Citroen C4 Cactus Blue HDi review

Citroen C4 Cactus Blue HDi review

Although the C4 Cactus has quirky styling that might not be to everyone's taste there is no denying it has impressive official figures for fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. This is in part to its low weight, which Citroën has worked hard to reduce to 1,070 kg. If you're looking for something a little bit different that's cheap to buy and cheap to run then the C4 Cactus could be the right car for you.

At 83 MPG (official combined) and 87g/km (CO2), for emissions, the 1.6 BlueHDi diesel trumps all but the electric and hybrid cars in this segment. Even the petrol variant can achieve 66 MPG (official combined) with car tax-free CO2 emissions of only 98 g/km. It's also very well priced from £12,990 for the petrol and £15,390 for the diesel.

Review by Peter Thomas

PERFORMANCE

NGC's test car came with the 1.6 e-HDi diesel engine and while it's not the most powerful engine you'll find it does offer impressive official fuel consumption and low emissions. Ultimately you're trading off performance for efficiency and the diesel C4 Cactus is a well-engineered compromise.

Don't expect anything sporty from the Cactus; with its 92 hp power unit, the time to reach 60 from standstill is a lengthy 11.4 seconds. But it does what it needs to and is capable (apparently) of 113 mph. Cruising at a legal 70 mph is no problem at all and actually rather comfortable. That said, the soft seats and lack of lumbar support might be an issue for longer journeys, although all variants come with cruise control as standard.


HANDLING

Those looking for a sporty drive might be better off with the petrol option although soft suspension and light steering mean there's not much feel and the Cactus tends to roll in high speed corners. The result is a soft and easy drive which suits trips around town but won't deliver the cornering needed at your local racetrack.

It's also worth noting that the manual gearbox can be clunky and gearshifts are long. What's more the central arm rest obstructs access to the handbrake and sometimes the gear lever. While we haven't driven the automatic, it could be the better driving option, though you'll take a hit on fuel economy and price.

BODY STYLE

The C4 Cactus certainly scores highly on the quirky scale thanks to small footprint, beefed-up looks and Citroen's Airbump system (the panels on the side). The test car was white with brown Airbumps; with a choice of 10 exterior colours and 4 Airbumps colours, anything from 'normal' to adventurous design is possible.

Whatever colours you choose the C4 Cactus will stand out; we were certainly 'noticed' by several other road users. . That said, while the Cactus is a little adventurous in its design, it's hardly ostentatious, and has a rather functional feel in the same way as IKEA is to furniture.

COMFORT & CONTROLS

Citroen C4 Cactus

In general, the C4 Cactus feels like a well-made car and although there are the odd bits of cheap plastic around the interior, where it matters Citroen have incorporated some nice touches which make the Cactus a nice place to be.

Our biggest gripe, however, is headroom. Two of our test drivers couldn't find a comfortable driving position because the steering wheel only adjusts for height and not rake. Even a driver of average height might bump their heads on the low slung roof interior. The small speedo screen can also be difficult to see in a comfortable position but visibility is good and the reversing camera on the Flair model is a helpful addition.

Space in the back for passengers is good although the panoramic sunroof, a £425 option makes the cabin feel bigger but takes headroom from rear seat passengers. Boot space is 358 litres, a little smaller than the Golf (380 litres) but more than the Juke (251 litres). In attempt to save weight and cost, the rear seat doesn't split 60:40 or fold flat.

Thanks to a roof mounted airbag, Citroen has been able to slim the dashboard and include a top-opening glove box with more space than you'll need for a week, at least. The rest of the dash follows a minimal style with the LCD screen dominating the space and a single row of buttons. Functionally the LCD screen works well and is logical although working out where to put a postcode into the sat-nav was not clear at first.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

Official fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are good across the board. According to the test data, the diesel can achieve an official combined figure of 83 MPG (which would translate to an incredible 7p per mile for fuel). We were achieving closer to 50 MPG after a mix of motorway driving and terrible stop-start traffic in Bristol (closer to 12p per mile). Low CO2 emissions mean zero First year and Standard rate car tax for any of the sub-100 gCO2/km variants.

The Cactus is Citroen's first car to feature Airbump technology. They're not just quirky styling from the French manufacturer but protection against (among other things) the infamous supermarket trolley. If you can get over how they look then they could save you a pretty penny in the long run. Citroen's three-year/60,000-mile warranty is reasonably comprehensive and can be extended by one or two years at extra cost. However, rivals like Kia do better offering a 7 year/ unlimited mile warranty.

GREEN CREDENTIALS

The Cactus tops our crossover list according to NGC Rating which indicates life cycle emissions impact. Arguably it's more supermini than crossover but even in that category against the likes of the Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta you'll still see it at the top of the NGC Ratings. The main reason the Cactus scores well is the fact it weighs 200 kg less than an equivalent hatchback. Start-stop technology also helps with fuel savings in typical city traffic and a reduction in air pollution.

Citroen have cleverly placed the washer nozzles into the wiper blades rather than the bonnet which reduces spray when travelling at high speed and can, Citroen claim, save 50% of the water compared with the conventional system. According to our calculations, the Citroen C4 Cactus tested has a NGC Rating of 26.

OPTIONAL EXTRAS

Entry level models with the 1.2 litre petrol engine in Touch spec start at £12,990. Our diesel Flair version with extras came in at just over £20,000.

All models come with a 7" touch screen which appears to float in mid-air on the dashboard. The entry level model gets you a digital radio, mp3 compatibility, USB port, cruise control, front electric windows (the rear windows pop out across the board to save weight) and alloys wheels depending on your engine choice.

The Feel spec adds gloss black door mirrors and exterior trim, roof bars, alloys wheels, leather steering wheel, air conditioning and Bluetooth hands-free with audio streaming. The top spec Flair as tested also comes with front fog lights, tinted windows, LED interior lighting, heated mirrors, front arm rest, automatic lights and wipers, a reversing camera, satellite navigation and an upgraded audio system with two additional speakers.

We recommend Feel spec with the additional City Camera Pack (£395) which gives you parking sensors and a reversing camera.


MODEL SUMMARY

Citroen C4 Cactus

Model tested: Citroen C4 Cactus Blue HDi Flair
Body-style: Crossover
Engine/CO2: 1560cc BlueHDi/ 83 gCO2/km
Trim grades: Touch, Feel, Flair

On-road price: From £12,990. Price as tested £20,740
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 STARS
Next Green Car Rating from 26

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Peter Thomas

Author:Peter Thomas
Date Updated:10th Feb 2015

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