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.