Citroen C4 Cactus SUV
Price £12,990 - £20,135
- Comfortable ride
- Distinctive styling
- Low running costs
- Rear windows don’t go down
- Suspect interior quality
- Not great fun to drive
At a glance
“If you’re after a quirkily-styled small family hatchback that’s spacious, comfortable and above all cheap to run, then the Citroen C4 Cactus could well be for you.”
Is the Citroen C4 Cactus an SUV, a hatchback, or a mixture of the two? Well, we’ll leave the final classification up to you, but one thing's for certain and that's that the C4 Cactus tries (and succeeds) to do the whole ‘small family car’ thing a little differently to any of its rivals.
But what are its rivals? Well, they range from cars like the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul, to more traditional family hatchbacks like the Ford Focus and Skoda Octavia. Indeed, given the chic, quirky and elegant nature of the Cactus, you could even argue it targets some of the same customers as the MINI hatchback and Fiat 500 – although offering significantly more practicality than either of those models.
Outside is where the C4 Cactus really marks itself out from the opposition, however. Combine those SUV proportions and slightly raised ride height with LED daytime running lights sitting above the main headlights and you’ve got a very distinctive-looking car. Add the contrasting ‘Airbumps’ (replaceable, removable plastic panels down the sides to protect against those irritating car park dings) and it's unlikely you’ll forget where you parked your Cactus. Re-enforcing the SUV-esque exterior is black plastic cladding around the wheelarches and the bottom of the car, as well as the addition of roof rails.
Despite the Cactus’ rugged appearance, four-wheel drive isn’t an option. All models are front-wheel-drive only in an effort to save weight (it's 200kg lighter than the equivalent Citroen C4 hatchback) and therefore improve fuel efficiency. So you shouldn’t take the rough, tough exterior as an invitation to go on off-road expeditions. Indeed, this car isn’t suited to anything too adventurous, driving-wise. It's been designed very much with comfort rather than sportiness in mind. Take a corner at anything above a gentle pace and you’ll be experience some very vague steering and an awful lot of body lean. The Cactus rewards gentle driving with soothing comfort and infrequent trips to the fuel station.
Under the bonnet, you’ve got a choice of three petrols and one diesel, all of which should prove pretty cheap to run. Unsurprisingly, the 1.6-litre diesel returns the best fuel economy and lowest tax liability. It's good for around 91mpg and has CO2 emissions of just 82g/km, making it exempt from road tax. You’ll only be liable for 18% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax contributions, too.
Petrol fans can choose between 74, 81 and 109bhp versions of the same 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine. The most powerful is our favourite, offering decent punch to go with its impressive economy and emissions figures. It should be able to return nearly 66mpg, while CO2 emissions of just 100g/km means it’ll only cost you £20 a year to tax.
Of the three trim levels – Touch, Feel and Flair – our favourite is the mid-range Feel. This gets everything entry-level Cactus gets, which means cruise control, DAB radio, a touchscreen infotainment system and electric front windows, but adds niceties like air-conditioning, alloy wheels, some leather trim and Bluetooth connectivity. Some might be disappointed to find that no Cactus has rear windows that can be opened fully, as they’re hinged rather than electric or wind-down. This was done to reduce weight and complexity, thus keeping a lid on costs.
While simplicity is often considered a virtue – and for good reasons – the Cactus’ basic nature could be seen as a failing. This is because a dearth of electronic driver aids and active safety systems played a major part in it only scoring four out of five stars when tested by the safety experts at Euro NCAP.
That's not to say it's an unsafe car, however, as it comes with all the mandatory kit you’d expect like stability control, anti-lock brakes, tyre-pressure monitoring and plenty of airbags, but some rivals come better equipped in this area.
The Citroen C4 Cactus can return over 80mpg, making it one of the most affordable non-hybrid cars around
The Citroen C4 Cactus is designed to be comfortable – something it does with aplomb
Even some cheap-feeling plastics can’t dent our love for the stylish interior design of the Citroen Cactus
The Citroen Cactus gets close to the Volkswagen Golf for space, but it’s much cheaper to buy
A tough 2014 test meant the Citroen Cactus received four out of five stars from Euro NCAP, but it’s fundamentally a safe car