What is it?
Here is the latest version of the Cactus, a special edition blazoned with paraphernalia from Rip Curl, an Australian company famed for beach and surfwear. This makes the Cactus that bit cooler, no doubt even more so in the coastal communities of Cornwall.
The special model has white door mirrors and roof rails, Rip Curl 'tattoos' (well, stickers) on the front wings and C-pillars, 17in diamond-cut alloy wheels and Goodyear Mud+Snow tyres. On the inside, there are orange seatbelts and orange detailing on the speaker surrounds and floor mat stitching.
Cosmetics aside, though, what sets the Cactus Rip Curl apart from the rest of the range is the introduction of Grip Control. Grip Control is an adaptable traction control system with modes for snow, mud and sand - perfect for getting your surfboard down to the water.
There are five exterior paint colours to choose from, although grey is the only free option. Standard equipment includes a panoramic sunroof, reversing parking camera, automatic air-con, rear parking sensors, sat-nav and cruise control. Two engines are available: a 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 diesel, and a 1.2-litre Puretech 110 S&S petrol we're testing the latter.
What's it like?
The 1.2-litre turbocharged Puretech petrol engine is unchanged, and as impressive as ever. It may only have 109bhp, but with 151lb ft of torque, it's nicely flexible and surprisingly swift. It's happy to be revved hard and peak torque arrives at just 1500rpm, providing the sort of low-down grunt you’d expect from a diesel motor.
Hard revving in the Cactus is rewarded by an enticing engine noise, but around town the engine remains pleasantly quiet. Some vibration comes through the pedals and gearbox, but it's not too noticeable.
The Cactus isn't the most enthralling car in its class to drive, mainly because it's let down by too much body roll through bends and inconsistent steering feel. On the upside, there is plenty of grip and the car does turn accurately. At least in a car park the steering is usefully light, and good front visibility means the Cactus is easy to manouevre.
However, it’s the ride that best suits the laid-back seaside character of the Cactus Rip Curl. The car absorbs most road imperfections, with only the largest of potholes intruding. Disappointingly though, the gearbox feels lethargic and notchy, with a sloppy long throw.
Although the Cactus isn't the most entertaining to drive, it’s certainly entertaining to be in. The Cactus does away with a typical dashboard layout, instead focusing on technology and quirky design.
The instrument panel is a wide, dash-mounted digital screen. It displays the speed numerically, has a digital fuel gauge and suggests gear changes to you. Annoyingly though, it lacks a rev counter.
In the middle of the dash is a 7.0in infotainment touchscreen, which controls the music, sat-nav, phone, air-con and trip computer. It also has Citroën's Multicity Connect system, which features apps such as Facebook and TripAdvisor, and has 3G internet. There’s even a calendar and calculator.
There are only three traditional buttons on the dash, which are front and rear demisting and hazard lights. There is a shelf and USB connector for your smartphone, and below that a rotary dial controller for the Grip Control system.
The lid for the glovebox has leather-look straps, stainless steel buckles and studded detailing. The straps extend to the doors, forming door pulls.
Overall, the Cactus Rip Curl's interior is well designed and has a high-tech, luxury appearance, although there are some hard, lower-quality plastics. It's spacious and comfortable, but you’ll struggle to find the best driving position because the steering wheel only adjusts for height and not reach, and the pedals aren't positioned deep enough into the footwell. The presence of just one small cupholder disappoints, too.
Front visibility is good, and although your rear view is obscured by a thick C-pillar, the reversing sensors and camera aid parking compensate for that. Sitting in the back won’t be comfortable for all: anyone over average height will find their heads touching the roof lining and knees resting against the front seats. Disappointingly, the rear windows are side hinged and don’t fully open.
The boot is large and deep. However, while it will undoubtedly take all your lifejackets and boogie boards, it does have a high lip, which will make loading heavier items a little more difficult. The rear seats split 40/60 but they don’t lie flat and there’s a significant step between them.
Should I buy one?
If you're a fan of Rip Curl products or surfing in general, then this special edition Cactus will probably appeal to you. The adjustable traction control and the seasonal tyres will help you get to those off-the-grid surfing spots, while the roof rails allow the board to be transported. Disappointingly, though, roof bars are a £127.50 option, while a Kayak carrier is available for £243.
Not surprisingly, we found it difficult to achieve the claimed fuel economy figure of 65.7mpg, managing closer to 42mpg. However, company car drivers qualify for a competitive 17% BIK banding thanks to CO2 emissions of 100g/km. Yet for the majority of potential buyers, the Cactus is compromised in too many areas, despite its exciting and innovative design, to be considered over the likes of a Skoda Yeti or Nissan Qashqai.
Citroën C4 Cactus Rip Curl
Location East Sussex; On sale Now; Price £18,480; Engine 1199cc, petrol; Power 109bhp; Torque 151lb ft; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerb weight 1190kg; 0-62mph 9.3sec; Top speed 117mph; Economy 65.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 100g/km, 17%