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.