25 April 2018
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Citroen C4 Cactus

Citroën C4 Cactus

Not quirky, still unique

Review | The Citroen C4 Cactus is an extraordinary car. The C4 Cactus is not about status or refinement, but about economy, functionality and ease of use. To show the outside world that the C4 Cactus is not a status symbol, but rather an odd ball, Citroen added quirky looks to match. That is: it used to. For model year 2018 the C4 Cactus has had a change of heart.

In most of Europe the Citroen C4 Cactus is a sales success. The unusual concept and it's quirky looks to match, make it popular. But in its homeland of France things are different. Over there, the outspoken looks are said to be too extreme and unconventional. Moreover, Citroen had a change of heart and wants to focus solely on building comfortable cars.

Citroen C4 Cactus

Lost its stings

That's why the Citroen C4 Cactus for model year 2018 changed from radical to refined. Citroen abandoned the characteristic "Air Bumps" (fenders on the outside of the car) and the design got an overhaul, making the C4 Cactus look lessadventurous. While the original C4 Cactus emphasised on height with the blunt front, square tail lights and eye-catching roof rails, the new C4 Cactus is long and elegant thanks to a rounded front and sharp headlights.

Characteristic for every new Citroen are the subtle fenders all round the bottom of the car, which can now be found on the new C4 Cactus. The C4 Cactus still offers more ground clearance than the average cars, which means Citroen didn't dare to abandon the adventurous look completely.

Citroen C4 Cactus

On the inside, the quirkiness has gone is as well. Formerly the driver and passenger sat on a comfy couch, but as of 2018 the C4 comes with two separate front seats. However, those seats are everything but conventional, because Citroen aims to offer comfort and nothing but comfort. The seats don't just look good, they are good. Thanks to layering like a mattress, the new seats are still comfortable after many hours of driving. According to Citroen the design assures this comfort is guaranteed for many years to come.

While head and legroom in the rear is poor, the soft seats somehow compensate.  Thanks to the thick backrests, the front passengers don't even notice when the rear passengers "poke" their knees into the back of the front seats. Despite Citroen's aim to offer more creature comforts, the rear windows still don't fully open.

Citroen C4 Cactus

To improve the atmosphere in the cabin, sound insulation has been improved (more insulation material, better engine fixing and glass with special foil) and that's clearly noticeable in daily life; both in the front and the back. Yet, Citroen forgot one of the senses: the "parfumeur" (perfume dispenser) from the other Citroen models is not available on the C4 Cactus.

Trim levels

The number of buttons and switches on the dash is minimal, because most functions are controlled from the central display. This works well, because it doesn't require any extra effort from the driver compared to physical buttons. Operating the audio, communication and satnav system is logical and clear; no need to study user manuals! Thanks to support for Apple Carplay and Android Auto, the C4 Cactus now works well with smartphones. The sound quality of the standard audio system is decent and also adds to the well being in the car.

Citroen C4 Cactus
Citroen C4 Cactus

The C4 Cactus now comes with more equipment as standard, but it remains to be seen if this is a good thing. Because of all the new bells and whistles the price has increased significantly and therefore the C4 Cactus is no longer a no-nonsense smart-choice  back-to-basics car. Of course, the new features do make the car more comfortable, but up to now the C4 Cactus was deliberately chosen because it could well do without those things. On the other hand: with the introduction of the new C4 Cactus the regular C4 has been discontinued, and thanks to the extra luxury the C4 Cactus fills the gap perfectly.

Handling

In the past, Citroen had a reputation as a maker of comfortable cars. Back then, this was thanks to advanced suspension based on hydraulics and/or smart electronics. Those technologies are too expensive for compact cars (both to produce and run) and that's why Citroen now introduces "Progressive Hydraulic Cushions". These are regular shock absorbers filled with a fluid that gets thicker or thinner when it heats up or cools down. In this way the underpinning starts out soft and bouncy, but when the car leans harder on the shocks, they get more rigid.

Citroen C4 Cactus

Thanks to the new underpinning the new C4 Cactus seems to hover above the road like the classic Citroens did. On poor surfaces bumps can still be felt, but the distance between the car and the driver seems to be enlarged. Compare it to sunglasses that still show every detail, but the contrast is reduced and therefore it's easier on the eyes. On speed bumps results varied from hard hits to almost erasing the bumps.

When cornering, the C4 Cactus will tilt over and together with the indirect and light steering the driver has no feeling whatsoever with the car. Therefore, at first, corner speed was much lower than necessary. It cost several hundreds of kilometres and many hours to get a little faith in the handling of the C4 Cactus. In the end the suspension is as capable as that of less comfortable cars, but because the C4 Cactus hardly communicates with the driver it takes time to experience this.

Citroen C4 Cactus
“Thanks to the new underpinning the new C4 Cactus seems to hover above the road like the classic Citroens did„

Engines

Formerly, the C4 Cactus automatic came with a so-called "robotised manual gearbox". This meant that a regular gearbox was operated by a computer. And to put it mildly: this didn't offer the sought-after comfort and that's why the C4 Cactus is now available with a traditional automatic gearbox with torque converter. By opting for six gears this automatic gearbox doesn't just offer a smoother ride, it also improves fuel economy. For example, the test drive with the 110 PS strong petrol engine on an average route (highway and country roads) cost 5.3 litres per 100 km.

Together with the new C4 Cactus, Citroen also launches a "PureTech 130" engine. This is basically a beefed up version of the existing 1.2 litre three-cylinder engine that was already available with 82 or 110 horsepower. When going with the flow of traffic little of the extra horsepower can be noticed, but on an empty road the "C4 Cactus PureTech 130 S&S" will perform very well indeed. So well in fact that torque steer will occur and the front wheels struggle to transfer the power to the road. More important is that the changes to the engine also make it quieter and more refined and that's what it's all about with the new C4 Cactus.

Citroen C4 Cactus

Conclusion

The Citroen C4 Cactus has had a change of heart for model year 2018. That's both good news and bad news. Those who chose the C4 Cactus because of its radical looks and back-to-basics character will be disappointed. The C4 Cactus now looks like a mainstream car and because of the stronger engines and higher comfort levels the price has gone up.

Citroen made this decision because it wants to emphasise on comfort. And when the C4 Cactus is judged as a comfortable car, it certainly delivers. The excellent seats, high trim levels, great sound insulation and refined suspension all make the C4 Cactus the most comfortable car in its segment. This means the C4 Cactus is no longer quirky, but it still is unique.

plus
  • Pleasant seats
  • Very comfortable
  • Moderne technology
min
  • Slow activation of rear camera
  • Not longer a cheap, no nonsense car
  • Comfort suspension requires some getting used to
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