In-depth reviews

Citroën C4 Cactus hatchback review

"The Citroen C4 Cactus is an individual, practical and affordable family car with some well thought-out features like clever suspension to soak up bumps"

Carbuyer Rating

3.9 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.1 out of 5

Read owner reviews

Pros

  • Low running costs
  • Distinctive styling
  • Comfortable ride

Cons

  • Not great fun to drive
  • Suspect interior quality
  • Rear windows don’t go down

When it was launched back in 2014, the distinctive design of the Citroen C4 Cactus stunned the automotive world. Its unique ‘Airbumps’ in particular gave the car an individuality sorely lacking in many rivals. Although it’s based on the Citroen C4 hatchback, the Cactus has strong SUV overtones, which helped it steal sales from more conventionally styled models.

A refresh in 2017 saw tweaks to the C4 Cactus’ design, with the relocation of the Airbumps to the lower part of the doors the biggest change. There was a minor restyle of the front and rear of the car and significant improvements made to the car’s ride quality and refinement. Three trim options were previously available but that’s now down to just one single model: the high-spec Flair version.

Best small SUVs

The C4 Cactus features clever Progressive Hydraulic Cushion (PHC) suspension, which comes close to rekindling the much-vaunted 'magic carpet ride' of the classic Citroens of old, namely the DS and 2CV. This setup provides extra suspension damping for potholes and broken road surfaces, with the result that the car is remarkably free of shake and shudder. This high level of comfort is aided by Citroen’s latest 'advanced comfort' seats, which are fitted as standard.

Another key Cactus feature is its relatively low asking price – it undercuts many family hatchbacks and packs more features to boot. It's fairly cheap to run, too – particularly the remarkably economical 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel engine. This is claimed to return up to 63mpg thanks to stop-start technology. If you'd rather a petrol engine, the 1.2-litre PureTech with 108bhp cheaper to buy and still returns up to 51.5mpg.

Remarkably, given their impressive fuel economy, none of the Cactus' engines disappoint on the road. Even the least powerful is fine for around-town driving, where it pulls away from the lights sharply enough to handle urban traffic in a confident manner. However, if you make frequent long journeys or often encounter steep gradients, you may be happier with one of the more powerful options, which include the 128bhp petrol that can manage 0-62mph in just 8.6 seconds.

Although some Cactus versions are quite fast, none is especially exciting to drive. Instead, the emphasis is squarely on comfort, with light, easy steering that isn't exactly precise or rich with feedback. Passengers will love it, though, thanks to its smooth suspension and squidgy armchair-like seats.

The C4 Cactus range was reorganised in 2019 to consist of just the Origins and Flair models in response to demand for higher spec cars - but now only the latter exists, as the Origins was a special-edition model. Flair packs a lot of kit, including 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and windscreen wipers, automatic air-conditioning, cruise control, a reversing camera Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. What it doesn’t have, in common with all Cactus models, is fully opening rear windows. They only pop open outwards. Otherwise, inside the Cactus is a nice place to be, with refreshingly individual styling – although the materials feel a little flimsy in some places.

Our biggest reservation is Citroen’s lacklustre reputation for owner satisfaction – the Citroen C4 Cactus finished 73rd out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey, and it’s occupied similarly low places in the last couple of years. Citroen put in a slightly better performance in the brand survey, coming in at 18th out of 30 manufacturers. Owners criticised Citroen’s infotainment systems, including the sat-nav and Bluetooth functions, lacklustre stereos, small gloveboxes and the smoothness of their car’s gearboxes. They were happier with practicality and running costs.

The original Cactus was awarded four out of five stars by Euro NCAP in crash tests, but the new version gets autonomous emergency braking as standard, so we’ll need to see if it’s retested.

The fundamental design does much to recommend itself, though, not least for its comfort, economy and that superlative ride quality. If Citroen can answer the reliability and safety quibbles, the C4 Cactus will be an even more compelling package.

Most Popular

Best new car deals 2021
i20
Deals
9 Apr 2021

Best new car deals 2021

New Toyota GR86 unveiled
2021 Toyota GR86 - front 3/4 view
Toyota
6 Apr 2021

New Toyota GR86 unveiled

UK road tax rules for 2021 explained
2021 Road Tax explained
Tips and advice
8 Apr 2021

UK road tax rules for 2021 explained

More on C4 Cactus

Special edition cars: the best, worst and weirdest
Jeep Cherokee SUV
15 Dec 2020

Special edition cars: the best, worst and weirdest

Take a look at the best and most memorable special edition cars
New 2020 Citroen C4 and e-C4: prices start at £20,990
Citroën C4 Cactus
1 Oct 2020

New 2020 Citroen C4 and e-C4: prices start at £20,990

The new Citroen C4 gets an SUV-style design, new tech, and full range of powertrains
Best cars with panoramic sunroofs
Best cars
23 Dec 2019

Best cars with panoramic sunroofs

Putting a hole in the roof can add a real feeling of light and warmth to a car's interior. Here's our rundown of the best panoramic sunroofs.
Citroen C4 Cactus: Specs, prices and on-sale date
Citroën C4 Cactus hatchback
2 Jan 2018

Citroen C4 Cactus: Specs, prices and on-sale date

Refreshed C4 Cactus on sale now; UK deliveries start in April 2018
Watchdog: Cactus owner left hot and bothered by air-con
Citroën C4 Cactus hatchback
5 Jul 2016

Watchdog: Cactus owner left hot and bothered by air-con

Reader left frustrated as Citroen fails to blow cool air – and at being asked to pay for fix
10 reasons why the Citroen C4 Cactus is our Car of the Year
Citroën C4 Cactus hatchback
7 Jul 2015

10 reasons why the Citroen C4 Cactus is our Car of the Year

Sponsored | The Citroen C4 Cactus represents the best of Citroen’s eye-catching styling. No wonder we made it Car of the Year
141mpg Citroen C4 Cactus AIRFLOW 2L revealed
Citroën C4 Cactus hatchback
17 Sep 2014

141mpg Citroen C4 Cactus AIRFLOW 2L revealed

Super-frugal Cactus capable of 141mpg runs on compressed air and could go on sale by 2020
Citroen Cactus – on sale now
Citroën C4 Cactus hatchback
10 Sep 2014

Citroen Cactus – on sale now

The new Citroen C4 Cactus crossover is now on sale with a starting price of £12,990

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Tips and advice
28 Dec 2020

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Tips and advice
10 Nov 2020

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – what's the difference?
Tips and Advice
23 Mar 2020

PCP vs HP – what's the difference?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
24 Feb 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Best car interiors
Best cars
10 Mar 2020

Best car interiors

Best electric cars
Best cars
24 Dec 2020

Best electric cars

Best cheap-to-run cars
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
1 Feb 2021

Best cheap-to-run cars

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Hot hatches
9 Apr 2020

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks