From £12,5307
Still let down by poor quality, unexceptional value and strange steering, but the engine and handling don’t offend

What is it?

The turbocharged petrol version of the new Citroën C4 Cactus crossover. It’s without question the engine to plump for if, like us, you’ve been won over by the pragmatic charm of the new Citroën Cactus, but you’re concerned about the underlying substance. 

Most of the Cactus’ failings, documented well in our full road test on the BlueHDi diesel variant, are also present in Citroën’s Puretech 110 version – but not all of them. And the ones that are present don’t seem so severe.

What's it like?

Even with 108bhp, the Cactus’ performance is only adequate – but it’s much less vulnerable to criticism than the diesel on response and flexibility. Like the BlueHDI, the Puretech feels long-geared; it splutters and threatens to stall at much below 15mph in 2nd gear, for example. 

But it also pulls cleanly, evenly and fairly smoothly from around 1500rpm all way up to beyond 5000rpm, making the car easy to drive despite its long legs. Additionally, those long legs also easily deliver 45mpg in the real world, and better than 50mpg if you’re feeling thrifty.

That the engine is so much smaller and lighter than its diesel counterpart (1.2 litres, three cylinders, aluminium block versus 1.6 litres, four cylinders and an iron block) also manifests in the Cactus ride and handling, which is not only a touch more settled but also more precise.

The car’s steering is still oddly paced, and lacking in feedback and centre feel – but initial ride control is slightly better than in the diesel, and high-speed directional stability likewise.

You don’t need to correct this car as much as the diesel during a motorway cruise, and don’t find its ride so often disturbed by innocuous-looking lumps and bumps. Somehow, it’s just better sorted.

Should I buy one?

Instead of the diesel, absolutely. In the grander scheme, there are still plenty of better-driving compact crossovers than this – but with this engine, the Citroën is certainly better-mannered than our road test car. 

Considering its innovative, characterful cabin and its ebullient alternative appeal, an acceptable driving experience may be all the Cactus needs to seal the deal – and acceptable, in this guise, would certainly be the way to describe it.

Citroën C4 Cactus Puretech 110 Flair 

Price £17,190; 0-62mph 9.3sec; Top speed 117mph; Economy 60.1mpg; CO2 107g/km; Kerbweight 1190kg; Engine 3 cyls in line, 1199cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 108bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 151lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 5-speed manual

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michael knight 27 August 2014

Terrible Review

"Still let down by poor quality, unexceptional value and strange steering, but the engine and handling don’t offend "
I mean, come on Matt, are you seriously saying that you'd start any VW-group test with that sub-header? Every other test of this car is almost universally positive, this one reads like the review of a man who doesn't understand the market for this car, and is delighting in being a nay-sayer. You should be congratulating Citroen for its lightweight innovation; seeing this car in the bigger picture. Really poor Autocar.
Player84 26 August 2014

Need to learn to walk before they can run....

Can't believe that Citroen have gone to all the trouble of producing this car with it's unusal features - when the windows don't open!!!!

It is designed to be roomy yet falls over at the first hurdle for passengers. Need to get the basics right before trying the fancy, unusual stuff like padded doors.

More and more car manufacturers are doing the same thing with the rear windows, yet the motoring press do not seem to criticise them for it. Do the road testers ever travel any distance in the back of the road test cars?

Mini2 28 August 2014

They do open :)

Player84 wrote:

Can't believe that Citroen have gone to all the trouble of producing this car with it's unusal features - when the windows don't open!!!!

It is designed to be roomy yet falls over at the first hurdle for passengers. Need to get the basics right before trying the fancy, unusual stuff like padded doors.

The back windows do open; they're just the pop-out mechanism like those seen in city cars and on three-door family hatchbacks until the early 2000s. The DS4 is the car whose rear windows don't open at all. I guess it depends on the drivers and their families but it's a shame that cost-cutting/weight-saving stretches this far. I'm sure we would've all been happy with winding windows, but this means the doors have to be wider I suppose, and more expensive to make. With regards to the padding, I guess they serve a similar purpose to the bumpers on the original Ford Ka; dings avoiding the paintwork and its outer edges bearing the brunt of any parking dings or shopping trolley mishaps. Not especially fancy; more utilitarian. I would argue that cars with colour-coded bumpers (pretty much all of them, then!) are fancier. Perhaps Citroen will improve it with the winding windows at some point; Nissan responded to the Juke's initial criticisms fairly well, by all accounts.

Simplicity is key 21 August 2014

Cactus comfort

Why does a car have to be driven flat out to be enjoyed? If the cactus was supposed to be a drivers car and the focus being on performance and handling it would have had big cross drilled vented carbon brembos, it would have had big motors and twin turbos and it would have had buckets seats. As it doesn't have any of those and it's light and technical with comfort being the focus, - cue the sofa seating... Maybe Citroen actually and deliberately wanted to prioritise a different, intelligent spirit for the cactus?! Yes there are things that could be better but it has so much character and is so much more fun than other more expensive competitors... It's highly performant, just in a different way.
marj 22 August 2014

Simplicity is key wrote:Why

Simplicity is key wrote:

Why does a car have to be driven flat out to be enjoyed? If the cactus was supposed to be a drivers car and the focus being on performance and handling it would have had big cross drilled vented carbon brembos, it would have had big motors and twin turbos and it would have had buckets seats. As it doesn't have any of those and it's light and technical with comfort being the focus, - cue the sofa seating... Maybe Citroen actually and deliberately wanted to prioritise a different, intelligent spirit for the cactus?! Yes there are things that could be better but it has so much character and is so much more fun than other more expensive competitors... It's highly performant, just in a different way.

Completely agree. I've been through 15 other road tests on the Cactus and not one is as negative as the AC one. In fact several compliment the soft ride, great seats and quality. Now we all know AC like JLR, VAG and BMW (In fact they have to a have a three letter an-acronym to be liked by AC I think), but give this little car its dues. Compared to a Countryman or 500XL, this is relatively good value. I personally prefer comfortable cars than all out sports cars with skateboard rides.

Flatus senex 22 August 2014

marj wrote:Simplicity is key

marj wrote:
Simplicity is key wrote:

Why does a car have to be driven flat out to be enjoyed? If the cactus was supposed to be a drivers car and the focus being on performance and handling it would have had big cross drilled vented carbon brembos, it would have had big motors and twin turbos and it would have had buckets seats. As it doesn't have any of those and it's light and technical with comfort being the focus, - cue the sofa seating... Maybe Citroen actually and deliberately wanted to prioritise a different, intelligent spirit for the cactus?! Yes there are things that could be better but it has so much character and is so much more fun than other more expensive competitors... It's highly performant, just in a different way.

Completely agree. I've been through 15 other road tests on the Cactus and not one is as negative as the AC one. In fact several compliment the soft ride, great seats and quality. Now we all know AC like JLR, VAG and BMW (In fact they have to a have a three letter an-acronym to be liked by AC I think), but give this little car its dues. Compared to a Countryman or 500XL, this is relatively good value. I personally prefer comfortable cars than all out sports cars with skateboard rides.

Yes, the article seems to be written with the baseball hatted hoon in mind although subsequent correspondence has produced the odd technosnobbish comment from those looking backwards to air suspension. Aversion to flair is rather too common in the UK, unless the flair concerned, be ii in terms of styling or engineering, is over thirty years old. Very few have seen this machine, let alone ridden in it.