The Citroen C4 Cactus is the brand's latest product to reach South African shores and its futuristic design has certainly set tongues wagging. But looks are just a minor part of car testing. Can this French funkmobile pass our consumer-biased evaluation?
Those looks. Wow. Few cars are this visually dramatic and the Citroen Cactus turns heads at a rate. If it's not those thin daytime running lights and minimalist front end that catches your attention, it's the armour cladding on the doors. These serve a practical purpose however and offer a defence against other car doors opening against yours, shopping trolley bashings and any other accidental bodywork nicks. So while they look strange, these AirBumps are quite useful to have around.
Compact, yet spaciousThe rest of the car is deceptively compact and I was surprised by just how small the Citroen C4 Cactus is. Pictures tend to be misleading, and while the vehicle resembles an off-roader of sorts, it's physically closer to your average C-segment hatchback. To put that into perspective, it weighs about the same as a Volkswagen Polo, but is the size of a Volkswagen Golf. The Citroen C4 Cactus is built on the DS3 platform, which is a good thing as the DS3 is a great base to start from.
Minimalist InteriorThe fun and funkiness of the C4 Cactus continues when you open the doors. You'll immediately notice the minimalist interior and its lack of buttons. You'll also notice the lack of a rev counter, but that's not an immediate problem as there's a shift indicator animation. There's a touchscreen infotainment system with a few buttons below it that dominates proceedings, but other than some air conditioner vents, USB port and 12V socket, there really isn't much going on. One thing that Citroen has done very well with the C4 Cactus is provide loads of little hiding holes and pockets to store things.
Interior Space and FeaturesThe glove compartment is spacious and there's plenty of areas to store things such as mobile phones and keys. You'll find a USB port in there too. The fun touches continue with the door handles which resemble leather luggage straps and the front seats look like those found in advertising offices. While they offer little in terms of lateral support, they're comfortable and the material used feels long wearing.
Standard specification is generous and you'll find the touchscreen infotainment system contains modern features such as satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic air conditioning, a reverse camera and there's even a hard drive to store music. There's front and rear parking sensors, cruise control with speed limiter, hill assist and tyre pressure monitor too.
Engine and PerformanceThe engine is the same unit found in the Peugeot 308 1.2 GT Line we reviewed recently. As mentioned in that article, Peugeot is pushing into the more premium sectors of the market, while Citroen caters for the slightly more budget-sensitive buyer. Power is a reasonable 81 kW with torque coming in at a handy 205 Nm. This engine is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder which may sound small, but punches well enough to keep up with traffic. Economy and emissions are where the C4 Cactus shines and during its stay with us, we averaged around 7L/100km.
This figure is a result of the Citroen Cactus' light weight. We were surprised by just how little it weighs. Citroen claims it's 200kg lighter than the normal C4, which is quite an achievement. The wind-down rear windows are gone and replaced by pop-out versions and the windscreen washing is now done by a system called Magic Wash which removes the bonnet-mounted nozzles and replaces them with wiper-mounted ones.
How Does It Drive?The low weight and good engine work well together, and the Citroen C4 Cactus offers adequate performance. Power reaches the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission. This gearbox feels solid in operation and shifts are generally positive. The same engine is paired with a six-speed gearbox in the Peugeot 308 but the Cactus makes do with just a five-speed. Having one less gear doesn't really have an effect on the drive and the ratios feel well-spaced for everyday driving.
Our C4 Cactus came with the 16-inch Square alloy wheels which offered reasonable ride quality and are specific to the Shine model only. There are two accessory wheels, a 16-inch Declic and a 17-inch Cross, which both look good, but I would suspect the 17s offer reduced ride quality. Speaking of ride, the vehicle is smooth in operation on tar and capable of handling mild offroad scenarios too. The soft suspension means its not very sporty, but I don't think the majority of C4 Cactus owners are bothered by this, choosing comfort as a priority. Refinement is good and light steering makes city driving simple and there's not too much wind noise when you're on the highway.
Summary and ConclusionThere's a lot to like about the Citroen C4 Cactus. A combination of outstanding looks and value for money make it a worthy contender to receive both thumbs up. However there are some minor faults. The rear windows don't wind down but open out instead. The rear seats do fold down, but not in a 60/40 split, which means that you lose the entire back row if you're carrying lots of cargo.
While some of the interior finishes feel cheap, it's not the end of the world for the C4 Cactus. There's a lot to like about this futuristic city slicker and the entire team loved its looks and what it brings to the table.
Second OpinionThe Citroen C4 Cactus is something different, just as Citroen has always tried to do. It's unique styling and characterful touches mean it stands out wherever it goes and will keep its owner entertained non stop. The interior is really good in places but a bit not so good in others. The engine always remains impressive and the ride subtle. There's a lot of competition in this segment, but no doubt the Cactus is the most visibly noticeable of the pack. - Ashley Oldfield
Citroen C4 Cactus Price in South AfricaThe Citroen C4 Cactus range starts from R224 900 for the 1.2 Feel, with the model tested here being the 1.2 turbo Shine costing R284 900. There is a mid-spec 1.2T Feel costing R259 900. The price includes a 3-year/100 000km manufacturer warranty, plus a 12 year anti-perforation warranty and a 3-year paint warranty. Optional is the 5-year/100 000km warranty extension. The vehicle also comes standard with a 5-year/100 000km service plan. There's also 24 Roadside Assistance thrown in.
We Like: Wacky & futuristic, yet practical styling, great engine, wealth of standard features, value for money, ride quality
We don’t Like: Rear windows don't go down, rear bench doesn't fold down in a 60/40 split, infotainment system takes getting used to
Also consider: Renault Captur, Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008, Kia Soul