If you’re in the market for something that’ll turn head, may I suggest you look at the new Citroën C4 Cactus?
It looks like nothing else on the road, simply because no manufacturer has ever been brave enough to put something that looks like it into production, with the possible exception of Fiat’s Multipla, which came out more than a decade ago.
Fiat’s strategy didn’t work, mostly because the Multipla was ugly, but I’m not so sure the same can be said of the Cactus. Sure, it looks a bit like a baby hippo from certain angles, but a panel of experts recently awarded it with a World Car of the Year title in the design category. Who am I to argue with that level of expertise?
I normally hate commenting on a car’s design, but in this instance it’s simply not possible to shy away from it. This car has obviously been built for a fashion conscious market and it definitely succeeds in this regard, but it’s also nice to see that Citroën has found a way to make form and function work in harmony for once.
Take those AirBumps on the side of the vehicle as a prime example. Not only do they look good, offering a bit of contrast against whatever exterior colour you choose, but they also serve a functional purpose. They protect the sides of the vehicle against minor bumps and scratches, which is magnificent idea, especially in a country like SA where the average person seems to have little regard for their fellow countryman’s material possessions. For once, you’ll be able to park your car in a mall parking lot without having to worry about coming back and finding a small dent in your pride and joy.
The inside is just as funky as the exterior. Simply put, there’s nothing else like it out there, which puts Citroën in a very unique position. Most of its direct competitors are fairly pragmatic on the inside, but the Cactus offers a distinctive approach to interior comfort and luxury and it does so without costing and arm and a leg.
The entry-level model retails for R224 900, but in terms of specification there’s nothing entry-level about it. You get nice comfortable seats, all the modern comfort and convenience features and an expensive looking touch-screen infotainment system. Opt for a the more luxurious Shine model and you’ll even get integrated satellite navigation, reverse camera and auto-activating wipers and headlights.
Out of all the compact SUVs currently on sale in SA, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Cactus has the best interior. Not only does it feel special, but it’s practical as well. There seems to be a decent amount of space in the rear and the product presentation suggested that it could easily accommodate three large bags on a long trip. We’ll be taking the C4 Cactus on a soft-roader adventure fairly soon and we’ll get back to you on this specific, yet fairly important aspect.
In terms of performance I wasn’t expecting an awful lot. I saw the specifications a few weeks before the actual launch and it didn’t exactly set my world on fire. The turbocharged 1,2-litre three-pot, which is the only derivative I drove at the SA launch delivers a measly 81kW and 205Nm of torque. That doesn’t sound like an awful lot compared to the Opel Mokka’s power output from its turbocharged 1,4-litre four-cylinder engine, but out of the two, the Cactus definitely feels like the more agile option.
The reason for this is the Cactus’ low mass. It weighs just over 1 000kg, which means the small turbocharged engine has more than enough power to leave the driver feeling rather entertained behind the wheel. It even makes a nice noise thanks to that unmistakable three-cylinder soundtrack.
And while only a small amount of people will be left impressed by the above, I’m willing to bet that everyone will be impressed by Citroën’s claimed consumption figures for the turbocharged Cactus.
Citroën claims that it will only consume a measly 4,7 l/100km on the combined cycle. My test unit’s trip computer was showing an average of 6,0 l/100km, which still isn’t half bad when you consider the fact that we weren’t exactly aiming for impressive fuel consumption results on the day of the launch.
Citroën may have their hands on a segment leader, but it’s still way too early to call it. As a matter of interest, I did drive the Cactus on a fairly rough gravel road, albeit for less than a kilometre, and the ride was a bit jumpy. It may have been a case of overinflated tyres, which is why I’m not ready to comment on this particular aspect of the driving experience just yet. As I stated earlier, we’ll be getting one on test shortly, which should give us more time to explore its soft-roader abilities more thoroughly.
I am, however, willing to state that I think the launch of the C4 Cactus is a turning point for Citroën SA. It hasn’t exactly been posting impressive sales figures recently, but with the Cactus they have a wonderful product competing in one of the hottest segments on the planet right now.
The fact that it’s a French car may count against it, but recent sales figures suggest that if a manufacturer builds a great car, people will buy it. The Renault Duster is physical evidence of that.
I see no reason why Citroën won’t reach its 100 units per month target. In fact, with a car this good retailing at a bargain price as it does, I think it may have even underestimated its own product.