Citroen C4 Cactus

A comfortable and quirky small crossover

7.6
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 11 reviews
  • Cutting-edge on the outside…
  • … comfy and smart inside
  • Very economical
  • Some cheap interior plastics
  • Rear occupants get raw deal
  • Not exciting to drive
 

£13,260 - £20,765 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

61 - 83 MPG

Review

The Citroen C4 Cactus is a small crossover that has funky styling and impressive fuel efficiency.

It’s main rivals are the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Suzuki SX4 S-Cross. More conventional looking SUVs such as the Skoda Yeti and Dacia Duster are also worthy alternatives.

It costs from £13,260 and if you buy your new C4 Cactus using carwow you can save £3,680 on average.

The Cactus’s interior is equally unconventional as the exterior with designer details including leather straps instead of door handles and a digital display. Material quality is good and there are lots of personalisation options, but this being a cheap crossover, there are still some hard plastics to be found. There is reasonable passenger space, although because the rear windows don’t wind down, some might find it a bit claustrophobic in the back on longer journeys.

Despite what the name suggests, the Cactus has quite a cushy ride and the handling is far from pin-sharp. However, critics agree it’s not bad to drive and the lightness of the car helps it feel nimble and agile. Big bumps are hardly felt thanks to the soft suspension, but smaller potholes can unsettle the car.

The Cactus can be equipped with a range of engines, but the most recommended by reviewers is the 1.2-litre petrol that is both quick enough for city traffic and cheap to run. The diesels are very frugal, but only worth the premium if you travel long distance frequently. The automated manual gearbox is unloved by testers – they recommend sticking to manual.

Unsurprisingly, the best equipped trim is the top of the range Flair – it comes with essential city driving kit such as sat nav and a reversing camera. However, many will find the basic Touch trim is enough for their needs – it has cruise control, electric windows, DAB digital radio and remote central locking.

Have a look at our handy colours and dimensions guides to see if the Cactus will fit in your life. Citroen released a special edition Cactus in collaboration with Rip Curl in 2016 which gets unique body stickers and special off-road-biased stability control.

Cheapest to buy: 1.2-litre 75 Touch petrol

Cheapest to run: 1.6-litre 100 Feel diesel

Fastest model: 1.2-litre 110 Flair petrol

Most popular: 1.6-litre 100 Flair diesel

Like the stunning outside, the interior is markedly different from the usual family car fare – it looks like a stylish Parisienne boutique, and Citroen says its aim was to create a relaxing driving atmosphere.

There are harder plastics that show where Citroen has saved production costs, but critics agree that the important areas are spot-on. There are leather door straps instead of plastic or metal handles, and you can specify a large glovebox that closes with suitcase-like straps. It feels like the designers have been given room to put their most unusual ideas into mass production – and it’s all the better for it.

Citroen C4 Cactus passenger space

The seats are supremely comfortable, the driver looks at digital (TFT) displays, and there’s a large iPad-like centre screen. As well as controlling the usual media and radio functions, you also need to use this screen to adjust the air-con temperature – this could be a bit more hassle than just twiddling a few dials, but it’s down to personal preference.

Unusually, you have a choice of five interior fabrics when ordering the Cactus, and you can order a bench-style front seat, which will still only seat a driver and a passenger, but adds a useful padded space between the two. A nice touch if you like to hold hands with your passenger while driving. It’s possibly a French thing!

Sit in the rear seats and you’ll see where most of the money has been saved. The rear bench folds as a single unit, so you can’t carry a rear-seat passenger and have a load poking through from the boot as in cars that have a 60/40 splitting rear seat. On a similar note, the rear windows don’t wind down – they use distinctly old-school pop-open mechanisms, which could leave you feeling claustrophobic on long trips in the back.

Citroen C4 Cactus boot space

With a capacity of 358-litres, the boot is a bit smaller than in a Volkswagen Golf, but is marginally larger than the Nissan Juke’s 352-litre boot. When you fold the rear bench, the 1,170 litres of storage space available is just behind the 1,189 litres the Juke offers.

The Cactus isn’t as spiky and edgy to drive as it sounds, but it critics agree it handles well, if not excitingly. Some reviewers complained about an excess of body roll as you go around corners, but the soft suspension means you won’t notice big bumps. Short, sharp bumps do tend to make their presence felt, so the ride over potholes isn’t as good as it could be.

Critics praise the Cactus for its weight – or lack of it. At just 1,020kg for some of the lighter petrol models, it’s a pleasant change from many heavier cars in the same class.

 

Citroen has given the Cactus just one diesel engine, but as running costs for the three petrol models are so low that’s unlikely to push potential buyers towards a competitor.

Citroen C4 Cactus petrol engines

The star of the show here is the 109hp, 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, which sounds pleasant and pulls the Cactus’ light body along nicely. It’s claimed to get fuel economy of 61.4mpg, which most critics seem to think is entirely possible without driving like a saint.

There are also 74hp and 81hp petrol units, but they’re slow compared to the high-tech range-topper and not much cheaper to run.

Citroen C4 Cactus diesel engines

The 1.6-litre diesel offers fuel economy of 83.1mpg and is free to tax, but it’s more expensive to buy and doesn’t feel as eager to accelerate as the 109hp petrol.

If you order a Cactus with a manual gearbox then you’ll have to suffer a cheap-feeling gearknob, while the automated manual gearbox alternative doesn’t win a lot of praise from critics.

Review coming soon...
Review coming soon...
Review coming soon...
Review coming soon...
These are general, non engine-specific reviews of the Citroen C4 Cactus. They give you a good idea of what the car is like without going into detail on one particular engine or trim level.

The Cactus is  fitted with the world’s first roof-mounted airbag for the front passenger, although it’s there to offer more space rather than any safety advantages. Its one of six airbags in total that should help to cushion passengers in the event of an accident.  The car’s standard cruise control also features a speed limiter and the stability control system should stop minor slides turning into full-blown accidents.

Mostly because of the lack of an automatic braking system, the Cactus was awarded four (rather than five) stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP. Although, that’s a star off the Juke’s score, the Nissan was evaluated in 2011, when NCAP’s test conditions weren’t as harsh.

Citroen has packed the Cactus with a decent amount of equipment even in the lowliest Touch trim level. The other two versions are called Feel and Flair.

Citroen C4 Cactus Touch

If you’ve owned a normal hatchback for the past few years, the only items you’re likely to miss in the Cactus are rear windows that wind down. Aside from that you get kit such as a seven-inch touchscreen, LED daytime running lights, cruise control and a DAB digital radio, although alloy wheels are an option that really should be standard on the trendy Citroen and you also have to do without air conditioning.

Citroen C4 Cactus Feel

Feel models add alloy wheels and also get smart looking gloss black exterior trim and shiny black roof rails. Air conditioning is a less obvious addition, but potentially a more welcome one, as is a handsfree bluetooth connection for your phone.

Citroen Cactus Flair

Flair is the top-of-the-range trim, but comes with a heap of useful extras that make it the most distinctive looking Cactus, and the easiest to live with. The former of those points is dealt with thanks to 17-inch alloy wheels (replacing the 16-inch versions on Feel models) and tinted rear windows. While the sat-nav system makes it easy to find your destination and the reversing camera should make backing into your parking space simple enough on arrival, too.

Conclusion

For this price of car, the Cactus is something of a revelation. Few in the class can match  its eye-catching looks and the car’s paired down design has allowed the company to rein in running costs to be some of the best in class.

The driving experience might leave a little to be desired if you’re an enthusiast, but for most the Citroen will be good enough, despite its noticeable body roll and light steering. What the Citroen is good at is being comfortable thanks to its soft suspension and an interior that’s stylish and spacious compared to rivals.

The Cactus may be a cheap-to-buy family car, but its exterior and interior styling make it feel genuinely special – for us that makes it one of the picks in a class not well known for its charisma.

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