Cac­tus is no thorn in the side

Top con­ti­nen­tal style and charm on a Corolla bud­get The new Cac­tus cross­over is not a prickly cus­tomer af­ter all, and proves that Citroen has lost none of its panache and abil­ity to charm. It’s not about to break the bank ei­ther, es­pe­cially when its stand

Central Otago Mirror - - MOTORING CLASSIFIEDS -

It might look like an Amer­i­can Foot­baller from the front, com­plete with the black-out on its ‘‘cheek­bones’’ while its door pan­els ap­pear to be dec­o­rated with iPad cov­ers, add-in a push­but­ton semi-au­to­matic and the beefi­est hand­brake we’ve seen in years mean and it shows that the Quirk­i­ness of Citroen’s be­guil­ing new Cac­tus is on the in­side as well as the out­side.

Roofrails that re­sem­ble mas­sive, black sail­ing cleats add to the vis­ual charm, the shard­like light­ing sys­tems and the avail­abil­ity of a range of lol­lipop colours for the body as well as the iPad bits - of­fi­cially known as ‘‘air­bumps’’ – pro­vide a lot of style to a ba­sic five-door sil­hou­ette that would look quite or­di­nary with­out them.

The air­bumps are de­signed to ab­sorb mi­nor im­pacts, as a flex­i­ble skin to pro­tect the ve­hi­cle from mi­nor scrapes and bumps – the sort you get in su­per­mar­ket carparks. Mind you, it’s hoped that other mo­torists don’t re­gard them as dec­o­ra­tive tar­gets for their lousy driv­ing.

How­ever, enough of the cyn­i­cism, it’s dif­fi­cult not to love such cheek and chic. Dur­ing my work­ing week with the car, I could hardly keep my eyes off it, de­spite it be­ing fin­ished in its least flat­ter­ing colour com­bi­na­tion of white with black air­bumps.

Nine other colours car be had for the body, with names like Sport Red, Hello Yel­low’ and our favourite: Blue La­goon, while the air­bumps have four colour­ways, with Grey, Choco­late and Dune of­fered as well as black.

The car’s up­hol­stery too of­fers colour choices, with pur­ple, black, cof­fee and stone on of­fer in cloth and ex­tra cost part-leather.

As well as air­bumps and other de­tail­ing to set it apart, the Cac­tus also packs has what Citroen calls Magic Wash and a roof mounted airbag.

The Magic Wash works by hav­ing wind­screen-washer jets fit­ted in the tips of the car’s wipers to pro­vide a bead of liq­uid rather than a spray.

It re­sults in no loss of visibility dur­ing wash­ing, while re­mov­ing over­spray and re­duc­ing con­sump­tion of washer fluid by half, thus solv­ing a prob­lem many of didn’t know we had. The roof-mounted rather than dash-mounted front airbags help max­imise stor­age space, al­low­ing for an 8.5-litre stowage box in the dash which is also cleaner and sim­pler over all.

For $1000, each New Zealand Cac­tus mod­els can have Panoramic glass roof with ad­vanced heat pro­tec­tion which fil­ters in­com­ing light and heat to such an ex­tent that a sun­blind is not needed. I was cyn­i­cal about this, but us­ing the test car on up to 30 de­gree heat, it’s pos­si­ble to say that it works. An­other ad­van­tage is that with­out a sun­blind the car weighs less, what weight there is con­trib­utes to a lower cen­tre of grav­ity and head­room is to­tally un­af­fected. It’s also cheaper with­out all those mov­ing parts.

The trans­mis­sion is ef­fec­tively a man­ual with all the clutch­work taken care of elec­tron­i­cally, but most driv­ers will likely drive it like a con­ven­tional au­to­matic, which re­ally doesn’t do it jus­tice, but more about that later.

In an­other month or so, the Cac­tus Puretech 110 S&S will ar­rive, an 1199cc 5 speed man­ual three-cylin­der tur­bopetrol car.

We’ll be pay­ing $33,990 for the petrol car,

Clever de­tail­ing and thought­ful de­sign adds charm to a ba­sic hatch­back de­sign. while the diesel is $35,990. There’s no au­to­matic petrol car, nor a man­ual diesel, though the for­mer will be missed more than the lat­ter.

Seven­teen-inch al­loy wheels are stan­dard on all Cacti, and sur­pris­ingly, our gloss­black items can be op­tioned for no ex­tra. Once you fac­tor in stan­dard sat-nav, pro­gram­mable cruise con­trol with speed lim­iter

magic wash, cor­ner­ing fog lights, easy­peasy con­nec­tiv­ity, heated door mir­rors, au­to­matic air con­di­tion­ing, au­to­matic lights and wipers, an ad­di­tional USB slot, along with colour re­vers­ing cam­era and rear park­ing sen­sors, and more char­ac­ter than Padding­ton Bear, the roomy, strange­ly­named Cac­tus is mar­vel­lous value - con­ti­nen­tal style and charm, on a Corolla bud­get in fact.

Many Citroen own­ers buy the brand for its lop­ing gait and com­fort­able ride qual­ity, and while the Cac­tus is as sharp as its name sug­gests when punted briskly around cor­ners, its sump­tu­ous be­hav­iour on pack­marked roads and lack of re­ac­tion to sur­face changes marks a re­turn to form: it feels like dou­ble-chevron cars of old.

There’s some body-move­ment when press­ing-on - again a ves­tige of the old days - but this won’t per­turb those grad­u­at­ing from much duller, less com­mu­nica­tive fare from Ja­pan and Korea and re­mem­ber the sticker is about the same as those cars’ in the first place.

The diesel en­gine is as quiet as a petrol unit, ex­cept when cold and of­fers a solid mid-range which is well-suited to the ra­ti­o­choices on the six-speed trans­mis­sion. Here’s the rub, the gear shifts when used as a stan­dard au­to­matic are lan­guid and de­lib­er­ate and prob­a­bly re­spon­si­ble for the car’s less than ram­bunc­tious zero to 100kmh time of 11.4 sec­onds.

It’s al­ways smooth, how­ever and there are ways of hur­ry­ing the unit along a tad. Eas­ing the throt­tle at the up­shift point just as you would with a man­ual, makes things a lit­tle quicker, while over­rid­ing the shifts with the wheel-pad­dles helps too. It takes a while for the penny to drop, but once you’ve got used to the trans­mis­sion - which is worth per­se­ver­ing with - it will feel like a dif­fer­ent car.

Gear se­lec­tion is in­ter­est­ing, three but­tons sit about where the cen­tre con­sole should be, la­belled sim­ply N, D and R, with N be­com­ing Park when you switch off the car. You just prod the let­ter you want and the trans­mis­sion takes it. Ed­sel, Chrysler and oth­ers have used push-but­ton se­lec­tion in the past, and Citroen’s 21st take on this method is in­no­va­tive and wel­come.

For all that, I won­dered why the car had a con­ven­tional twist-key rather than a starter but­ton. Per­haps Citroen thought that there were quite enough but­tons al­ready. Also miss­ing was an elec­tronic hand­brake. In­stead, the Cac­tus has a huge boxing-glove shaped item which was solidly sat­is­fy­ing to use and you’d never put it on half-heart­edly in er­ror. The de­tail­ing is neat with leather straps for door han­dles and a lid­ded glove­box which looks like a cruis­ing trun­k­lid, with ev­ery­thing thing fin­ished in pleas­ing tex­tures and with good tight pan­elto-panel in­ter­faces.

The steer­ing wheel mixes tra­di­tional with mod­ern with spokes.

The dash uses two screens. A small one in front of the driver where the in­stru­ments nor­mally are, and an­other larger item for in­for­ma­tion, sat-nav and park­ing guid­ance at the con­flu­ence of the dash and con­sole.

Good to look at and easy to use the screens and as­so­ci­ated but­tons don’t re­quire hand­book ref­er­enc­ing and set­ting up your phone­book from a smartphones takes less than a minute, while the sat-nav and sound sys­tems are a cinch.

Citroen says the the pro­por­tions of the Cac­tus are op­ti­mised for styling, space and driv­ing com­fort.

The front and rear seats in the Cac­tus are benches, two across in the front and three across in the back. Up front they have long well-shaped squabs and cater for small and large back­sides equally well, with good side sup­port.

The rear bench is a lit­tle flat­ter, and while one can’t quib­ble about its width and legroom which are above av­er­age for the seg­ment, the back and squab are sin­gle­piece items, so when fold­ing for­ward to in­crease load space, it’s an all or noth­ing af­fair.

The seats-up load space is 358 litres, and its use is hin­dered only by a high-ish load lip, though the ab­sence of glaz­ing in the C-pil­lars means that dogs will prob­a­bly not get their pre­ferred view out­side.

Nig­gles take noth­ing away from a gen­uinely in­di­vid­ual of­fer­ing in the af­ford­able C-seg­ment cross­over seg­ment. The Cac­tus will charm the socks off Citroen fans and snare a few out­siders to boot with a spec­i­fi­ca­tion list that makes many Ja­panese brands look like penny-pinch­ers.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.