From £12,5306

Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

Engine options for the Cactus comprise of a 99bhp 1.6-litre diesel, as well as 74bhp, 81bhp and 108bhp 1.2-litre petrols.

The 1.6-litre turbodiesel ls likely to prove popular with buyers and, in the Citroën, and is offered with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, rather than a six-speeder, but we’ve no qualms with that if the ratios are spread evenly and make for a decent, relaxed cruise. They are here, fortunately. They’re quite widely spaced, but you can drive around it easily enough – albeit with a couple of hindrances.

The Citroën's engines are all mounted transversely and drive the front wheels

For a start, there’s no revcounter, which isn’t a huge hardship, but it is a useful tell for selecting the most appropriate gear in town. It’s more useful for that than sensing the impending arrival of the rev limit, anyway, even though this engine is quite willing when near it.

This engine has a generally relaxed, refined, nature even at higher revs, but there’s little to be gained by revving it out, because most of its good work is done in the mid-range.

The other hindrance is the gearshift, which is sometimes obstructively notchy and matched to a clutch with a cumbersome take-up. Both contrive to detract from the otherwise easy-going nature of the powertrain, which is a pity.

Put against the clock, the Cactus can reach 60mph in a reasonable 11.8sec, but to make that kind of progress, you do have to shoulder the burden and work that gearbox. An 11.7sec sprint from 30-70mph is acceptable enough.

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Try the same in fourth gear and you’ll be labouring at lower revs before the motor swings into action and it wants 20.4sec to cover the same benchmark. It’s a pity, because there’s a pleasing drivetrain in the making here, but the fact is that if you choose a car from the Volkswagen Group, you’ll have an easier time of it.

The three-cylinder 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine is a comparatively refined powerplant which only becomes vocal when extended to the rev line. It accelerates promptly, its low weight aiding the Citroën further, and cruises with ease on the motorway.

Buyers would be advised, if petrol is their fuel of choice, to opt for the 110. Its turbocharged nature, besides granting the Cactus more pace, will deliver a more relaxed and flexible feel – especially if you've got lots of luggage or passengers on board.