A French revolution has been taking place at Citroen for the previous few years. For a very long time Citroen’s well-known eccentric tackle styling had been shunned for conformity, however it all modified with the C4 Cactus.
This was a funky-looking quasi-SUV with an fascinating inside and mad air-filled plastic squares on the doorways, referred to as Airbumps. In a single fell swoop the C4 Cactus confirmed precisely the place Citroen was going and uncovered the common C4 hatchback as dreadfully uninteresting.
Nonetheless, the C4 Cactus has been on sale for almost 4 years now, so Citroen has determined it’s excessive time to provide it up an replace – however as updates go, that is fairly a giant one.
Unusually for a mid-life facelift, it’s not a case of fancy new wheels and totally different trim colors, however the brand new Cactus is one other signal of Citroen returning to its model values and attempting to makes its automobiles stand out. With automobiles just like the Traction Avant, 2CV and DS, Citroen rubber-stamped the concept it was a builder of comfy automobiles. However through the years Citroen moved away from this USP.
The brand new Cactus, Citroen says, is a return to these days. Because it’s a mid-life replace and never a model new mannequin, it nonetheless makes use of the comparatively aged Peugeot 208/DS three platform, however there’s a brand new sort of suspension. It’s not as revolutionary as the unique Citroen DS’s hydropneumatic system of 1955 however it’s nonetheless fairly radical in contrast with the automobiles the Cactus rivals. It’s known as Progressive Hydraulic Cushion (PHC) suspension and it provides a pair of hydraulic dampers into every suspension nook. In so doing, it replaces the rubber bump stops used on most automobiles of this kind, together with the outgoing C4 Cactus.
Put merely, as a result of the dampers cushion the wheel journey on the high and on the backside of the coil suspension unit, Citroen has been capable of match softer springs and dampers. In so doing, a ‘Magic Carpet Trip’ feeling has been achieved, says the agency.
It’s a daring declare however it appears – on clean French roads no less than – that Citroen is telling the reality. The suspension does its greatest work on undulating roads – the wheels keep on with the street whereas the physique is nicely suspended; it’s prefer it floats from crest to crest. With such a smooth set-up you’d presume there can be fairly a little bit of bounce between compressions however once more, the Cactus impresses and it appears to drift alongside nicely. Even laborious cornering fails to disrupt the automotive’s composure; certain, there’s fairly a little bit of physique roll however it’s properly composed and unflustered.
Our take a look at automotive was a range-topping Aptitude with a 1.2-litre 128bhp three-cylinder petrol engine. It’s a brand new engine for the Cactus however it has been utilized in quite a lot of Peugeots, Citroens and DS fashions for a while, and identical to in these automobiles, it’s a great engine. It delivers a great quantity of poke low down within the rev vary and it feels as quick because the eight.2-second Zero-62mph dash time. There’s that particular three-cylinder thrum underneath laborious acceleration however it’s by no means coarse and settles all the way down to a barely audible degree when cruising.
The six-speed gearbox is much extra pleasurable to make use of with this engine in contrast with different Cactus fashions; the gear knob feels extra substantial than earlier than, and the shift motion is best too, because of a shorter throw. Consider well-weighted and correct steering and the Cactus feels barely extra enjoyable and an entire lot extra refined than earlier than.
We suspect the PureTech 110 would be the choose of the vary within the UK, although for diesel patrons there’s just one selection – a 1.6-litre BlueHDi with a six-speed handbook gearbox. As earlier than, there’s no four-wheel drive – simply Peugeot Citroen’s Grip Management, which alters the traction management system relying on terrain.
Till Might, Citroen is providing the brand new Cactus with an 81bhp 1.2-litre petrol in a particular Really feel Version trim for £17,265, however it’s greatest prevented. Not solely is the engine bereft of a turbo and consequently slightly breathless, it additionally does with out the PHC suspension that’s normal throughout the remainder of the vary. From Might onwards, the PureTech 110 in Really feel trim would be the entry-point, at a whisker underneath £18,000.
It’s not simply the suspension that Citroen has performed round with but additionally the seats. In a small throwback to the unique DS, the seats have been designed to be large squashy sofas and make for a welcome aid from the small SUV class norm.
Elsewhere, the inside is equivalent to the outdated C4 Cactus’s – so there’s a smattering of soft-touch plastics however slightly too many scratchy surfaces in too many locations. The design stays pleasingly totally different and the overwhelming majority of features are managed by way of the standard-fit seven-inch infotainment system. That additionally means the key controls just like the local weather management aren’t simply reached and are accessed by way of menus slightly bodily knobs and buttons, which is harder to make use of than it actually must be.
Inside house stays the identical, naturally, with ample house within the again and a class-average boot (358 litres with the seats in place and 1,170 litres with them folded), however it’s a disgrace to see the pop-out rear home windows of the outdated Cactus have been carried over to the brand new one.
On the surface Citroen has really toned down the wacky seems to be and as an alternative plumped for one thing somewhat extra conservative. The rear has bigger, horizontal lights, however the large change is to the Airbumps. On the outdated Cactus they have been like giant slabs of Dairy Milk chocolate however consistent with the C3 hatchback, C3 Aircross and forthcoming C5 Aircross SUV, there’s solely a small row of bumps alongside the underside of the doorways. Worse nonetheless, the colourful color palette of the outdated Cactus has made approach for a slightly boring choice of greys, blacks, whites and one brilliant pink.
Citroen says this extra grown-up look will distance the Cactus from its Aircross SUV vary and can align the Cactus with the following C4 hatchback, however we worry that the mannequin has misplaced somewhat of its quirky appeal. However the actuality is whereas it has undoubtedly grown up, the brand new suspension and seats make the automotive extra interesting on a sensible slightly than a subjective degree. And whereas a number of the wackiness has gone, there’s nonetheless sufficient of the outdated automotive’s interesting character nonetheless right here, together with the additional advantage of extra consolation and refinement.