Michael, our associate art director who directed this photoshoot, said: “It looks weird”. Vernon, our in-house photographer who shot these photos, commented: “It looks strange in my viewfinder”.
David (from a third-person perspective), who wrote this story, thought: “It doesn’t look like cactus at all.”
It also looks nothing like the Citroen C4, or any other compact Citroen in the past 40 years, or for that matter, any non-Citroen five-door hatchback on the local market today. Indeed, the Cactus is French automotive design flair at its offbeat best, with a few colours that exhibit the same Parisian panache – Hello Yellow, Olive Brown, Blanc Nacre (white) and Rouge Aden (the red of the test car here).
When I drove the newcomer, it attracted curious stares from motorists, pedestrians and random foreign workers doing roadworks. I wouldn’t attract more attention if I strolled on the pavement with a potted cactus plant on my head and a large colourful bouquet of cactus dahlia in my arms.
Staring at the Citroen C4 Cactus is made easier by its slow drive-bys. Full-throttle acceleration in the 1.2-litre vehicle feels half full, with its 5-speed semi-auto gearbox also taking its own sweet time to deliver the 80bhp and 118Nm to the front wheels. Thankfully, the kerb weight is under a tonne, so the drivetrain gets the job done. But with three guys on board and a six-storey ramp to climb (for this photoshoot), the Cactus struggles a little.
There’s less of a struggle at ground level, but I still need some planning, because keeping up with traffic in the Citroen C4 Cactus is easier than getting ahead. Pertinent questions on the move include “Can the Cactus not be the slowest car of the bunch again?” and “Does cactus grow as slowly as the Cactus can go?” – it’s a tentative yes to the first question, and a definite no to the second.
If only there’s a turbo option for the Cactus 1.2. There is, sort of – the Peugeot 308 has a turbocharged 129bhp version of the same engine.
Where the Cactus’ 3-cylinder performs well is in fuel economy and exhaust emissions. Its average mileage is a petrol-sipping 23.3km per litre, and its carbon dioxide emission is just below 100 grams per kilometre. The Cactus is green, indeed.
Unrealistic optimism aside, both attributes can save money for the owner/buyer, with the car’s homologated CO2 rating of 98g good for a maximum CEVS (Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme) rebate of $20,000 that makes the selling price less prickly. The Cactus also qualifies for 60 percent financing, because its OMV (Open Market Value) is less than $20,000.
Also reducing the prickliness of the $116k price, which is merely $10k lower than that of the C4 Picasso MPV, are the Cactus’ special features.
The most obvious are the Airbump panels that protect the doors and bumper corners from dings/scrapes in carpark combat zones. Replacing those air-filled capsules is supposed to be cheaper than repairing the bodywork, but you’ll still need to fork out $210 for a new front-door Airbump and $180 for a new rear-door Airbump (excluding labour charges).
With a choice of four colours (black, beige, brown and grey) available for the Airbump panels, fashionistas and fashion disasters alike can have them match/mismatch the paint job of their chic Citroen.
The Citroen C4 Cactus’ chicness continues inside the cabin. Stylish leather straps pull the front doors closed, the dash-top is styled like a piece of designer luggage (with a funky yet useful 8.5-litre “trunk” glovebox made possible by the innovative roof-mounted passenger airbag), and the asymmetric air-con vents have slats that replicate the style of the honeycomb grilles at the front end of the exterior. The artistic and gigantic handbrake poses a bit of danger to your posterior if you try to slide across to the other side of the two-seater bench.
It’s a comfy couch imported from France. Slouched on the soft sofa with shiok armrests, facing a seven-inch “television” (actually a convenient touchscreen that manages the primary vehicle systems/settings) and a handy three-button “remote” (actually the simplified D-R-N controls for the transmission), I can imagine myself as a couch potato who ate too many French fries.
I can be a fat one, too, thanks to the Cactus’ roominess, although my feet cannot be fat, because the left footrest area is cramped and the footwell is less roomy than the “headwell”. There are numerous places in the cabin (including big doorbins and various nooks) to park my bags of couch-potato chips.
More bags (of chips or other things) can be parked in the 358-litre boot, whose one-piece folding backrest more than triples the cargo space when required. Split-fold would have been more versatile, though.
The rear passengers sit on cushions that are almost as cushiony as those in the front, with armrests perfectly placed on the doors for arms to rest on. There’s plenty of room for two people to lounge in, and they get enough air-conditioning to chill out. They also enjoy clear views through the rear windows, which are basic pop-out affairs that remind me of the old Citroen C1 and its Peugeot 107 twin.
Those low-cost glass panes are more acceptable than the clattery door locks (which contrast against the classy door openers) and the “missing” interior items – tachometer for the driver, sunvisor mirror for the front passenger and ceiling lamp for the rear occupants.
But the Citroen C4 Cactus compensates with avant-garde 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel (albeit with only tilt adjustment), excellent infotainment (complete with a helpful rear view camera) and something called “Magic Wash”. It’s the windscreen wipers’ ingenious soft-spray system, which works wonderfully and uses just half the usual amount of washer fluid.
What a prickly sensation, this eccentric yet effective Citroen city car that doesn’t look like cactus at all. I like it.
TYPE Inline-3, 12-valves
BORE X STROKE 75mm x 90.5mm
COMPRESSION RATIO 11:1
MAX POWER 80bhp at 5750rpm
MAX TORQUE 118Nm at 2750rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 82.1bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 5-speed automated manual
DRIVEN WHEELS Front
0-100KM/H 15 seconds
TOP SPEED 172km/h
CONSUMPTION 23.3km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 98g/km
FRONT MacPherson struts, coil springs
REAR Torsion beam, coil springs
FRONT / REAR Discs / Drums
TYPE Michelin Energy Saver
SIZE 205/55 R16
TRACTION AIDS ABS with ESC
KERB WEIGHT 975kg
TURNING CIRCLE 10.9m
PRICE INCL. COE $116,988 (after $20k CEVS rebate)
WARRANTY 5 years/100,000km
+ Peculiar French design, comfortable and practical interior, above-average efficiency
– Peculiar French design (again), average ride comfort, below-average acceleration
Check out the updated, turbocharged Citroen C4 Cactus for yourself