Driven: Citroen's quirky Cactus
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By: Denis Droppa
Johannesburg - Trendy French brand Citroën has unveiled its latest car for fashionistas and people of a vive la différence persuasion.
The C4 hatchback range has been ditched in South Africa and replaced by the new C4 Cactus – voted the 2015 World Car Design of the Year – which has competitors like the Ford Ecosport, Nissan Juke and Kia Soul in its sights.
Although it’s pitched as a crossover vehicle the imported French car has no offroad ability whatsoever; it has a regular ground clearance and only front-wheel drive. But the Cactus does have the requisite roof rails and some plastic body “armour” to give it a rugged adventurer look. Along with black mouldings on the wheel arches, its main party trick is those distinctive Airbumps on the doors. Made of a stiff plastic surface with a softer layer underneath, they’re more than cosmetic accroutements; these cushioned panels offer protection against parking lot knocks and scratches caused by wayward shopping trollies and carelessly-opened car doors. They also prevent body damage in minor collisions at speeds under 4km/h.
Black is the standard colour for the Airbumps but customers can optionally order them in grey, dune or chocolate.
PEPPY TURBO POWER
In South Africa, the C4 Cactus is offered with a choice of two 1.2-litre petrol turbo engines: a normally-aspirated version with outputs of 60kW/118Nm, and a turbocharged derivative with a little more clout at 81kW/205Nm – both three-cylinder units. It was the turbo I drove on last week’s media launch and it surprised with its peppy pace.
The turbocharger, along with the car’s super-light kerb weight of just 1 020 kg, bring the life out of that little engine and Citroën quotes a useful 188km/h top speed and 0-100km/h in 9.3 seconds. The small engine doesn’t feel strained and goes about its business in a fairly quiet fashion, and the car’s general noise levels aren’t nearly as loud as its styling.
The 1.2 turbo’s also claimed to run on the whiff of an oil rag, with a claimed town/freeway fuel consumption of just 4.7 litres per 100km. The normally-aspirated 1.2 is good for a 167km/h top speed, 0-100 in 14.5 seconds, and 4.6 l/100km, says the factory.
A five-speed manual is the only transmission on offer in the range.
USEFUL FAMILY CAR
With its funky styling and model names like “Feel” and “Shine”, Citroën is clearly pitching this bubble-wrapped car as the antithesis of a stolid commuter, but it isn’t merely a fashion parade on wheels. It’s a pretty useful family car with a spacious cabin that will happily swallow four adults and it has a fairly generous 358 litre boot.
The interior’s dominated by black plastic but is dressed-up with touches like “dimples” on the dashboard and strap-like doorhandles to make it more interesting. Infotainment and ventilation functions are handled by a 7” touchscreen which I found particularly easy to use. In front of the driver is an all-digital instrument panel with a speedometer and fuel gauge but notably no rev counter.
Spec levels are high too and all three C4 Cactus models come standard with cruise control, trip computer, front electric windows, aircon, and a radio/MP3 player with Bluetooth and aux/usb connections, among other gizmos.
The flagship 1.2 Turbo Shine in addition gets knick-knacks like hill-start assist, front fog lights with cornering function, heated door mirrors, automatic lights and winscreen wipers, automatic aircon, and satellite navigation.
It’s also stuffed with safety, and standard across the C4 Cactus line-up are six airbags, ABS brakes, electronic stability control, and tyre-pressure monitors. The windscreen wipers have built-in washers, a system said to give improved visibility.
Citroën SA will deliver the car to your home or office for a test-drive as part of its We Come To You promotion.
C4 CACTUS PRICES
1.2 Feel - R224 900
1.2T Feel - R259 900
1.2T Shine - R284 900
Prices include a three-year/100 000 km warranty, a five-year/100 000 km service plan, as well as roadside assistance. There is an option to upgrade to the freeDrive or five-year/100 000 km warranty extension.