Traditionally there have only ever really been three vegetative forms of cactus: monstrous, crested and variegated. Both the monstrous and crested forms derive their name from the fact that they are usually mutated. Most become contorted and quite large when they hit maturity. Cacti are also unevenly distributed around the world, although the largest concentration of them is found near the latitudes of 30-degree north and 30 degree south of the equator. South Africa and sub-tropical North and South America house the highest number of densley populated cactus species.
That's just changed though, there's now a fourth form of Cactus that's going to be a lot more widespread than it's succulent counterparts, and if I had to guess it would fall into the monstrous class. It's also available in seven different colours and two derivatives, the Feel and the Shine and can be had from R229 900. Admittely as far as cacti go, these are among the most expensive in the world. That said, when you consider that the variation of Cactus is Citroen's latest creation and can be driven on the streets of well, any country, that price tag makes a lot more sense.
The Citroen C4 Cactus is a strange looking creation with an even stranger name. In my week with the car it took itself to the top of the public interest list. This is a list of press cars I have (in my head) that's rated on which cars I've driven that garner the most attention from people I see on my daily drives. With the C4 Cactus I've had people get hooted at for not pulling off at green lights because they were stuck in a staring contest with the car, I've had people taking pictures on their smart phones in shopping centre parking lots, and I've had people actually flag me down to ask about the car. Of course some of the comments have been rather lower grade too; "Is this the new baby Evoque?" Why yes, yes it is. Someone just added Citroen's double chevron logo for shits and giggles...
While the styling of the Citroen C4 Cactus may not be to everyone's taste, I'm a fan. It's quirky, it's different and it sure does stand out among the many cars on the road that can more aptly be described as drones. Having a range of funky colours helps too. The DRLs look cool, probably the reason for the silly Evoque comments because they do remind one of that car's front end, the dark 16-inch Square wheels are a great choice (on the Shine model) and suite all the available colours well, the roof racks look good and lend to the sporty, adventure feel of the car. The most outstanding feature of the Citroen C4 Cactus is undoubtedly the Airbump® technology that stands out (literally) across the doors. I'd often return to the car and find people touching it and prodding it. "But what is it for?" I hear you ask. Well, it's for idiots in parking lots and where ever else your car is exposed to the general population. It's a tough, flexible plastic with rows of air-filled bubbles that are resistant to damage from doors being swung open too wide, trolleys with idiot drivers, zips and butons on clothing and stray handbags. Goodbye unexpected repair costs. They're replaceable too of course if the need ever arose. Airbump® is also avaiilable in different colours to suit your taste: Black, Dune, Chocolate and Stone Grey. Lastly, here's a great quote from Mark Lloyd, the lead designer of the Citroen C4 Cactus with regards to Airbump®: "Why do you protect your smart phone and not your car?"
Inside the Cactus is different to what you'd expect. Well, actually, proably not. I was expecting something just as mad as the exterior and that's what I got. There's ample space for four full-sized adults, a smaller 5th too if needed. The seats are good, they have a funky look and feel to them and they're comfortable. No electrionic adjustments but they are height adjustable with a lever. The dash is pretty cool, behind the multifunction steering wheel there's a digital screen that shows the speed and fuel level while driving, other than that it's quite empty. When you add the speed limiter or set a cruise control speed it takes up the space to the left of the speed readout. I made sure to keep it on because I thought it looked a little too empty without it. On the right of the speed it has a gear change indicator. I'm not sure how it deternimes which gear you should be in but I found that if I I changed when it instructed then I'd be in 5th gear with the motor struggling to pull the car along because the revs were too low. That leads me to the revs. This car goes very well and it revs great through the gears right up to... Well I have no idea, there is no rev gauge. I'm sure there are many people who aren't bothered by this, but as a car guy, I want to see where my revs are at all times. Another thing missing from the display is a heat gauge, but I'm seeing more and more new cars without one, so I guess that ok.
Standing proud in the centre of the dash is the touch screen display that controls eveything that needs to be controlled. Once you see that things all work though this you notice that there's no buttons in the Cactus. Well not the usual amount you'd find in a new car. There's a few below the screen for; two for the air flow, one for the door locks, one for traction control and then the hazard switch. The rest of the controls have been integrated into the touchscreen; aircon, car/drive information, entertainment, navigation, settings, favourites and phone book. The system is easy to use, just a few minutes and you'll have it mastered. The navigation too, I quite liked it and it never took me on weird routes to get places like my Garmin does. The sound system play well, and there's also a Hi-Fi upgrade in the Shine model comprised of 6 speakers, Jukebox and an ARKAMYS amplifier.
The passenger side of the dash look cool too, it looks sorta like a satchel lying on it's side with two straps and buckles for access. It's quite high and the top is flat, like a shelf. This is because the passenger airbag isn't in the dashboard, it's in the roof lining at the top of the windscreen, a world first. It deploys down the screen to in front of the passenger, pretty ingenious really. Because of this there's no mirror for the missus to check her makeup in because it would in all likelihood cause damage to the passenger, but it also affords the cubby hole (Top Box) a healthy 8.5 litres of capacity. On the Wife 'O Meter this setup loses a point thanks to no mirror, but scores points back on the aestethics of it all. The rest of the finishings in the Cactus look great too, that goes for the look and the build quality. It really is a nice place to be.
Taking the family on a holiday in the C4 Cactus will be an easy affair, the boot has 358 litres of space and there's also those roof racks that can be used to carry more luggage if needed. If you leave the tykes at home you can use the foldable rear seats to increase the volume to 1170 litres.
So what's the Citroen C4 Cactus like to drive? Pretty cool! The seating position is good, well better if you have short legs like me. The steering wheel has height adjustment but not reach adjustment so if you have long legs you'd have to drive with outstretched arms which isn't too comfortable I'm told. Score one for short people. The gearlever also looks pretty cool and gear changes with the 5-speed manual are good, it slots into gear well. First gear is a bit of a reach though, it's a little odd but as I said, I'm vertically challenged so the seat is always quite far forwards and the reach becomes easier. Parking sensors and a reverse camera help the little car to manoeuvre easily in and out of tight spaces - it's great for city driving.
The Citroen C4 Cactus drives great though, it's happy on sand roads which is the point of a car like this, but it's happier on tar as most cars are of course. The suspension isn't too hard but it still gives good handling. This car isn't going to be chucked around on a racetrack but it could still be fun if you wanted to try it I guess. The car weighs a lot less than you'd expect thanks to modern and lightweight materials, it comes in just over a ton and together with a that cracking little motor it's pretty nippy. That kid in the neighbourhood with his cammed Polo is going to think twice before picking on one of these French imports again. The 1.2 Puretech e-THP motor makes 81kW at 5500rpm with an impressive 205Nm and that's good enough to get the car up to 100km/h in 9.3-seconds with a top speed of 188km/h. I'm not sure if it's the way the boost comes in or if it's because of the gear ratios, but it certainly feels quicker off the line than the numbers suggest.
The numbers also say that the car will use as little as 4.7-litres/100km but I only managed to see figures in the low 7s in the built up areas and mid 6s on the highway. Maybe it was the heat or maybe it was my driving style that affected this. On my drives I ended up behind a tipper truck that was loaded with red sand that was clearly wet when it was loaded because it was dripping some miff, muddy water out the back - and all over the Cactus. That's when I found another cool innovation from these Franch chaps. I used the wipers to clean the window and sprayed the washer water to help. I ended up almost finishing the bottle because I was loving the way the water spreays from the wiper blades and not from a nozzle at the bottom of the windscreen. Besides being a novelty, the system also uses 50% less water - clever.
I really like the Citroen C4 Cactus. I like attention (who doesn't) and that's what you get in heaps when you're driving one. It's fresh, it's funky and it's different but under the skin it's also packed with tech, has all the bells and whistles and is a really nice drive too. The pricing works, it's properly competitive. If I really had to nitpick to find fault with the car I'd be hard pressed. Of course things like this are totally subjective and my boxes are all ticked. An automatic option would make the driving experience even better. I actually can't believe I just said that because I'm a firm advocate of being in control of my own gear changes, but with this car it would work so well.
There's a reason why the Citroen C4 Cactus is on the list of finalists for the 2016 Car of the Year competition...
Pricing and options:
For more info, head on over to the Citroen SA website or check out the document below.
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.