From £12,5307
Entry-level three-cylinder version with manual gearbox is a good bet for those who want a C4 Cactus with good economy and low running costs

Our Verdict

Citroën C4 Cactus

Gallic quirkiness meets pragmatism in the new crossover hatchback

Nic Cackett
13 June 2014

What is it?

The Citroën C4 Cactus is the new C-segment crossover that will go on sale in the UK in the autumn, tested here with the entry-level three-cylinder 1.2-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine.

This is a new-generation power unit, already known in the Peugeot 208, featuring double variable-valve timing on intake and exhaust ports, plus one balancer shaft, to cancel out as many vibrations as possible.

Compared with the old four-cylinder engine family it replaces, this new three-pot is 25 per cent lighter, internal friction losses are reduced 30 per cent and Citroën claims it emits 25 per cent less CO2.

We drove the naturally aspirated 81bhp version mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. Also available is a 74bhp version and later there will be a turbocharged variant with 109bhp, which promises to be the best option in the new C4 Cactus range.

C4 Cactus is a front-wheel-drive-only crossover with no specific off-road capabilities, made on PSA’s Platform 1, the same that underpins Citroën C3, which means MacPherson struts up front and torsion beam in the rear suspension.

It is lighter than any C4 by as much as 200kg. This PureTech 82 Cactus is quoted at 965kg. At 4157mm long its smaller then Citroën C4 (4329mm) but the wheelbase is only 10mm shorter.

Our test car was fitted with 205/55 R16 low rolling resistance tyres, but buyers can opt for 15in rims.

What's it like?

The aim of reducing production costs is easy to spot in the C4 Cactus, for instance, in this PureTech 82 version, front disc brakes are not even ventilated and on the rear wheels there are a pair of drums.

Citroën claims that the car’s low weight does not need more than this and during our test route, with some mountain roads, there was no apparent lack of brake power or visible fade, but this is something that we’ll have to confirm in the future.

The range has three equipment levels, named Live, Feel and Shine. We’ve tested the intermediate Feel version, without the armrest between the front seats that when pulled up make the seats look like a sofa.

Some other details are also simplified, but general ambiance is still very different from any other car in the market. It feels expensive and cosy, even if the materials used inside are on the inexpensive side and are let down by three disappointing features: the electric windows in the front doors do not have one-touch auto function, the rear doors have pop-out-only windows and the rear bench folds in one piece. Citroën says this is all to save weight, we say this is to reduce production costs.

There are some interesting features, however. Magic wash is a system that allows a reduction in the size of the windscreen washer bottle by half, saving 1.5 kg. The washer nozzles are built into the tips of the wipers and use less water at each time.

And, of course, the Airbumps, those gigantic plastic panels with air capsules that protect the side panels, are as much a useful item as they are a marketing tool.

And there are a number of optional driving aids, from park assist, reversing camera, hill assist, static cornering lights, panoramic glass roof and cruise control with speed limiter. There’s a Multicity connect system that enables downloads of relevant driving apps. We’ll have to wait until close to UK market introduction, in October, to know exactly how this will fit in the various versions and optional packs.

First impressions when driving this three-cylinder version come from the good engine-noise insulation. Only at idle or when using higher revs (difficult to gauge because there is no rev counter) is the typical three-pot bark evident.

The five-speed manual gearbox has some well-spaced ratios even if it is not the most precise or quick box in the segment. The low kerb weight is demonstrated in decent in-gear acceleration, which is very useful in city driving where the 16in wheels and soft seats make for a good ride – even if it fails to hit the announced target of recovering the famous comfort of Citroëns from the past.

On the other hand, road holding is much better than expected, considering what Citroën said the model would stand for. It enters corners with precision and a sense of lightness, the benefit of a light engine up front. 

Even with smaller low rolling resistance tyres, the dynamic balance is better than the diesel C4 Cactus e-HDI 92 Airdream we also tried. There is not much performance available for a more inspired driving, but it holds well in high-speed corners and is capable of sliding the rear a few degrees, if deliberately provoked, with the nicely weighted steering making for an easy and precise trajectory choice. Stability control does not come on too soon but when it does, it is in a safe and authoritative manner.

Motorway cruising is very stable and easy, the engine noise is low but there is some wind noise coming from the roof rails and mirrors. The announced 70.6mpg average fuel consumption felt more or less realistic, but we’ll have to confirm this with a long tour in the future.

Should I buy one?

Citroën announced that the C4 Cactus running costs are 20 per cent less than an average C-segment hatchback and the manufacturer will offer a lease system inspired by the world of mobile phones. Buyers will be able to opt between a monthly flat-rate or a mileage-based payment, both will cover all expenditures, except fuel. It's a clear approach to younger generations.

If you like the extrovert styling and the PureTech 82 performance is enough, this just might be an interesting car. At an estimated £13 000 for a low-spec version, the C4 Cactus PureTech 82 could be some £3500 more expensive than a comparable two-wheel-drive Dacia Duster 1.6 16V 105, but the cabin is much better.

It would probably be wise to wait for the C4 Cactus PureTech 110 and the turbocharged variant of this same engine before deciding.

Citroën C4 Cactus PureTech 82

Price £13,000 (est); 0-62mph 12.9sec; Top speed 105mph; Economy 70.6mpg; CO2 107g/km; Kerb weight 965kg; Engine 3 cyls, 1199cc, petrol, naturally aspirated; Power 81bhp at 5750rpm; Torque 87 lb/ft at 2750rpm; Gearbox 5-speed manual

Join the debate

Comments
17

13 June 2014
The tone of this article is so much more cynical than with most other manufacturers, namely Ford! Autocar seem overly keen on pitching the C4 Cactus against the Dacia range, when Citroen have clearly already said that they aren't pitching against those cars. It's going to seem more expensive because it is; it's more refined, offers more clever technology and is cheaper to run. Ain't rocket science, Autocar!


"Work hard and be nice to people"

13 June 2014
Mini2 wrote:

The tone of this article is so much more cynical than with most other manufacturers, namely Ford! Autocar seem overly keen on pitching the C4 Cactus against the Dacia range, when Citroen have clearly already said that they aren't pitching against those cars. It's going to seem more expensive because it is; it's more refined, offers more clever technology and is cheaper to run. Ain't rocket science, Autocar!

+1

I'v noticed lots of cynicism in Autocar's recent tests. Like if it isn't a Ford, jaguar or VW, it is a good effort but not worth it. I am really intrigued by this car, especially the leasing options. I need a runaround for shorter journeys that will be LHD and conspicuous than a 5 year old Mercedes on UK plates. I've been looking at the Duster, and i really like it but not sure if i could cope with a longer trip in something so basic, but it is available with 4 wheel drive. This is an entirely different proposition. very design led, but without the frivolity. Almost getting back to 'pure' deign. It might just be the ticket....

13 June 2014
The article does seem fairly lukewarm and this is a far more interesting car than the Dacia. In particular that the cabin ambiance feels expensive yet doesn't need loads of soft touch plastics just shows how clever the design is. However, I have some reservations which could easily be addressed by Citroen as options for the car - firmer seats for more back support, a rev counter (no rev counter would really irritate me - can't be difficult to program the instrument screen to show one), spilt fold rear seats and a one touch drivers window (that doesn't add weight - just a tiny cost). These may seem like small things, but they are the sort of little irritations that could take the shine of the car.

13 June 2014
I think Autocar your scoring is a bit stingy - but there again you scoring system seems only based on how good the handling is...... I agree with the others - this is no Dacia Duster rival it is a Nissan Juke rival and far better in every way than that car.....

14 June 2014
A screen washer on the wiper, just like on a Citroen BX from 20 years ago - but that was designed to use just one wiper, saving even more. And of course it had the self-levelling, height adjustable suspension as well.

14 June 2014
surely this will replace the C3 Picasso? A tall small Citroen based on the small car platform. There cant be room within the Citroen range for both can there?

As a car i like the look, but the pop out rear windows are a real shame. A rev counter would be greatly missed too.

But at least its a little different

14 June 2014
Quote "There is not much performance available for a more inspired driving". Aside from the bad grammar, isn't it odd to expect that the buyers of this car will want to drive in an inspired (ie like a di??head) way? It's more likely to be driven gently and economically by those who have nothing to prove.

jer

14 June 2014
I think the tone of the review is negative, this is an interesting design something unique, offers value, is light weight, seems to drive well. Ok the engine is no ball of fire but that's not market. I've wondered before why you'd invite Autocar to a launch if it wasn't a sports car.

14 June 2014
I took one look and think it's an abomination: it's a patchwork quilt.

Mike

14 June 2014
This is a much more appropriate example of the Cactus range, rather than the £18000 top diesel version tested the other day. It seems to display the core strengths of this new model and I find it very appealling.
I still think they should ditch the roof rails, fog lights and touch screen, and add in some of the more basic 'convenience' features that Will86 mentions. I'm also hoping that the driving position is decent, too: The DS3 forces me to drive with my arms stretched out, which I find uncomfortable

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