Citroen C4 Cactus (2014-2017) review
The Citroen C4 Cactus is a small crossover that has funky styling and impressive fuel efficiency.
What's not so good
Find out more about the Citroen C4 Cactus (2014-2017)
The Cactus’s interior is equally unconventional as the exterior with designer details including leather straps instead of door handles and a digital display. 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 drives far from pin-sharp. However, it’s not bad to drive and the lightness of the car helps it feel nimble. Big bumps are hardly felt thanks to the soft suspension, but a fast series of corners can make the car feel a bit like a boat.
The Cactus can be equipped with a range of engines, but the 1.2-litre petrol that is both quick enough for city traffic and cheap to run makes the most sense. The diesels are very frugal, but only worth the premium if you travel long distance frequently.
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 but makes the Cactus too pricey. However, many will find the basic Touch trim a bit too basic – it has cruise control, electric windows, DAB digital radio and remote central locking but no air conditioning so you’re better off going for the mid-range Feel trim.
The Cactus is a unique small crossover and a comfy ride
For its price, you need to approach the Cactus with managed expectations. 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 a large part of 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.
The Cactus isn’t as spiky and edgy to drive as it sounds, but you can indeed have fun behind the wheel.
The Cactus prioritises comfort over sporty handling and does a fine job of it
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, but you’ll rarely see that if you drive mainly in town or with a loaded car.
There are also 74hp and 81hp petrol units, but they feel underpowered compared to the high-tech range-topper and aren’t much cheaper to run.
The 1.6-litre diesel offers fuel economy of 83.1mpg, but it’s more expensive to buy than the 109hp petrol and doesn’t feel as eager to accelerate. It’s also quite vocal on acceleration which is at odds with the rest of the driving experience which is quite hushed overall.
If you order a Cactus with a manual gearbox then you’ll have to suffer a cheap-feeling gear knob and incredible amounts of slack, while the automated manual isn’t a better alternative to the sloppy manual and that should say enough.
The Cactus is pretty light – low-spec petrol-engined cars weigh around 1,000kg and that results in some impressive fuel economy. What the low weight should also do is make the Citroen go into corners more easily and feel more agile than the competition as a result. However, the soft suspension fitted to the Cactus and the vague controls make spirited driving all but impossible.
That is not to say you can’t have fun behind the wheel. In a nostalgic way, the Cactus wallows around corners on skinny tyres just as Citroens of old did and you can have a pretty good time blasting through country lanes, rarely breaking the speed limit, but breaking the traction limit pretty frequently.
Like the stunning outside, the interior is markedly different from the usual family car fare – it looks like a stylish Parisienne boutique.