Citroen re-invents the classically French car. Simple, unpretentious and focused on making journeys easy, rather than pure driving dynamics.
3 January 2014

Odd as it might first seem, the roots of the Citroen Cactus project are embedded the global economic crash in 2008.

The last five years has seen Europe’s mainstream car industry hit one of the most serious crises in its history. After the giant property bubble burst, causing the ‘credit crunch’, new car sales across the wider EU have collapsed by around 25 percent.

While in the US, two of the ‘Big Three’ car-makers went into bankruptcy and there was a coordinated reduction in US car-making capacity with factories closing and large numbers of redundancies.

The upside was that overcapacity in the US industry was nearly eliminated and, with the new car market returning to its pre-crash levels, car making became profitable again for the mainstream brands.

Europe’s domestic industry is in a very different position. The new car has only just flattened out after five years of falling sales and the continent is blighted by overcapacity, with only Peugeot-Citroen and Ford closing factories because of the huge political pressure to preserve jobs.

With huge pressures on showroom pricing for mainstream brands and the premium makers continuing to make hay, Citroen bosses sat down to completely re-think the cars that European mainstream makers should be building in the future. The cars needed to be cheaper to build, cheaper to run, easier to own and more characterful than today’s Golf-clones.

The result of this radical move will be sold under the ‘C-Line’ brand and the first model from the ground-up re-think of the modern car will be the production version of the Cactus concept, which is due to be unveiled in the near future.

Brit Mark Lloyd told Autocar that the Cactus came out of research which suggested that the way people were interacting with technology changing very quickly, with the new emphasis on simplicity, driven by the smartphone revolution. This also means decluttering and decontenting the interior, completely ‘taking out elements of the traditional dash’.

This was combined with the idea that the new ‘C-line’ cars should emphasise ‘stresslessness’ and make the idea of a ‘journey and the spirit of travel’ more appealing as well as offering supreme comfort. This move is, of course, a decisive break with the prevailing sense that most cars modern must have ‘sporting’ credibility.

The low running costs are intended to extend beyond frugal engines, with the bodywork well protected from day-to-day knocks. The radical ‘air bump’ panels in the doors are designed to make the Cactus immune from typical supermarket carpark damage.

Indeed, Citroen’s emphasis on ease of ownership is pinned on the idea that if a car is too highly-finished, trying to keep it that way (and being distressed by damage) is a big part of making car ownership stressful. In that sense, the Cactus is a very French car: there’s a clarity and honesty in its design as well as it being unpretentious.

The arrival of the real Cactus in showrooms later in 2014 will test this most French philosophy, but Citroen’s future is pinned on its success.

Our Verdict

Citroën C4
The Citroën C4 range comprises three diesel and three petrol engines, plus three trim levels

An admirable car, but there is an abundance of much better rivals

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Comments
18

28 December 2013
I like the interior. Glad they aren't going down the complete budget route like Dacia. This seems more like a proper Cirreon. Simple, yet well thought out. It will be interesting to see the final result, but looks promising

28 December 2013
Wow...i thought this was the production version for a minute - that would have been something special. Looking forward to seeing the final version, but if it retains at least the main elements of that interior this will be a great little car, with flair.

"Citroen’s emphasis on ease of ownership is pinned on the idea that if a car is too highly-finished, trying to keep it that way (and being distressed by damage) is a big part of making car ownership stressful."

Spot on - and I'm very happy that there will be an alternative to the continual convergence of cars towards 'premium'. Which eventually leds to all C-segment cars being Golf clones. Vivre la Difference!

28 December 2013
I like the idea, but there are incongruities. The air panels on the doors stop short so would not protect the rear door edges. Is the interior easier to clean in any way? How about a lack of nooks and crannies that you can't get the Hoover into! Will the seats shrug off stains in any innovative way? Shame that Citroen, having had the clever idea of using the trademark chevrons as air intakes, seem to feel the need to bung a nasty square hole in the front as well ( also on other current models) it just makes the front look too cluttered. I prefer the wide chevron look of the original C4 and the C6. Can't help thinking that the frameless doors are a pointless impracticality. Surely must be cheaper and easier to make standard doors and windows. The original Panda was an attempt to rethink a simple basic car. This moves it on, but seems to add pointless expensive ideas.

29 December 2013
Pete-Suffolk wrote:

Is the interior easier to clean in any way? How about a lack of nooks and crannies that you can't get the Hoover into!

Also what about some easy-clean floor coverings other than that horrid felty-carpetty stuff that gets thown into most non-premium cars? Something more colourful than the black rubber floor coverings in many 60s cars would look good and be practical.

I like the whole idea of this concept but wouldn't it be better trying it out on the smaller C1, C2 and C3 segments first? I had one of the original Pandas and still hanker after its stripped-out simplicity (although even that had horrid felty-carpetty stuff on the floor!)

29 December 2013
streaky wrote:
Pete-Suffolk wrote:

Is the interior easier to clean in any way? How about a lack of nooks and crannies that you can't get the Hoover into!

Also what about some easy-clean floor coverings other than that horrid felty-carpetty stuff that gets thown into most non-premium cars? Something more colourful than the black rubber floor coverings in many 60s cars would look good and be practical.

I like the whole idea of this concept but wouldn't it be better trying it out on the smaller C1, C2 and C3 segments first? I had one of the original Pandas and still hanker after its stripped-out simplicity (although even that had horrid felty-carpetty stuff on the floor!)

Don't worry, this is probably the first car of a new generation. I could imagine this approach being applied to every Citroen product is some form. Obviously a bland Vw family style line up wouldn't change their fortunes so they have to do what Citroen do best... Invent and be different. They applied this approach to the ds family and although it's early days things seems to be going pretty well..
It is very difficult for car companies to do different floorings as there are so many warranty issues. This type of carpet is also cheap and easy to form around bits of body in white metal. I'm sure if research suggests people want something else in that area car companies like Citroen will jump on that. I still love the red 205 gti carpet. Felt like it was a distant relative to a ferrari. It felt special. Who knows maybe the next c3 or c3 Picasso will take it another step.

28 December 2013
.... the more I like the whole concept of this car.

It would be better with rear-hinged rear doors, surely, and presumably just as easy to produce as one with this half B-pillar arrangement. I like the idea of the simple push-button transmission selector and the two screens are smart and much easier to use than a load of small buttons scattered across the centre console and elsewhere (think Ford Fiesta).

The idea of a simple, good riding car that is comfortable and relaxing is long passed its arrival time; I'm fed up with all cars riding in a so-called sporty manner.

Can hardly wait to see if the production version is as sensible as this concept.


Enjoying a Fabia VRs - affordable performance

28 December 2013
You have to admire Citroen for their bravery in not being put off after the failure (in sales terms) of the C6.

I like this a lot, but I'm not sure how well it will go down with a market conditioned by road testers to value 'soft-feel dashboard plastics' and Nurburgring lap times above the more relevant aspects of a car in day to day life.

29 December 2013
Jeremy wrote:

You have to admire Citroen for their bravery in not being put off after the failure (in sales terms) of the C6.

I like this a lot, but I'm not sure how well it will go down with a market conditioned by road testers to value 'soft-feel dashboard plastics' and Nurburgring lap times above the more relevant aspects of a car in day to day life.

Don't forget cupholders; they are always cranking on about them!

28 December 2013
Hilton is talking about Golf clones and Jeremy is talking about the standard take of the automative journalists - lap times, 3.2 sec, GT, RS, R, RXS etc into eternity.
That represents cars that no ordinary man can buy. One of the best cars 2013 is the Fiesta GT, not "The" Fiesta.
Haven't we had enough of that? Even if we all of like to dream about hefty cars less than 0,01 percent can afford them. That's why a car like Dacia has had a great run. Citroen is on something that might take us back to basics. They deserve success.The Cactus looks great. Of course quite a few things will change before we see the production car.
They need lots of kudos for not doing the German trick shrink the models to look the same all the way from Phaeton down to Up. I wish them good luck.

Krille

28 December 2013
This is the concept version, and NOT the production-ready C4 Cactus. Misleading article headline by Autocar; this is the Cactus concept which points towards the C4 Cactus, which will be all but identical to this but with a few changes and differences to make it more practical.

I hope Citroen stay true to form and keep the production model as close to this as possible. But for now, Autocar need to either change the headline of this article, or change the piccies and give us the final production version (though Citroen are due to reveal it on 5th Feb).


"Work hard and be nice to people"

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