The C4 Cactus has had what Citroen describes as a ‘mid-life product evolution’ focusing on improved comfort. Let’s see if the suspension changes and softer seats are enough to avoid a mid-life crisis…
What is it?
The original 2014 C4 Cactus was an SUV styled five-door hatchback that appealed to many British buyers, mainly due to its individual and rather quirky design features. These included ‘love them or hate them’ Airbumps along each flank, floating roof-rails and a contrasting black finish both front and rear.
The new model has lost the roof-rails and the Airbumps now run along the doorsills and are a shadow of their former selves. The frontal appearance has been tidied up and the rear, having lost the contrasting black finish, now features 3D LED effect lights. The Cactus now looks not unlike other conventional five-door hatchbacks which, although its appearance is more mature, has lost that eccentricity that made it stand out from the crowd.
It is available with a choice of three petrol and one diesel engine. The petrol engines are all 1.2-litre three-cylinder units and range from the base 82bhp non-turbocharged version, through to a 110bhp turbo version and the range-topping 130bhp turbo unit. The 1.6-litre diesel offering is a four-cylinder turbo producing 100bhp.
A five-speed manual gearbox is standard on all models except the 130bhp petrol version which gets a six-speed box. An EAT6 automatic box is only available with the 110bhp petrol unit.
The are two main levels of trim – Feel and Flair. Standard features on the base Feel models includes 16-inch alloy wheels, black door mirrors, front fog-lights, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Mirror Link, rear parking sensors, cruise control and LED running lights.
The Flair models add 17-inch alloys, electric folding door mirrors, TomTom sat-nav, a panoramic glass roof, reversing camera, Active Safety Brake, Lane Departure Warning and a ‘Coffee Break Alert’ which sounds like it would more useful when you are at work rather than commuting – it actually tells you if you’ve been driving for 2 hours at 40 mph or more.
The headline updates of this 2018 model are two features promising greater comfort in the tradition of older Citroens. The French marque built its reputation on a ‘magic-carpet’ ride quality.
Firstly, they have developed the Progressive Hydraulic Cushion – an innovation that adds hydraulic cushions to smoothly control suspension compression and rebound.
Secondly, Advanced Comfort Seats use high density foam at the heart of the seat and textured foam near the surface.
Prices range from the £17,265 PureTech 82 petrol Feel edition model that does without the hydraulic suspension up to £21,165 for the PureTech 110 petrol Flair model.
The new car looks smart, if slightly more conventional, from the outside. It may be more grown up but it will soon blend into general commuter traffic. This may suit conservative buyers but it will be a disappointment for many who were attracted by the individuality of the original model.
Fortunately the interior retains the funky elements that made the design characterful. The top-opening glove-box is joined by ‘floating’ dashboard displays. The central 7.0 inch multifunction screen is easy to use and the driver’s-line screen is also clear.
The new front seats are certainly soft and comfortable but they don’t hold you particularly well laterally. Perhaps that is because this car is at its best on the motorway, but more on that shortly.
Rear passengers don’t get a brilliant deal; legroom is slightly restricted by the new front seats and headroom is compromised by the glass roof if fitted. Citroen has persisted with the rear hinge-opening rear windows too which smacks of cost cutting, as does the use of hard plastics on the doors.
The boot is a useful 358 litres in volume and can be increased to 1,170 litres with the seats folded, which is average for the class.
How does it drive?
On a deliberately rough and pot-holed driving route, the Citroen proved the effectiveness of the clever new suspension that soaked up all challenges without trouble. The ride is excellent. There’s some lean when cornering, which will not appeal to the keen driver, but that is not the remit of this car. The over-light steering and the long-throw gearbox will also frustrate enthusiastic drivers.
In contrast, the three-cylinder petrol engines feel very sprightly and conceal their lack of capacity with a liveliness that encourages use of the whole rev-range, which is why it is strange that Citroen have omitted to include a rev-counter.
With a claimed combined fuel economy of between 60-65 mpg which is likely to be a real-world 45-50 mpg, the other benefit of small capacity three-cylinder engines makes itself apparent; great fuel economy.
This is a car that is very easy to drive and urban trips can be completed painlessly. It is at its best, however, on long motorway or A-road journeys. The comfortable seats and excellent smooth ride combine to make any long excursion totally tolerable. Wind noise seems well subdued too.
The latest C4 Cactus has definitely grown up and feels more comfortable. However, Citroen risks losing the customer base (probably younger) who were attracted to the very ‘out of the ordinary’ elements of the original design. Perhaps they hope that this buying audience will be directed towards their slightly smaller, and still funky, C3 Aircross instead…