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Citroen C4 Cactus SUV (2018 - ) review

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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.0

The main appeal of the C4 Cactus lies in its individuality, with styling – both inside and outside – that’s distinctly different to anything else on the road. It’s not the best car of its sort to drive, but it is reasonably practical, well equipped and comes with some really good petrol engines that are punchy, smooth and economical.

Pros

  • Distinctive styling
  • Pretty good for standard luxury kit
  • Well-suited engines

Cons

  • Cabin let down by some cheap plastics
  • Not brilliant to drive
  • Better safety systems not on lower trim level

Interested in buying a Citroen C4 Cactus?

How good does it look? 4/5

The main distinguishing feature on the Citroen C4 Cactus continues to be the ‘Airbumps’, air-filled rubber pockets running down the side of the car that not only look unconventional and cool, but that also protect your car from minor scrapes and bumps. However, while on the original Cactus, the Airbumps were arranged in one large, striking slab on the side doors, there’s now one small strip of them running along the bottom of the doors, meaning the effect has been toned down quite a lot. You still get the same unconventional split-level front lighting and compact rear haunches, though, so the Cactus still looks like nothing else on the road. The design might leave you guessing as to whether it’s a hatchback or an SUV, but either way, it’s certainly distinctive. Even entry-level Feel versions get alloy wheels, body-coloured door handles and gloss black mirror housings, while the posher Flair trim also gets bigger alloys and various chrome exterior elements.

What's the interior like? 2/5

The first thing you notice about the interior is the large, wide seats, which Citroen calls ‘Advanced Comfort’ seats. Unfortunately, we found that name to be rather optimistic. The cushions are very soft and not awfully supportive, meaning backache started to set in after an extended period at the wheel, despite the generous amount of adjustment. The rest of the interior has cool styling that’s as unconventional as the outside and no less eye-catching, but unfortunately, the quality of the materials isn’t nearly so dazzling as the way they’re presented. Same goes for the dashboard design. It looks cool, with very few buttons and a large touchscreen infotainment system (plus another screen behind the steering wheel instead of conventional instruments), but actually using the system is a pain because the menus are complex and illogical, while the screen is neither sensitive enough nor quick enough to react. Forward visibility isn’t bad, but the small rear window means a rather more hampered rear view.

How practical is it? 3/5

The Cactus isn’t the most practical car of its size or type, but it doesn’t do too bad a job. The space up-front is fine, and there’s enough headroom and legroom in the back for a pair of tall-ish adults to get comfy, even though carrying three back there would be a squeeze. Also, the rear windows only pop out rather than rolling down fully. There are big door bins in both the front and back of the cabin for stashing odds and ends, while the conventional glovebox is replaced by a ‘top box’ in front of the front passenger seats, which is easy to use. The boot is a decent 358 litres, and it has a large opening, but there is a considerable load lip to negotiate when loading heavy items. The rear seats fold down in a 60:40 split to boost your cargo space to 1170 litres (again, about normal for the class), but it does leave you with an uneven load area that’s both stepped and sloped.

What's it like to drive? 2/5

Citroen has given the C4 Cactus super-soft suspension in pursuit of a comfortable ride and, like some other Citroen models, it also uses hydraulics in the suspension to help smooth things out further. Unfortunately, this isn’t as successful as it is in, say, the C5 Aircross. Yes, it takes the sting out of small bumps and ripples, but the trouble is that this then sets the bodywork bouncing about in an untidy, uncontrolled manner. The bigger the bump, or the faster you go over it, the more pronounced this up-and-down movement becomes, and it’s not the most settled way to travel.

The soft suspension also means that the handling feels rather roly-poly in the bends, and the light, artificial-feeling steering doesn’t inspire much confidence, either. Having said that, though, at least this puts you off going too quickly around corners long before you run out of grip.

How powerful is it? 3/5

Petrol-powered Cacti come with turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder engines, delivering either 110- or 130 horsepower. Both feel punchier than their modest outputs suggest, unfurling their urge in an eager manner, and both suit the car well. The 110 comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard (which is a little notchy in truth), while the 130 unit comes specified with a six-speed automatic. Diesel buyers get a 1.5-litre engine with either 100 horsepower and a manual gearbox, or 120 horsepower and an auto’. However, we haven’t managed to try either yet.

How much will it cost me? 3/5

The Cactus isn’t the cheapest car of its type to buy by any stretch, but it sure isn’t the most expensive, either. Model-for-model, prices are slightly on the more expensive side of average, so it feels like decent – if not exceptional – value for money. Where the Citroen does come into its own, though, is on efficiency. Pretty much all versions post impressive official figures for fuel economy and emissions, and that’ll limit how much you pay at the pumps, and to the taxman. Resales are also reasonable, helping safeguard your investment if you’re a cash buyer, or helping keep monthly payments lower if you’re a finance customer.

How reliable is it? 3/5

Looking at the Warranty Direct Reliability Index, Citroen sits in the middle of the study’s manufacturer rankings. The last C4 Cactus had an above-average rating, and good user reliability rating. As with all new Citroen cars, the C4 Cactus is covered by a three-year warranty, the first two of which are unlimited mileage with the third year limited to 60,000 miles. Additionally, there is a three-year paint and 12-year anti-perforation warranty. Buyers also get a 12-month roadside assistance package that operates 24 hours a day and covers all the UK and Europe and includes a home-call service, replacement vehicle and even hotel accommodation and vehicle storage if required.

How safe is it? 3/5

The amount of safety kit you get depends entirely on which trim you choose. The entry-level Feel car comes with all the usual stuff – six airbags, two Isofix child seat mounting points and a suite of electronic traction and stability aids, but the really clever stuff doesn’t become standard until you step up to the range-topping Flair version. That includes automatic emergency braking (it’s especially disappointing that isn’t standard across the board), along with lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and attention alerts. The latest Cactus hasn’t yet faced Euro NCAP crash tests, but the previous one earned four stars when it was tested back in 2014. True, the latest car does have more safety kit fitted, but the tests and standards have also become a lot more stringent since then.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

The basic trim is called Feel and it comes with most of the basics, including cornering foglamps, cruise control, air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, electric front windows and the 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, digital radio and smartphone mirroring. Flair trim adds a hefty amount to the price, but in fairness, quite a bit to the equipment list. This includes automatic air-con, sat-nav, a reversing camera, a panoramic roof and automatic lights and wipers, on top of all that extra safety kit.

Why buy? 3/5

You’ll buy the Citroen C4 Cactus because you want to stand out from the crowd. Its quirky design - inside and out – means it doesn’t look quite like anything else on the road, and that gives it bags of character. It also comes well equipped and is available with some really good engines that are strong, smooth and economical. Choose wisely, and you’ll love it.

Interested in buying a Citroen C4 Cactus?