Citroen C4 Cactus

Citroen C4 Cactus at The Black Mountains lr

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By Tim Saunders

Not much can harm a cactus. And it is this fact that has been used to full advantage in the car of the same name by Citroen. It is absolutely unique because it incorporates clever air pockets on its doors. Why? Have you ever been thoroughly fed up on returning to your car in a car park to find a dent in the door? That’s not going to happen again with the Citroen Cactus because any door daring to touch the plastic air pouch will simply rebound like a bouncing ball. What a great idea. It doesn’t look half bad either.

This is a vehicle that has been designed with fun and practicality in mind for the active family. Its roof bars will allow for kayaks or roofboxes while the high ground clearance enables sensible off-roading up gravel paths or farmland within reason. It looks great and it’s different to everything else on the road. If you’re looking to make your own path in life and not follow the crowd then this is a vehicle you are sure to embrace. I like the copious amounts of black plastic that contrast nicely with the Mr Bean yellow. It feels like anything can be thrown at the Cactus and it will tackle it.

There are a few niggles for me, though. The biggest is the underpowered diesel engine, which becomes apparent during a trek to Herefordshire where there are a vast amount of hills and many narrow roads. Straight motorway jaunts aren’t a problem for the Cactus and the cruise control makes life easy but throw a few hills into the mix and there is a lot of gear changing. Which means that the fold down centre armrest in the front gets in the way and needs pushing up. At one point a hill is so steep that I cannot actually see over the bonnet and there is no way on earth that the Citroen is going to tackle it in second, much as I try. As the engine threatens to stall I change into first.

Then there is the satellite navigation system, which is fraught with mistakes. The biggest of which is that it fails to acknowledge Monmouth. I’d be pretty fed up if I lived in Monmouth because it deserves to be featured. Then there are the countless u-turns the system demands that we do when travelling to various places between Hereford and Wales. It is a system that cannot be relied upon. When it commands you to make a turn the system states that there are still 20 or 30yds left before making that turn, which throws doubt into the driver’s mind and regularly sees me over shooting the mark. Give me a proper map any day!

The driver’s seat could do with a little more padding especially on a long journey.

Other goodies include electric front windows and flip out rear windows which are good for the children although they have to be careful not to get their hands caught. In Abergavenny I spy a parking space and hit the park assist switch. It is only after a bit more assessment that I realise the space isn’t large enough for the Cactus. I’m unsure of what the system will do and quickly hit the switch and take control again as I see it getting a little too close to the car behind for my liking. I assume that if the space had been large enough the system would have tackled this parking manoeuvre successfully. It does beg the question: ‘Do we rely too much on technology?’ Parallel parking was only introduced into the driving test in the 1990s and it is a valuable skill to learn. For me parking assist is like using a calculator to add up. It fuels mediocrity and incompetence. Although I am sure that the driver I witnessed trying to parallel park in Gosport a few months ago would appreciate this; they tried to reverse into a reasonably sized parking space at least 20 times in as many minutes. It really was painful to watch.

Overall the fun loving Citroen Cactus is an eye-catching family car that has a surprisingly large boot.

Facts at a glance
 
Citroen Cactus Feel BlueHDi 100
New price: around £16,000
Engine: 1.6-litre, diesel
0-60mph: 10.7secs
Top speed: 114mph
Economy: 60mpg
Power: 100bhp
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