Cactusss! Car makers have long put unusual monikers on their models. But why Cactus? in 2014 Citroen released a mini crossover that had curious air-filled rubber panels on the door sides – right where they usually get dinged by carpark scrapes and careless motorcyclists. “Airbumps”, they called them. The car was thus described as a “Cactus” – tough and able to shrug off most forms of abuse like the plant!
For the 2018 mid-cycle restyle, Citroen went a bit more than skin-deep. The “airbumps” were toned-down to the bottoms of the doors, the styling was mildly refreshed inside and out, and the suspension was given an overhaul among others.
Advance Car Diagnostics have taken the plunge into the French pool and brought down the first C4 Cactus to Sri Lanka, and I got to drive it “fresh off the boat”. Car came on Thursday night and Friday morning I was behind the wheel.
Airbumps! Love em or hate em? I saw the practical side of the previous ones but felt they were too “in yer face!” The restyle has toned them down nicely. The face remains distinctive with “slit-eyed” LED headlamps, a larger “high beam and turn indicator” bunch below, and the fogs at bottom. Kudos to Citroen for trying out the “multi-level headlamp design” that got cars such as the Fiat Multipla much flak, and executing it well, to boot! Our Obsidian Black car is of the top-level Flair trim level, with Gloss White trims.
The side profile is stylish too, and the rear is well restrained too. The 17-inch Diamond Cut “Cross” alloys suit the car well and they are wearing Goodyear rubber. There is no visible exhaust. The “Cactus” badge is on the C-pillar. You notice a curious “clasp” on the inside of the rear windows… more on that later.
Mech & Tech
The Cactus comes with a 1.2L turbo triple that puts out 108bhp at 5,500rpm and a decent 205Nm of twist at 1,500rpm. It drives the front wheels through a 6-speed AISIN automatic gearbox with manual mode available on the shifter. Our test vehicle had the Grip Control system that gives you a knob with several modes – NORMAL, SNOW, MUD, SAND and ESP OFF.
Suspension is via coil springs and dampers with “Progressive Hydraulic Cushions” (PHC). Basically these replace the “bump stops” and give a more fluid-like ride. Braking is via all-round discs and the steering is an electrically assisted rack.
On first impressions, the driving position is high up but can be adjusted easily. Visibility is good all-round. Engage Drive and the Cactus moves off without fuss. The engine is very quiet with a distant hum. Push harder and the engine willingly revs but never gets loud. You hear the typical three-pot thrum in the distance. Performance is perfectly adequate for the gamut of driving done in Sri Lanka, and the Cactus cruises quietly at highway speeds. The sprightly 1,070kg kerb weight no doubt helps.
The brakes are strong and stop the Cactus from speed with no fuss. You can also set a speed limiter function and there is cruise control which works well. There are driver assistance features which we will discuss in the SAFETY section.
Yes, the ride has that typical Citroen “magic carpet” glide to it. It’s impressively smooth and the PHCs work well – on putting the car hard into a deep pothole you don’t get the “crash” typical of most cars, but a more smoothed out impact. Push hard and the Cactus will roll around a bit, but drive it normally and enjoy the comfort!
The instrument panel is a slim LCD which shows speed, fuel and mileage. That’s it. No rev counter, but you don’t really need it as the intuitive gearbox will do everything for you.
Living with it
The Cactus is a great car for the young lady or gent with kids. First off, the interior design has funky touches like the dash top design, slim instrument panel, the AC vents, seat fabrics and the door pulls that look like luggage handles. There are plenty of deep pockets and spaces for your oddments. The rear door “child lock” function can be engaged with a push button at the front, instead of fiddling with the door locks. Those rear windows? They tilt out about three inches like on the classics of yesteryear! No more worrying that the kid in the back is going to roll the window down and hang out, he or she simply can’t in the Cactus! ISOFIX mounts are there too, of course. The seatbelt indicator shows if each person is belted or not.
Gaze upwards at the massive expanse of tinted, thermally-insulating glass. Yes, it’s a panoramic roof. We never got cooked in the hot sun and it will be another feature to keep the kids ooh-ing and aah-ing. Maybe they can play “count the street lights”.
On the toys side, you get climate control (single zone) and a full multimedia system that includes Radio, Bluetooth, USB, AUX, iPod, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Sound from the six-speaker system is punchy with good oomph for bass-heavy music (you can adjust the BASS/MID/TREBLE and configure an equalizer). You can also install a Citroen app on your phone and pair with the car.
The infotainment system also tells you the status of the car’s systems and allows you to configure settings such as the adaptive headlamps, tyre pressure monitor, service intervals, rear wiper on reverse, etc…
The seats are comfortable, if a tad firm. Boot space is 358L, rising to a maximum of 1,170L with the seats folded down.
For this price, the Cactus is possibly one of the safest cars around. Six airbags (front, front seats and curtain) are standard, along with ABS, EBD and a host of driver safety aids. We mentioned Speed Limiter the Cactus also has lane following function (which read the pockmarked and broken white lines of our roads with perfect accuracy), coffee break warning, driver drowsiness detection (which checks if the car is weaving about!), active safety braking (radar brake), speed limit sign recognition and blind spot monitoring. Wow!
Turning to EuroNCAP, we see some more impressive numbers. While the car scored four stars overall, it scores a high 80% in the Pedestrian category which most cars falter in. Adult Occupant score of 82% and 79% for Child Occupant round off a comprehensive tally.
Fuel Economy & Price
We reset the counter at the start of our test drive of approx. 40km, and achieved an average of 8.4km/l. This included hard driving, normal driving in traffic and some stretching of legs. These figures are decent for a small turbo engine and given that this is not a hybrid nor is it an eco car, means it performs as well as one would expect.
The Cactus is Rs. 7.9 million, or Rs. 4.6 million with a permit. There’s a fair bit in that bracket from a range of manufacturers, but you should look at the full feature set rather than only numbers.
Like I said, the C4 Cactus is a great little car for the young gent or lady on the go, with or without kids. It’s a hip statement of urban style with features that will have your friends buzzing too. Just turn off and ignore the typical Sri Lankan prejudices towards Eastern cars and hybrid-like fuel efficiency, and get a car that appeals to your personality instead! You will find the C4 Cactus is a pretty good package as a whole.
The warranty is a four-year / 80,000km (whichever occurs first) package, with the added bonus of free servicing (parts and labour) for the duration of the warranty.
What about After-sales?
We spoke to Amal Ekanayake, Managing Director of Advance Car Diagnostics who informed us that they have constructed a brand-new facility in Pannipitiya that is capable of handling the full service gamut required by the C4 Cactus. “The C4 Cactus is manufactured in France, but our models come from the UK as French cars are left-hand-drive” he says. “We have the full access to Citroen’s diagnostic software and updates to address any issues with these cars”.
108bhp @ 5,500rpm
205Nm @ 1,500rpm
Cushion (all round)
Front - MacPherson
Rear – Beam axle
Wheels & Tyres
Kerb Weight: 1,070kg
Boot Space: 358L
Fuel Tank: 50L
0-100km/h in 9.9s
Top speed 190km/h