Mad but appealing
Ever had your motor bashed in a car park and cursed your luck? The brilliant new Citroen C4 Cactus might just be the car for you. Matt Kimberley reports.
As breaths of fresh air go, the Cactus is like a lung-full of West Scotland’s finest in the middle of rush-hour London. It’s a car designed to fit into real-world lifestyles where you need lots of places to store bits and pieces, where touch-screens are as second nature as a second scoop of ice cream and where people always manage open their doors into your paintwork. The Cactus is built to take life’s little trials in its stride with a radical re-think. Looks and image
That’s why you’ll find those curious and distinctive coloured panels along the sides. These “AirBump” air-filled blocks are scratch-resistant and a bit bouncy, so errant supermarket trolleys and swinging coat zips won’t leave a mark. The same material is on the boot and in a few other places too, helping to avoid any ugly and expensive bodywork damage. The Cactus is the first truly honest Citroen for years. It’s a bit madcap but not so much so as to be off-putting. It’s simply very good at the everyday biffabout thing, and there’s no doubt a lot of people will be very taken by that. Behind the wheel
Citroen openly admits the Cactus is built to a price. That’s half the point: realistic ownership costs. With that in mind it’s amazing how quietly the 1.2-litre 110-horsepower petrol version bimbles around town. At 30mph in the fourth of five gears, the loudest thing is the air conditioning fan, which itself is only lightly breathing away in the background. There’s nothing remarkable about the way it drives. The soft, chunky seats are unusual these days and very comfortable, the steering is quite slow and unthreatening, and the ride is very smooth. The whole driving experience is that of a car you’d never regret buying or dislike owning. Value for money
You don’t get as much outright space as you do in, say, a Seat Toledo, but the Cactus has a far greater character garnish to go with its healthy dollop of practicality. In terms of providing familyfriendly transport that you’re not afraid to see bumped around now and again, what could be better? There could be clever finance deals on the cards, too, if the UK follows suit with Spain’s “pay as you drive” mileage-based finance scheme. Who would buy one?
The brilliant news is that this won’t just appeal to budgetled buyers who hate looking after their cars. It’s a damn fine everyday car with some great quirks and an unusual look, so parents looking for something livelier-looking to put on the drive will love it; as will people bored with the same old hatchback crowd.