Hand on heart, I wasn’t hugely overjoyed by Citroën’s decision to dilute the many quirky design features of the original Cactus. No question, the car stood out in a crowded and mostly less distinctive market. But I also understood the need to boost its mainstream appeal – hence the inclusion of more conventional exterior design features for the second-generation car. My appreciation for the original car’s interior wasn’t as strong, however. To me it was very much an exercise in form over function. You had to be a pretty loyal Citroën fan to fully embrace the various concept car-influenced features. And it was a bit too much even for this Citroën fan.
Thankfully Citroën succeeded in overcoming the difficult second album hump that can blight so many car makers when they introduce something new that’s also a bit left-field. I’m liking the current car’s more corporate-influenced exterior design, while the interior is a more coherent and ergonomically sound proposition. And while it doesn’t take much for me to pick holes in the way the car’s touchscreen works, the overall look of the minimalist facia is a refreshing change from being faced with a sea of buttons.
But it was some ‘quality’ time spent stationary in rush hour traffic that prompted me to take more notice of the C4’s front door pulls. These rigid items protrude from the door, yet to use a motoring hack cliché, they fall easily to hand. Factor in the 2CV-esque squishy front seats and trunk-style glove box and there’s just enough quirky content inside to keep old school fans like me happy.
As summer looms, I do worry whether cabin ventilation will be sufficient, though. The location of the main vents under the infotainment screen, and the absence of a dedicated vent for the front passenger, aren’t really up to the job, even with the assistance of air conditioning. At least I have fully functioning front windows to wind down if it gets really hot. Those in the back only have pop-out items, last seen in a 1980s hatchback. This is always the trade-off when you embrace style over substance.
Thankfully the Cactus just keeps plodding on, doing a sterling job of transporting people comfortably for very little money. Even after a hard few weeks of mostly urban motoring under its belt, economy has remained reasonable. The diesel motor’s flexibility means you don’t have to thrash it, and despite its modest output it’ll despatch dual carriageway dawdlers with relative ease. Nothing has fallen off, stopped working or started to rattle, which is always a good thing.
I know it’s seen by some as a Marmite car – too quirky for some, not practical enough or sufficiently mainstream by others – but I’m still okay with it being a little left field while being about eight tenths successful in nailing the basics. Yes, the front door bins won’t hold bottles properly and boot space is modest. But that’s why Citroën also makes the Berlingo.
Date arrived 21st October 2018
Fuel economy 70.6mpg (combined) 50.5mpg (on test)
The quirky front door pulls tick both style and substance boxes – they look good and are functional to boot.
A victim of style trumping substance, the main air vents are poorly located low down and are not particularly effective in warm weather.