR Combined)
  • CO2: 94g/km (ADR Combined)
  • Safety Rating: Four-star EuroNCAP
Petrol: $26,990 (plus on-road costs)
Diesel: $29,990 (plus on-road costs)