Quirky Citroen C4 Cactus concept boasts growing appeal

PUBLISHED: 06:48 13 November 2014

Citroen C4 Cactus combines concept car looks and features in a family-friendly package.

Citroen C4 Cactus combines concept car looks and features in a family-friendly package.


Boasting bold concept car looks, the C4 Cactus is not a car that you will forget in a hurry, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

Love it or loathe it, the C4 Cactus is Citroen back to its quirky best.

The car-maker, renowned for giving us so many innovative features over the years, has brought out this concept car-like conundrum combining crossover and hatchback – Citroen says it pioneers the crosshatch concept. It also throws in some sport utility vehicle cues with raised ground clearance and wheelarch protectors.

Perhaps the most eye-catching element is the Airbump technology – a kind of body armour to protect this urban warrior against minor bumps, scrapes and car park dings and dents. The maintenance-free panels on the four doors are made of tough air-filled thermoplastic polyurethane capsules and also offered in various contrasting colours as part of a collection of contrasting customising options. Looks aside, they contribute to lowering real-world running costs by warding off annoying body damage when people throw their doors open in car parks.

The C4 Cactus is 200kg lighter than the C4 hatchback which means it uses smaller engines, so boosting economy and emissions efficiency.

As well as 75 and 82hp 1.2-litre petrol and 110hp 1.2-litre turbo petrol, there are a pair of 1.6-litre turbo diesels – a 92hp unit mated to the ETG6 (Efficient Tronic Gearbox) and a 100hp Blue HDi which meets Euro 6 emissions standards.

I drove the ETG6 turbo diesel and the engine does a good job despite its modest output by today’s standards. Good low-down flexibility means it pulls strongly across the rev range and makes decent progress while economy always hovered around 65mpg.

Like the styling of the C4 Cactus itself, opinion will be divided on the the EGT transmission. Although it shifts up and down its six gears automatically – although you can use the flappy paddles behind the steering wheel – it is actually an automated manual but tends to lurch from gear to gear although it does get smoother with practice if you lift slightly on the throttle. Even so, if you are used to an automatic you need to try it before you buy it.

It doesn’t even have a gear lever, just three buttons – drive, reverse and neutral – set low on the fascia and, if you have short arms, you have to lean down to reach them.

Gone are the days of Citroens with rising suspension and a floaty ride. The conventional modern set-up is firmer, which means much better handling, but still does a good job of soaking up bumps and lumps. It also holds the road well, so well in fact that keen drivers will have a lot of fun through the twists and turns resulting in some passengers finding progress a bit too rock and roll when driving exhuberantly.

But they won’t complain about the space inside. The wide front seats, linked by a centre panel, give the impression of being a sofa although they seat only two people while three can fit quite comfortably across the rear bench seat but the optional panoramic sunroof eats into headroom in the back. Chunky rear pillars and a small screen make it feel smaller than it is in the back and hinder visibility when reversing while the rear windows are side-hinged and open outwards.

The driving position is compromised by the steering wheel adjusting only for height but larger drivers will like the wide front seats.

The well-shaped 358-litre boot is deep with a high sill and versatility is not helped by a one-piece folding rear seat back which doesn’t lay flat.

The fascia has a minimal look with a simple digital speedo and bar fuel gauge while vehicle functions –including heating and ventilation, infotainment, telephone, car settings, satellite navigation where fitted – are controlled via the intuitive, seven-inch touchscreen on the centre console.

My biggest disappointment was the C4 Cactus’s conventional handbrake while the C4 hatchback and Picasso and Grand Picasso have more modern electronic, self-releasing park brake but that might be because the Cactus shares its platform with the sporty DS3.

No gripes about cabin storage with lots of cubbyholes and a huge trunk-like lidded locker on the passenger side of the fascia made possible by Citroen’s innovative roof-mounted front passenger airbag.

The C4 Cactus grew on me, mainly due to some innovative ideas and clever features, but it is very much a Marmite car – you’ll either desire it or totally dismiss it.

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Andy Russell

Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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