By: Dave Abrahams
Johannesburg - If there is one French carmaker that's not afraid to be different, it's Citroën.
The sleek DS19 that wowed Paris in October 1955 was so far ahead of its time it still doesn't look dated. And while the C4 Cactus, launched in South Africa this week, may not be quite as radical, it certainly is different, with its pugnacious front fascia and bubble-wrap protective strips on the doors.
Those are actually resilient polyurethane mouldings with built-in air pockets that protect against car-park dings; the standard colour is black but, unlike a Model T, you can have them in grey, tan or brown as aftermarket accessories.
Underneath the quirky looks, however, is the most versatile C-segment hatch PSA could fit into a box 4160mm long, 1730mm wide and 1480mm high. The wheels have been pushed as far out towards the corners as possible, stretching the wheelbase to 2600mm for increased cabin space while the passenger-side front airbag has been moved from the dashboard to the headliner to provide convenient extra storage.
The fully digital instrumentation is based around a seven-inch colour touchscreen at the top of the centre stack, with another digital display for the nuts-and-bolts stuff in front of the driver.
TWO TRIM LEVELS
The South African Cactus comes in two flavours - Feel and Shine - but even the base Feel variant boasts aircon, a four-speaker audio system with tuner and MP3 playback, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, power front windows and side-mirror adjustment and multifunction steering wheel.
Also standard are tyre pressure monitoring, a full-sized spare, electronic child locks, remote central locking and front seat belt pre-tensioners.
The Shine versions add auto aircon, satnav, hill hold, a reverse camera, upgraded audio, auto headlights and wipers, front foglights, tinted glass, and mood lighting for the cabin.
All Cacti have 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engines driving the front wheels via a five-speed manaual 'box; you can cop a Feel with either a 60kW/118Nm naturally-aspirated mill, or a turbocharged 81kW/205Nm e-THP prime mover.
You can only get a Shine with the 81kW turbonator, however.
Surprisingly, their fuel-consumption ratings are almost identical: 4.7 litres per 100km with the hairdryer, 4.6 without it.
1.2 PureTech 60kW Feel - R224 900
1.2 PureTech 81kW Turbo e-THP Feel - R259 900
1.2 PureTech 81kW Turbo e-THP Shine - R284 900
These include a three-year or 100 000km warranty, a five-year or 100 000km service plan with the option of a five-year or 100 000km warranty extension. Services are at 15 000km intervals.