Citroën C4 Cactus

Not too long ago towards the end of 2014, we saw the first production images of the long-awaited Citroën C4 Cactus. The production version of the car appeared to have matured and become a little less ‘gangsta’ when compared to the concept car. No wheel-arch-filling alloy wheels. No privacy-glass tinted windows. No rearview cameras instead of mirrors. You know…the usual concept stuff.

The production version has much smaller wheels. 16 inchers to be exact with the anthracite square alloy wheel design on the C4 Cactus Shine version.  The prices run from R224,900 for the base level ‘Feel’ model and R284,900 for the ‘Shine’ model. My immediate reaction to the Shine was that whilst it wasn’t concept-car looking, its still a head turner.

Starting at the front those three separate light housings make for an aggressive but likeable nose. Extending down the flanks, the black ‘AirBump’ panels contrast with the body colour and match the roof rails, mirrors, wheel arches, headlight surrounds and window pillars. It’s a striking little Frenchy this car. It’s as head-turning as a S-Coupe Mercedes and a lot more interesting when you start to unpack it.

For a start there’s much in the Cactus that I didn’t get. Literally and figuratively.

The rear seat bench is one whole unit. As such, no split-folding rear seats. The armrest in the centre of the front seats is really half an armest – it can never be used by both front seat occupants. There is no passenger side air vent. No Rev Counter. No proper door handles. No Rear convenience light and the rear windows fold out…a little. I.e. they don’t wind down.  It’s almost ridiculous.

It isn’t actually. You must understand that this little 1.2l e-THP Citroën was very smartly made. It weighs just under 1 ton. How else would they have done this without cutting back on all those unnecessary things? Think about it…You can live without every item I mentioned above and trust me when I say, there’s more benefit than loss.

They’ve done a whole host of smart things to save weight in this car, and as such the little

3-cylinder 81kW motor is actually quite handy. It feels nippy and powerful for a car that is in C-segment territory. And what’s more, it’s impressively frugal. I had the privilege of testing this car on a 1000km journey to, in and around, and back from Mpumalanga. I recorded an impressive 5,4l per 100km.

 It’s built for comfortable, easy, every-day driving. The minimalist interior features the usual stuff you get in a car: steering wheel, gear lever, door straps and front window controls. The rest of the features (and there’s many) are controlled from the centrally mounted 7-inch touchscreen. The satnav function (Shine model), media and radio, climate control, car settings et al are all controlled via this simple interface. Nothing is missing even though it may seem so from first impressions.

It’s the lightness on its feet that is most impressive about this car. It’s the easiest, softest car to drive and as such, won’t win any gymkhana contests. It’s prone to understeer because of it’s front-wheel driven nature yet it does absolutely everything else in a perfectly comfortable way. My biggest and only criticism of the Citroen C4 Cactus is that it looks larger than it actually is. It won my heart quite quickly and the cabin felt vast – but it isn’t really. 2 child-seats revealed what I should have known all along. It’s a compact crossover and whilst class-leading in its segment, it’s still a well packaged but ‘compact’ car.

The saddest news of this car is that it hasn’t quite won the hearts of other South Africans. Sales since the launch of the Cactus have been very low. The reason? Nothing other than the badge on the front of it’s very cool nose. South Africans continue to see the brand with some doubt. I have no idea why because Citroen is making great cars, and this is certainly one of their best.

My job isn’t to sell this car to you but I really suggest that if you’re in the market for a C-Segment hatch or crossover, take this one for a drive. If first impressions are anything to go by, you’ll be sold.

Avon Middleton

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