With a C4 Cactus-shaped hole in my life, I’m now a little sad. I’ve been dismissive of the original Cactus for looking contrived and favouring form over function. However, contrary to its many initial critics, I warmed to the second-generation car. It had matured, as if most of the gimmicky kinks had been ironed out during its evolution.
Living with the C4 Cactus hasn’t always been a breeze, though. I’ve already mentioned once or twice that I’m no fan of the car’s infotainment system. It can be slow to respond to touch inputs and the location of some key menus are a little baffling. That everything – audio, ventilation, phone, navigation – is accessed via the screen is a bold, but not entirely successful idea. However, having also driven newer Peugeot and Citroën models, it’s clear that tweaks have been made so someone’s obviously been listening to us critics.
For many, Citroën will be famous for focusing on occupant comfort. In the past this has been delivered through its famous trick suspension and, more recently, the plush and specially developed seats in the C4 Cactus. I’m familiar with the former, having owned a few older models, but the Cactus’ clever front seats intrigued me. Fortunately, the reality lived up to the hype, and I’ve enjoyed life in the squishy, yet supportive driver’s seat. Front seat passengers have also been positive about the experience, although some did note the absence of grab handles, while the trade-off has also been a lack of some lateral support when cornering.
I was hoping that Citroën’s much hyped ‘progressive hydraulic cushion’ suspension technology could replicate some of the firm’s old school hydropneumatic magic. Alas, it’s a good effort at trying something new, but it’s not quite there, yet. Adding a hydraulic ‘cushion’ to the damper unit is designed to slow down otherwise abrupt movements from dealing with uneven roads. The Cactus is no BX and can still be caught out by potholed roads. I hope future models will benefit from an evolution of this technology.
Speaking of on road manners, its laid-back character is so refreshing. I was a little concerned that its modest 101bhp motor might struggle, but I was wrong, and it was more than ample. It even allowed spirited overtaking and, crucially, never sounded coarse, even when pushed hard. The car’s funky digital instrument panel lacked a rev counter, so I never knew quite where the limit was, but if you’re routinely driving the car this hard, then you’re doing it wrong.
Doing it right regularly saw mid 60s and even the occasional low 70s in mpg terms for individual trips. A smooth throttle and intelligent use of the slick manual gearbox made attaining those figures easy. Town driving would see those numbers tumble, though. As would sustained motorway slogs, which highlighted that the Cactus never felt completely comfortable at high speed, as road and engine noise rose. Still, the accurate steering was a great companion, as was the standard fit reversing camera.
Overall, the C4 Cactus was a jolly car to drive if you want to take it easy. Its relaxed gait made for a largely stress-free experience. Its cabin did well to accommodate four adults when required, and the panoramic roof ensured there was plenty of light. I would’ve liked a boot without the niggling high load lip, which made loading and unloading heavy and bulky items a chore. Folding the rear seats down did release more space, transforming the Cactus into a useful utility wagon.
Am I sad to see this charismatic outsider go? Yes, I am. Impressive fuel economy, the relaxed driving experience, and its looks are for me its stand-out features. It’s a ‘nearly car’ that won’t appeal to everyone, but I’m glad that Citroën made it.
Date arrived 21st October 2018
Fuel economy 70.6mpg (combined) 60.6mpg (on test)
The C4’s quirky character has proven to be a breath of fresh air and impressed numerous passengers.
The soft, squishy front seats have been great, but the lack of grab handles has been a constant niggle.