Citroen C4 Cactus review


What is?

It’s a car with a little identity crisis. The Citroën C4 Cactus launched in 2014 received universal critical acclaim; it was a unique and intelligent car that prioritized lightness and practicality over shallower crossover rivals. Nowhere was this more evident than in his famous Airbumps through doors; Lego style spiked rubber strips that would deflect small parking shots.

Now it’s time for a mid-life update, and while the Airbumps haven’t completely disappeared, they’ve been minimized to the bottom of the doors. It is part of a conventionalization of the whole car. The Citroën C4 hatchback is about to retire and the Citroën C3 Aircross, a properly sized crossover, has arrived, displacing the Cactus’ place in Citroën’s lineup.

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“Its overall look has been updated to further enhance its appeal to C-segment sedan buyers,” says Citroën, admitting that it looks much more conventional and less bushy than before. Less interesting, you could say.

Although it is now designed to compete with the VW Golf, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, it is smaller than these, carrying the platform of the outgoing C4 Cactus, which is one size smaller. Citroën is currently working on a more direct replacement for the C4 hatch.

It’s now a bit more stylish inside, with a choice of four interior ‘moods’. While the dash design is the same, there are new materials to make it a bit more luxurious, and you can have a large plaster-like glass roof over your head. All this means that the basic versions no longer weigh less than a ton (just be careful).

In fact, the key word with the updated C4 Cactus seems to be “comfort”. It is the first Citroën to use new “progressive hydraulic cushions” in its suspension (following the new C5 Aircross SUV). They’re designed to slow down the suspension’s response to hard compression, so you don’t sway in your seat. A seat that now comes with additional padding and lumbar support.

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Admission is now more than £4,000 higher; prices start at just under £18,000, though for a brief period you could shave off around £700 with an entry-level ‘Feel edition’. However, it only has 82 hp and forgoes the luxurious hydraulic suspension. Once sold, your entry point is Citroën’s wonderful 110bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which is the one you want anyway.

It comes with both manual and automatic gearboxes, while if you stick with just the manual you can also have a more powerful 130hp version (which also has an extra sixth gear) or a 100hp diesel. If you think that word is poisonous these days, then don’t worry; all engines comply with Euro 6.

Our choice of the range.

Citroën C4 Cactus front three quarters
1.2 PureTech Flair 5 doors

What’s the verdict?

Although it’s still a comfortable and useful sedan, the C4 Cactus’s dominant movement stripped it of its status as a class hero.

We used to consider the C4 Cactus our favorite little crossover. He was a bit of a pioneer in making cars of his style deliberately less sporty and aggressive. Perhaps not as well done as Citroën hoped, which led to its more traditional transformation.

The ride is composed, highly refined, and there’s little, other than rear room and those pesky rear windows, that hurts the Cactus. It still has more character than many of its rivals, but so does a Citroen C3, which isn’t really much smaller and is around £3,000 cheaper in comparative specs.

Indeed, by trying to make the C4 Cactus less attractive, Citroën has inadvertently made its place in the market harder to fathom. It’s a decent car, but it’s less affordable than before and tasked with taking on tougher rivals. Against what is no longer a class hero.

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