Citroen is renowned for its Gallic flair and quirky designs and the C4 Cactus compact family car/crossover is no exception. First shown in concept form at the 2007 Frankfurt Show (that's right, almost a decade ago), the production version of the C3/DS3 based contender was launched in South Africa scarcely 2 years ago... how's that for a protracted gestation period?
Judging by the public attention that the Citroen garnered during its month-long tenure in the Cars.co.za test fleet, it probably attracts more adoring eyes per Rand spent than many luxury cars. In an age of cookie-cutter designs, this is crossover that is truly distinctive, it may be based on the C3's platform, but that's about as derivative as it could be. When it was listed on the new vehicle price list, the asking price for the 1.2L PureTech Turbo 81 kW Shine was R314 900; now retailing as part of Peugeot outlets' "Pre Owned Citroen" offers, the same derivative costs R249 900, with the same after-sales support (warranty and service plans) as was available before.
The C4 Cactus on one of several dirt road excursions; although it is an urban runabout, it dealt with unsealed surfaces reasonably well.
At just under R250k, the 1.2L PureTech Turbo 81 kW Shine is lavishly equipped compared with what is positioned around it in the new vehicle market. In terms of its exterior appearance, the Citroen draws attention by virtue of its 16-inch anthracite alloy wheels, LED daylight running lamps, front foglights with cornering function, tinted rear windows, and roof rails. Oh, and don't forget the quirky but completely functional Air Bumps, which ably protect the doors from those dreaded car parking-area bumps and scrapes.
If the exterior is grand, cabin conveniences abound: a multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, a 7-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation, hi-fi audio system with auxiliary inputs, Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming, heated- and electrically folding door mirrors, front armrest, LED mood lighting, a reverse-view camera with rear parking sensors…
The shape of the loading aperture is a little... unconventional, but bulky surfing gear was accommodated with ease.
Rear legroom was better than we expected, although a few testers remarked that the side-opening windows were quirky.
The ornate briefcase-style glove compartment was one of our favourite "Cactussy" interior adornments.
Want to change the C4 Cactus' ventilation settings? There are no knobs for that, but the touchscreen interface is easy to use.
One of the Air Bumps' unexpected uses was as a handy skateboard stand...
Even though the C4 Cactus no longer features on new vehicle price lists, it was undoubtedly one of the most endearing/easily likeable products that Citroen offered in South Africa. It was clearly not designed to please fuddy-duddies: the Citroen celebrates individualism and creative expression in an almost innocent, playful way and is the antithesis to boxy, po-faced crossovers (probably better than many of them too, if not at least more intriguing).
Having said that, although there is no doubt about the validity of the car's warranty/service back-up (courtesy of the existing Peugeot franchise network) or justifiable fears that spare parts will become unavailable in the near future, common sense suggests that, like Volkswagen's offshoot SEAT, which left the local market following a brief foray a decade ago, trade-in values of new or recently bought Citroens will suffer badly as a result of the brand's local distribution coming to the end of last year.
However, that certainly does not disqualify the C4 Cactus as a value proposition, especially as a used buy. Some buyers want something unconventional and, for the lack of a better word, spunky. Citroens are not for everyone, certainly, but of those models that didn't receive the uptake they truly deserved when they graced new-car showrooms, the C4 Cactus is up there.
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