11.5.2018Citroen C4 Cactus 1.5 BlueHDi review
The original Citroen C4 Cactus was an anomaly in the hatchback market. Prioritising comfort over sporty thrills, the Citroen went against what many manufacturers were developing, but as such was a great alternative option. Citroen has created a new model though, throttling back on the distinctive â€˜Airbumpâ€™ design elements and - believe it or not - promising even greater levels of comfort.
Review by Chris Lilly
Up front in this C4 Cactus is a 1.5 litre BlueHDi diesel engine, producing 100 hp, and 240 Nm of torque. Itâ€™s an engine that is good for a 0-62mph time of 10.0 seconds, which is far from pacy. As you might suspect then, the engine tested looks set to match up to Citroenâ€™s comfort set-up, with a six-speed manual gearbox making work easy for drivers with a smooth change. The torque available from the engine means that in-gear acceleration makes the C4 Cactus feel a little quicker than the 0-62mph figure suggests - but not a lot. Push on and the gearbox is up to the task of changing down and getting the Citroen moving, but you are never going to be urged on by the powertrain to hurry along. Instead, the C4 Cactus is a car that is best to be driven in an unhurried manner, and doing this will bring the best out of the Citroen. Itâ€™s an easy and relaxing car to drive, with little sense of urgency, but all the more refreshing for that. There are plenty of options on the market that look to appeal to a sporty ideal in the family hatchback market, but few that look to offer a relaxed driving experience. The Citroen is refreshingly different in terms of performance then.
Like the engine, the C4 Cactusâ€™s handling experience is best when unhurried. If you drive with gusto, there is grip aplenty, but there will likely be a sense of seasickness overcoming occupants. The Citroen will lean in corners more than anything else in its class, and canâ€™t get anywhere near the precision or sharpness of steering that even its least sporty rivals can offer. Having put off anyone wanting a sharp driving experience then, we can focus on the C4 Cactusâ€™ positives. The suspension is set up to maximise comfort for occupants, and even has a trick new system on this latest model called Progressive Hydraulic Cushion. This improves the damping at either end of the suspensionâ€™s travel on each wheel, meaning even harsh pot holes and speed bumps are dealt with with a Gallic shrug and largely ignored. Itâ€™s an unusual set-up these days, but harks back to Citroenâ€™s golden years with the likes of the DS proving the most comfortable car in the world for some time. Without the hydropnumatic set-up of the DS, the C4 Cactus canâ€™t quite match that â€˜magic carpetâ€™ ride quality of past Citroenâ€™s but it is certainly very supple. In town, there is a curiously detached feel to the handling, which in many reviews would be seen as a fault. However, this cosseting experience only adds to the C4 Cactusâ€™ sense of comfort, and it is still easy to drive around a car park. On more open roads - as long as they arenâ€™t particularly twisty - the Citroen wafts along like a car in the class above, and proves a relaxed motorway cruiser, as long as said motorway doesnâ€™t have to many undulations. A VW Golf or Honda Civic will be more assured through the bends, but the C4 Cactus is king of comfort.
The previous C4 Cactus was an example of a concept car that made it through to production. The taller style and Airbump panels were unusual and really caught the eye, while also launching a new design language for Citroen - which had previously developed into the decidedly boring. The design then split opinion, but certainly turned heads. This new C4 Cactus smooths off the edginess to the design - in concept rather than actuality. Itâ€™s grown-up a little and become more refined, with the front looking noticeable sharper and more premium, though the rear curiously looks a little soggy in comparison. Overall, the design is still certainly a C4 Cactus, but itâ€™s less in your face than the previous model. The basic shape remains though, with a sensible profile translating well into interior space. Occupants get good levels of head, leg, and shoulder room, with enough space for four adults to be loaded in to the Citroen. Boot space is good but not excellent, with a deep floor capable of holding plenty of kit, but loading is a little more awkward because of the high boot lip. Itâ€™s not as practical as some of its rivals, but is a good prospect for many buyers that need to carry passengers or kit regularly.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Carrying on the comfort theme are the C4 Cactusâ€™ seats. These look and behave like a sofa, again something that is unheard of in its rivals. The levels of comfort offered are excellent as you might expect, but equally predictable is the restricted time scale that they remain so. There is a relative lack of support - both from the seat base and seat back - so although plush, the C4 Cactus can prove a victim of its own ethos after a long trip. This is not a car for daily long distances then, but shorter trips see this sofa-like comfort come into its own, without the negatives less support might bring. The rest of the cabin offers the same alternative style as the exterior, and is all the better for it. Itâ€™s spacious and there are a number of cubby holes to put kit in. The dashboard is largely a clean design, with a flat top and the infotainment screen standing proud of the centre console. Itâ€™s a good system, but one that can prove frustrating on occasion since some controls require a number of inputs to get to the right menu. The quality of materials used is not the greatest either, putting the Citroen towards the bargain end of the market than pushing Mazda or VW for example. These can be forgiven to a degree anyway, due to the relatively low costs of the C4 Cactus, and the overall style presented by the interior.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The C4 Cactus scores highly in this section, with the 1.5 litre diesel officially returning 70.6 MPG and emitting 97 g/km CO2. These are excellent figures for a hatchback that has no electric or hybrid components to its powertrain. As always, the real-world results canâ€™t match these figures, and the C4 Cactus is pretty far away from the official results. Compared to a fuel economy figure reaching the 70 MPG mark, I achieved 60 MPG during my time with it. Those employing a more frugal driving style can easily add another 3-5 MPG to that figure, but 60 MPG is a realistic target for most drivers. Although it seems poor on comparison to its official figure, the C4 Cactus is still a frugal car to drive. To tax, the low CO2 emissions mean that the first year cost is Â£125, though this is included in a new carâ€™s OTR. After that, the Citroen will cost Â£140 - the same as any conventionally fuelled model that costs less than Â£40,000 when new.
The latest generation of PSA Groupâ€™s BlueHDI and PureTech engines have been fitted to the C4 Cactus, and the model has been built on a lightweight platform to improve efficiency. Auto stop/start is fitted across almost the entire range, and the BlueHDI engine is fitted with both a particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction exhaust after treatment systems to remove a number of emissions. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 34.
There are two trim levels - Feel and Flair - with the model tested the former and entry level option. Fitted as standard are 16-inch alloy wheels, black Airbumps, 7-inch touchscreen system with DAB, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity alongside MirrorScreen, front cornering fog lights, air conditioning, Citroenâ€™s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension, rear parking sensors, cruise control, and front electric windows. Moving up to Flair trim adds 17-inch alloys, rear privacy glass, reversing camera, satellite navigation, automatic air conditioning, panoramic sunroof, and automatic lights and wipers.
Different can be good, particularly when wanting to stand out from the crowd. As such, the C4 Cactus certainly presents an alternative case to consider for potential buyers. It wonâ€™t be to everyoneâ€™s tastes, but the prospect of an extremely comfortable hatchback will appeal to some. The improved suspension and reduced oddness of the design will make the Citroen more attractive still to many of those buyers. Itâ€™s not a brilliant car, but it is a characterful one, and worth looking at by those in the market for a family hatch.
Model tested: Citroen C4 Cactus 1.5 BlueHDi 100 Feel
Body-style: Small family hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.5 litre diesel / 97 g/km
Trim grades: Feel and Flair
On-road price: From £19,140.
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars