All the style of the previous model has been retained, but it’s more comfortable than ever
If you’re disappointed that Citroen’s designers have toned down the exterior of the Cactus as part of the latest update, you’ll be delighted that pretty much nothing has changed inside. Look around, and you’ll see all manner of neat and cool features, like the straps that you use to pull the doors shut instead of regular door handles.
Then there are more luggage-style straps on top of the glovebox, but these retro features are complemented by some properly 21st-century gadgets, like the digital speedo and free-standing infotainment screen in the centre of the dashboard. The whole thing may sound like an awful clash of styles, but somehow it works. The abiding impression is that the designers have been given freedom to indulge themselves – and it’s all the better for it.
To cap it all, just as you can personalise the exterior, you can do something similar in the cabin by picking from various ‘ambiance’ packs. These affect things like the colour of the dash, the materials used and the upholstery on the seats. And, if you want to see the cabin in all its glory, bathed in light, consider a model with the panoramic sunroof.
Citroen has used some nice soft-touch plastics, too – particularly on the top of the dashboard – but you don’t have to look too far to see evidence of cost-cutting. The scratchy plastics on top of doors and on the bottom of centre console are particularly nasty, while the Start button is also in a rather awkward position and there’s only one air vent for the front-seat passenger.
The infotainment screen looks great, but it’s too much of a faff to use. And, why on earth do you have to use it to adjust the temperature?
From the driver’s point of view, the cabin is dominated by the two digital screens, and the infotainment system is controlled by the central touch-screen that sits on the top of the dashboard. It certainly gives the cabin a high-tech feel, especially as every model comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, allowing you to control several of your phone’s apps through the screen.
Trouble is, it’s not a very good system to use. In particular, it’s slow to operate, so you’re not always sure if you’ve pressed the right button successfully. There are times you can feel like you’re frantically prodding away at the screen like a woodpecker tapping at a tree.
To make matters worse, the shelf for your phone isn’t big enough for today’s biggest smartphones, and you have to control the air-conditioning system through the screen, as there are no separate controls for it. Yes, that means the dashboard is a lovely, uncluttered design, but it also means that apparently simple jobs like adjusting the cabin temperature or fan speed can take a frustratingly large number of presses on the screen.