Why Amsterdam I wondered when a small group of UK bloggers, including me, were invited to test drive the new C4 Cactus last weekend.
All became clear when the cars lined up outside Schiphol Airport and then again at our hotel on the Sunday. The cars looked totally at home; the ultimate in fashion, style and design in a city with these characteristics in spades…
The C4 Cactus
Not being an industry expert in jargon here, I’d describe the new C4 Cactus as a crossover ie a compact cum hatchback cum saloon type of car. That’s because it’s a car that most Mums and families are going to like. Those who need a lot of onboard space including roof bars, a semi-raised ride height and easy access. And who enjoy a fun drive. One of my colleagues spotted its low emissions and business tax so it could do particularly well for business women in cities too.
Faced with a ‘succulence of Cacti’ (what else could I call a collection of Cacti?) on our arrival in Holland I cadged a lift with a more confident (male) driver, en route for central Amsterdam. What is it about so many non-petrol-headed women (not just me) who are wary about driving a new car, on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, with unfamiliar controls and in an unknown city? Whereas no man ever seems to suffer this lack of confidence…
So we opted for the satellite-programmed scenic route on a brilliant sunny day in Holland, heading for a refreshment stop through flower filled and affluent districts en route to a trendy media park in Hilversum (Beeld En Geluid) for afternoon tea. We then drove to our riverside hotel in central Amsterdam, had the official Citroen launch before dinner and headed to bed early because we were off again at 7am on the Sunday morning…
The C4 Cactus Drive
Apart from struggling initially with the width of the car, veering too close to trees and canals for my passenger’s comfort, having controls on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and cyclists coming at you from all angles, the car was a joy to drive, more so on the Sunday morning plying the picturesque centre of Amsterdam. I found the petrol engine more fun to drive than the diesel, both cars cornered well at speed and, best of all compared to my BMW, it was a more comfortable ride over all sorts of road surfaces including the cobbled streets of this iconic city.
The car has been sized for most heights I’d say. Plenty of headroom for the tall and with sufficient seat adjustments in all directions to create the perfect seating position with good visibility for a 5’ 3” female like me. Better than my BMW where I have to overstretch my head to see my wing mirrors…
Visibility is one of the most important factors for me. I also liked the natural onboard light in the cabin, with a third of it glazed. That includes a large panoramic sunroof that’s coated to filter UV light and reflect heat, just like sunglasses.
The Cactus name is a good one because motorists will remember it and wonder why, hence the concept of the airbumps (read on…). I remember thinking that the initial concept car was so wacky that it was unlikely to see the light of day. Good for Citroen bringing yet another quirky car to the party after the massive success of its DS range. After living with this car for a few days I am more than happy with its looks including the stylish LED daytime running lights and headlights set in the bumper.
The C4 Cactus is certainly eye-catching and different. You get noticed in this car; we got a lot of admiring looks and thumbs up in and around Amsterdam. We were driving the yellow Cactus in the photo – you couldn’t miss us.
Instead of having Cactus spikes (that some might imagine…) the C4 Cactus has these lego-looking airbumps in thermoplastic polyurethane cleverly positioned where the car is most likely to suffer dents or minor dings – from shopping trolleys or in car parks where the neighbouring car opens their door and damages yours.
In short this is very much female territory… As I see it, if I’d had airbumps on my BMW recently I wouldn’t have suffered the driver door damage I’ve got now, having reversed into a tight corner where a hidden, savagely pruned and out for revenge Buddleia left two noticeable scrapes (to my shame and imminent cosmetic car repair cost)…
There are ten bodywork colours including a white, a couple of different shades of red and the yellow one I drove. You can then choose your airbumps in a combination of Black, Grey, Dune and Chocolate. The white with chocolate airbumps looked good to me…
The interior comes in three colours called Stone Grey, Purple Highlight and Habana Highlight (that’s brown by any other name) and there are new stylish features such as luggage looking handles and plenty of large storage bins and practical cup holders.
The dashboard is uncluttered and dominated by a 7-inch screen where everything seemed to happen (see below). There are wide front seats more like a sofa from a comfort point of view and on ETG (Efficient Tronic Gearbox) versions the gear selector is replaced by the ‘Easy Push’ system with a ‘Drive, Neutral, Reverse’ push-button selection – this gives you a bench-style front seat layout.
A new choice of engine
There’s a choice of petrol and diesel engines. I preferred driving the PureTech petrol engine with Stop and Start (S&S) as it seemed more zippy. More experienced drivers than me told me there was a knack to getting the diesel up to speed, as it were. Thinking about the economics of buying a more expensive diesel car I suspect that the cheaper petrol cars are more likely to cater for the majority of Club members unless they are plying UK motorways as part of their job.
For those that want the detail, we’re talking about PureTech 75, PureTech 82, PureTech 82 S&S & PureTech 110 S&S petrol-fuelled engines, and two HDi diesel; e-HDi 92 and BlueHDi 100 alongside either 5-speed manual or 5 or 6-speed ETG (Efficient Tronic Gearbox) transmissions. Combined with ultra-low rolling resistance tyres, fuel economy is up to 91.1mpg with CO2 emissions from just 82g/km. That’s impressive.
Fitted as standard, there’s a digital Touch Drive 7-inch screen to control all the main vehicle functions including heating and ventilation, media, navigation, vehicle settings and telephone. You’vegot apps of course such as a fuel one, a Trip Adviser one and a Michelin one for live traffic information.
Magic Wash is a new feature incorporating washer jets into the ends of the wiper blades, so you get the right amount of water exactly where and when it’s needed. So obvious when you think about it.
There’s also cruise control, Hill Start Assist, Park Assist, a reversing camera, static cornering lights and Citroen’s own local emergency and assistance call system in the event of an accident.
Citroen says a staggering 91.1mpg based on the diesel version emitting 82g/km CO2. Even the petrol version emits less than 100g/km of CO2 which is great for road tax and makes this a seriously low cost option re business car taxation in urban areas.
Sharing the same platform as the DS3, the new Citroen C4 Cactus employs the latest weight saving materials and design with an aluminium bonnet, pop-out rear windows and a single folding rear bench. At 965kg the model is 200kg lighter than an equivalent C4 and lightweight features like Airbumps and the special sunroof are predicted to reduce running costs by c20% compared to other hatchbacks.
Price and availability
You can’t buy it in the UK until October but you can order it in advance via Citroen UK dealerships. Expect it to cost c£13000 upwards with three levels of trim (Touch, Feel and Flair) costing up to c£18000 for the top of the range e-HDi 92 ETG6 Flair.
So it’s going to be a budget car with a big market and seems eminently affordable and value for money. Especially if the 10% Club discount applies… but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.
I think this is going to be a big seller for those who enjoy fun motoring, particularly in urban areas. If you haven’t driven a Citroen yet but might like to book an early C4 Cactus test drive I suggest you introduce yourself to your local dealership and start to talk terms.
PS: It’s too soon to know the NCAP ratings re car safety but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t perform better than most with its added roof mounted airbag and airbumps in the bodywork.