Citroen C4 Cactus review
The Citroen C4 Cactus is very comfortable and has a stylish interior, but you may miss the wackier looks of the old model
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The Citroen C4 Cactus is a stylish small family car that looks more mainstream than the previous model. However, it isn’t as spacious or as practical as some of the alternatives, like the Renault Captur.
Where it’s streets ahead of those models, though, is that no other car provides more comfort per pound than the Citroen C4 Cactus. The combination of its sofa-like seats and clever suspension means you glide you up the road, totally relaxed.
When the first Citroen C4 Cactus was launched back in 2014, it was genuinely unique, a model that didn’t look like any other Citroen, let alone anything from another car maker. Its flat face, novel light layout and door-mounted Airbumps (plastic cladding that warded off chips and scrapes) made it stand out in any car park, but when this revised version of the car appeared in 2018, many of those stand-out features were toned down and, in some cases, gone completely.
However, it’s still a distinctive car that allows plenty of personalisation. Not only is there a wide range of body colours to choose from, you can also add various combinations of coloured highlights, alloy wheels and roof bars to make your Cactus very much your car.
Inside, though, the 2018 update brought in far less change, and the slick, minimalist dashboard, free-standing touchscreen infotainment system and upwards-opening glovebox make it feel more special than most small family cars. You even get seats with a special foam filling that Citroen claims makes then more comfortable than ever.
As a result, you’ll have no trouble getting comfy, and the Citroen C4 Cactus’ relatively high roof means you get plenty of headroom – even if you’re very tall. The rear seat is wide enough for three adults to sit side-by-side without fighting over elbow room, but anyone over six feet tall will find the headroom tight, especially if you fit the optional panoramic sunroof.
The Citroen C4 Cactus can carry a reasonable amount of luggage, too, but its high boot lip does make loading very heavy items more difficult than in other family cars. Thankfully, there’s still space in the boot for a baby buggy and you can fit in a bike once you’ve folded the back seats down, although they don’t sit completely flat.
The C4 Cactus’ name might suggest it’s some kind of prickly desert-bound off-roader but in fact it’s a comfortable and economical two-wheel-drive family car
If you plan on regularly filling the rear seats and boot – or doing plenty of long journeys – you should consider a diesel engine. The BlueHDi model will have no trouble pulling you and four friends up a steep hill and it’s fast enough to keep up with motorway traffic.
Spend more time driving in town? Then, pick a petrol engine instead. The mid-range 110hp unit gives the best balance of performance and running costs, but you should avoid the cheaper 82hp version, which simply isn’t quick enough.
Whichever engine you pick, the Citroen C4 Cactus will be comfortable to drive. Other than the most basic Feel Edition, every model comes with a clever suspension system that helps it iron out potholes better than almost any other small car. You also get thick glass in the windows and windscreen to help keep down wind noise at speed.
The car is also pretty relaxing to drive around town. Its raised ride height gives you a good view out and the fairly light controls help you fight your way through traffic and squeeze into tight parking spaces without breaking into a sweat.
Despite what you may think, though, no Cactus comes with the option of four-wheel drive. If you do need to take your Citroen C4 Cactus away from Tarmac, consider the optional Grip Control system – an advanced traction control system that comes with all-season tyres and gives the car some degree of ability off-road.
Pick a top-spec Flair model and you’ll also get all the latest high-tech equipment to keep you safe, including automatic emergency city braking that’ll help stop the car quickly if it senses an obstacle ahead.
All in all, this makes the Citroen C4 Cactus a well-rounded family car that’s certainly worth a look if you want to stand out from the crowd without sacrificing everyday practicality.
There’s loads of room in the front, but things are much tighter in the rear seats and boot
You can’t avoid various signs of cost-cutting around the Cactus, like the bare metal that you see every time you put something in the boot
There’s no shortage of space in the front of the Citroen C4 Cactus, and one of the car’s best features is one you can’t see. Hidden away under the upholstery is some extra-dense foam, so the seats are more comfortable and supportive than you’ll find in any alternative.
Things aren’t quite as good in the back, especially if you go for a model with the panoramic sunroof. It means that headroom is a bit tight, and anyone over six feet tall will struggle to get comfy.
At least, the kneeroom isn’t too bad and the seat is comfortable; and, because the seat itself is pretty flat, it’s not too bad for anyone sitting in the centre position when you have three across the bench.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that, even on the highest trim, the windows in the rear doors don’t slide down. Instead, Citroen has decided to save a bit of weight by just having windows that pop out, so you can’t get as much fresh air in as you could with wind-down windows.
Yes, the Citroen C4 Cactus has some pretty avant-garde design, but the designers haven’t forgotten to include plenty of everyday usability. The door bins in the front are big enough to take a bottle, there’s a small cubby by the driver’s knee, and not only is the glovebox big, the way the lid lifts up also makes it easy to get things in and out.
The only issue is that the cupholders are shallow, which means that they don’t hold a drink in place very effectively. And, that’s a surprise, given that the designers’ attention to detail extends as far as the rear door handles being incorporated into storage areas, while the rear door bins are also pretty large.
This is one of the Citroen C4 Cactus’ weak points, as not only is its boot smaller than in some alternatives, it’s also not very easy to use.
With a capacity of 358 litres, it’s about the same size as you’ll get in a Nissan Juke, but much smaller than in a Renault Captur or small family cars like the Hyundai i30. To make matters worse, there’s a huge lip to lift things over; and, although the rear seats are split 60/40 and fold down so that you can extend that space, they don’t sit completely flat, which makes it awkward when you’re trying to push bigger items all the way in.
There are some tethering points set into the floor, but they’re attached to a flimsy piece of trim in the floor. And, while it doesn’t affect the practicality, it’s unpleasant to see so much bare metal when you look into the boot.
The super-soft suspension makes the Citroen C4 Cactus incredibly comfortable, and although the body does lean quite a bit, you can still have fun driving the car
The mid-range PureTech 110 engine will be the ideal choice for most people
There are three 1.2-litre petrol engines to choose from when you buy a Citroen C4 Cactus, but avoid the most basic PureTech 82. Not only is it not quick enough – Citroen quotes a decidedly leisurely 0-62mph time of 13.1 seconds – and it is the only one that doesn’t come with the Progressive Hydraulic Cushions in the suspension, which make the car so comfortable.
The PureTech 130 at the top of the range is pretty nippy, but most people will be happy to make do with the mid-range PureTech 110 engine. WIth a 0-62mph time of 9.4 seconds, it’s plenty quick enough around town and will cruise comfortably on the motorway.
According to Citroen’s claims, it should return 65.7mpg, but you’re more likely to see economy in the 50s in everyday use. Whatever you get, though, this engine will be cheaper to run than the more powerful PureTech 130.
If you do a lot of motorway driving or have a high mileage, then it’s worth considering the 1.6-litre diesel. With claimed economy of 83.1mpg, it’s comfortably the most economical engine in the range, although it’s expensive to buy and not as quiet as the petrol engines.
One of the highlights of the Citroen C4 Cactus is the super-comfortable suspension that’s fitted to every model except the most basic Feel Edition version. Effectively, it’s like having an extra cushion in the suspension, allowing you to ‘float’ up the road; but, when you hit a bigger bump or pothole, that extra cushion takes the sting out of it.
It might sound complicated, but it really works and the Citroen C4 Cactus is more comfortable than any of its alternatives – although some of the credit must also go to the super-soft seats.
The Citroen C4 Cactus is certainly easy and comfy around town, helped by the soft suspension and light steering, but the blindspots – particularly through the small rear window – might be an issue.
Out of town, you’ll notice a fair amount of body roll, and there are times you feel as if you’re about to topple over. But, somehow, the car just grips and goes, and you can have a hoot driving the Citroen C4 Cactus.
That’s despite the fact that some of the controls aren’t perfect: the steering feels like it’s connected to the front wheels by a rubber band, for example, and the brakes are super-sensitive. You only have to brush the pedal and you’re head-butting the steering wheel.
On the other hand, the Cactus should be pretty safe. It scored four stars in Euro NCAP crash tests back in 2014, but you should note that, if you want the full safety package, you have to go for the most expensive Flair trim. That gives you Lane Departure Warning, Driver Attention Alert and the Active Safety Brake system, which can automatically apply the brakes to either avoid or minimise the effects of an accident.
All the style of the previous model has been retained, but it’s more comfortable than ever