Citroen C4 Cactus
04 July 2018
Author: Guy Bird
First report - Spiking an interest in comfort
In the interests of full disclosure, I have to say that I loved the originality of the first C4 Cactus and its big air bump panels on its front, back and sides. Four years after that 2014 launch, on the new 2018 Cactus small crossover those multiple bumps on multiple sides have reduced to just three on each side and now sprout from the car's skirts rather than floating mid-door as before, with a (usually) contrasting colour to the car's main exterior body.
To me, that's an aesthetic punch pulled, but maybe not enough customers were ready for those stand-out looks and commercial realities dawned. Either way, with careful colour co-ordination choices the new C4 Cactus still cuts quite a dash in Polar white with contrasting black window pillars and red accents for the front fog light surround and around the first side air bump on each side. Collectively, it all still feels very graphic and contemporary.
The cabin keeps even more of the original's character, with its horizontal and old school luggage-inspired dashboard that, alongside the large panoramic roof, helps the small car feel airy and spacious. The relaxed vibe is continued via interior door panels that feature suitcase-style grab handles with soft-pad armrests above, which my passengers quickly noticed and admired unprompted - plus wide-backed and comfy seats to go with them.
Underpinning this comfort is a new standard suspension system with what Citroen calls Progressive Hydraulic Cushions. It's perfectly in keeping with the brand's historic emphasis on good ride manners that dates back to the original 1950s DS. According to the PR blurb, under heavy compression and rebound the hydraulic cushions slow down the car's vertical movement gradually to avoid sudden shocks or heavy bouncing, while in lighter compression and rebound circumstances the hydraulic cushions provide a 'flying carpet' effect, effectively ironing out the road's minor imperfections. Driven calmly, even over lots of different-sized London speed bumps, that blurb rings true. It's early days, but we'll be monitoring this comfort-oriented feature over our six-month tenure closely.
Practicality appears good too, with a reasonable 358 - 1,170-litre boot space - unchanged from the last model - good access to all of the seats and the car's small 4,170mm length, despite appearances to the contrary, making it easy to park in tight urban streets. Less good so far is a sometimes slow to react touchscreen that we're failing to fully get to grips with, but hopefully practice and patience will bring greater rewards.
We're also interested in how the small and pleasantly thrummy three-cylinder 110hp petrol engine will fare. For quick city commutes, it's already proved ideal, but how it copes with longer hauls will be a sterner test. Teamed with a five-speed manual gearbox, official economy and emissions is listed as 55.4mpg and 117g/km of CO2, which equates to a 24% benefit-in-kind company car tax band and £165 in first-year road tax. Hopefully, we'll be able to get closer to those figures than in previous long-termers with old NEDC mpg ratings.
Finally, specification is good on top-trim Flair (the other two are Feel and Feel Edition) with a large panoramic roof, 7in colour screen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, plus rear parking sensors as standard. This is also evidenced by a short options list. Only £550 of extras come with this test car, including Polar Paint (£250), 'Metropolitan' red seat and interior ambience (£200) and 17in black 'Cross' alloy wheels (£100).
Ultimately, the Cactus still feels like a special car, and far from the automotive norm, so we're really looking forward to finding out more about it over the coming months.