Once in a while a car comes along that doesn’t just stand out from the crowd, it sets a new benchmark. The Citroen C4 Cactus is one of those cars.
A finalist for World Car of the Year and winner of Best Family Hatchback in the UK Car of the Year awards, Citroen have struck gold with the Cactus.
Even up against the likes of the Kia Soul, Nissan Juke and Renault Captur in the “quirky” sector, the Cactus dares to be different. Sleek and striking outside – spacious and innovative inside.
Citroen wants traditional hatchback owners to consider the Cactus as an alternative, with the accent on design, comfort, technology, value for money and reduced cost of ownership – and it largely succeeds.
Its looks may not be to everyone’s taste, but for me the Cactus is a breath of fresh air.
The giant pads on the doors and bumpers are the biggest talking point. Officially known as ‘airbumps’, they are not just there for effect – the air capsules in the plastic are meant to absorb impacts.
About the size of a Ford Focus, but with the looks of a crossover, the Cactus is available in eye-catching colours too, including Hello Yellow, Deep Purple and Shark Grey with red mirrors.
Inside, there’s space for five passengers, though the low roofline means rear passengers over six-foot have little or no headroom.
At the back there’s just a bench seat (no split/fold-down option), but there’s a decent 358 litres of boot space, while the rear windows pop out rather than wind down to cut costs.
Up front there’s a minimalist feel with some original touches. The dashboard is replaced by a simple digital binnacle with a retro LED readout tells you how fast you’re going and little else.
The 7-inch touchscreen in the centre console is the heart of the Cactus, featuring control buttons for everything from air conditioning to sat nav.
Other interior highlights include leather straps instead of doorhandles and a generous top-mounted glovebox that looks like a mini travel trunk.
Other original touches include the ‘Magic Wash’ windscreen wipers where the washer nozzles are built into the tips of the wipers and release just a small amount of fluid – a simple innovation that Citroen says halves the amount of windscreen washing fluid used and the bonnet stays clean.
I drove the Citroen C4 Cactus Flair Blue HDi 100 which features a 1.6-litre turbo diesel capable of 114mph, 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds and 83mpg (50-60mpg is closer to the mark when driven briskly).
Low CO2 emissions of 89g/km mean the Cactus is also Band A which means zero car tax.
The Cactus has a comfortable ride and the reasonably refined engine is a good all-rounder. There are other engines available, so it’s well worth sampling them too, plus the automatic gearbox, because the manual isn’t the slickest.
The Citroen C4 Cactus range starts at £12,990. The car I drove cost £17,990 (£19,730 with extras).
Full marks to Citroen for brightening up the family car market with a funky design that achieves everything it set out to do.