Cactus schmactus (quirky meets bumpy)

What is it?

Citroen’s famed quirkiness comes to the fore with a smaller version of the Grand Picasso.

It’s smooth, organic, rounded, and has some unusual markings on the doors — called Airbumps. Simple in concept and execution, they’re polyurethane pockets filled with air.

The review car was badged OneTone, signifying one all-over shade, in this case — all white.  There’s another trim level called Exclusive.

Motivation is provided by the PSA Group’s 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. Peak power is 81kW. Peak torque is a surprisingly good for the size of the engine at 205Nm. That comes in at 1500rpm courtesy of a low boost turbo.

There’s two transmissions: a five-speed manual or six-speed auto as found in the review car. This one is a proper auto, instead of the awful semi-auto offered previously.

Fuel tank size is 50 litres and Citroen quotes a combined fuel economy of 5.1L/100km for the auto, 4.7L/100km for the manual. A Sports mode is available at the push of a button.

Top speed is quoted as 188km/h with a 0-100km/h time quoted as 10.7 seconds for the auto, but a considerably quicker 9.3 seconds for the manual.

Part of this is down to the 105kg weight difference. The manual has a kerb weight of 1020kg — the auto 1125kg.


What’s it cost?

Pricing varies more between manual and auto, than between the two trim levels available. The manual and auto Exclusive are $30,592 and $33,373 driveaway. The OneTone manual and auto are $31,107 and $33,888 respectively.

It’s compact outside, at just 4157mm in length, but houses a handy 358-litre cargo bay that increases to 1170 litres when the rear seats are folded. The cloth wrapped seats themselves are comfy enough but lack suitable side support.

Legroom at the front is superb and rear legroom is also quite good. Headroom should pose no problem, unless you’re two metres plus in height.

Outside, aside from the TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) grade Elastollan AC 55D10 HPM (High Performance Material) bumps, the OneTone Cactus is unremarkable in appearance.

The review car was Pearlescent White with matt white (Dune) for the plastic coverings. There are strip LED driving lights above the main headlights a la Jeep Cherokee/Hyundai Kona, yet it manages to look better than both.

That same Elastollan material also coats sections of both front and rear bumpers. Up top, rails run the full length of the roof.

The inside is also quirky, but with a theme. The Airbumps are mirrored by dots on top of the glovebox, which itself is part of a themed look.

There’s more than a passing resemblance to a suitcase in that design, along with door handles that look like they come from a suitcase.

However, front windows aren’t auto Up/Down and the rear windows are “old school” pop outs.

The dash colour is a pink hued one called Habana over fish scaled plastic, contrasting with the black plastic abutting the windscreen and the rest of the interior trim.

A 7.0-inch touchscreen houses all of the controls for audio, driver settings, aircon, car information, and the like.

The driver gets a sci-fi looking display, both in design and actual look, for speed, Drive mode, and fuel — but it doesn’t offer anything else as fuel consumption etc is available via the touchscreen.

Safety levels are good, with Hill Start Assist, reverse camera, six airbags but no kneebag for the driver. Nor are there Blind Spot alerts, cross traffic alerts, adaptive cruise control or autonomous braking.

There is something unique, though, about the passenger airbag. It’s roof mounted, coming down like a larger pillow and also allows for a glovebox uncompromised in room.


What’s it go like?

The auto is the PSA Group’s EAT6 transmission. It’s a torque converter style with a bit of dual clutch auto feel.

Under way it’s smooth enough but was sometimes too readily caught in the wrong cog, sending vibrations through the Cactus body.

From standstill it engages readily and will swap gears swiftly and mostly smoothly, as mentioned.

While underway, the engine puts out that familiar three-cylinder warble. It’s not unpleasant but can override conversation levels.

The suspension though lends itself to unsettled ride qualities. The Cactus is all too easily sent momentarily sideways and doesn’t exhibit the tied down feeling one expects. It’s floaty, rather than wafty, wallowing where it should be up/down/stop.

Brakes are reasonable in hauling down the Cactus and pedal feel is nothing less than adequate.

The steering is the same; it’s sometimes natural, sometimes artificial — but never less than adequate in feedback.


What we like?

  • Sheer quirkiness of the whole package
  • Interior room better than expected
  • OneTone blends the airbumps compared to standard exterior schemes


What we don’t?

  • Unhappy ride quality
  • No auto power windows front or rear
  • Indecisive auto
  • No driver’s kneebag


The bottom line?

It’s a mixed bag. It’s pretty enough, roomy enough, goes okay — but is hampered by a fiddly ride and doesn’t really offer anything out of the ordinary apart from looks.



Citroen C4 Cactus, priced from $30,592
  • Looks - 7.5/10
  • Performance - 6.5/10
  • Safety - 7.0/10
  • Thirst - 8.0/10
  • Practicality - 7.0/10
  • Comfort - 7.0/10
  • Tech - 7.5/10
  • Value - 7.5/10

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