A recognisable hatchback that can compete with the best of crossovers.

Introduction

At its heart, the C4 Cactus is an easy-going, high-riding hatchback like a host of other crossovers, but it goes to greater lengths in pursuit of value for money and practicality. It’s one of the most recognisable cars on the road thanks to the springy Airbump plastic trim inserts down both sides, which double as protection against car-park knocks.

 

Body Style: Hatchback           Seats: 5                    MRP from £13,260 - £19,890

 

Did you know? Despite its chunkier looks, the C4 Cactus is actually much lighter than the C4 hatchback, with basic versions weighing in at more than 200kg less.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Love-it-or-hate-it styling lays the foundation for a car that excels in some areas and disappoints in others. This is a car built to make the daily grind a little easier to bear, with key design features that should reduce parking stress and maybe even lift your spirits a little. The C4 Cactus is about as easy to live with as it gets for a car of this size, if you can forgive its shortfalls. Buyers looking for a crisp driving experience or motorway refinement may have to look elsewhere, but the Cactus has its place and is a worthy choice for suburbanites.

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ (5/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Spec & Trim Levels

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

 

2017 Citroën C4 Cactus

We Like

Quirky styling

Surprisingly refined around town

Impressive efficiency

We Don't Like

Lacks driver involvement

Interior plastics feel cheap

Frustrating automated manual gearbox

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Citroën C4 Cactus

It’s hard to criticise such deliberately unique styling, despite the fact it splits opinion. Few people are ambivalent about it, either loving the bright colours and distinctive Airbump panels or hating the fact that it’s so different. Making it stand out this much is a deliberate ploy by Citroen to get the car noticed, and, by proxy, the brand as well. Imagine it as a French artist with a thin moustache that curls ostentatiously at the ends.

It’s a shame the impact-cushioning panels down the sides of the car don’t extend to the rear door edges to add protection if someone opens the door too wide next to another car. But it’s cut off where it is for style’s sake.

Such a unique-looking car attracts buyers who don’t mind standing out, but there are more muted colours in the palette for those who want to chop those curly ends off the moustache. Critics call it a mish-mash of bland curves punctuated by oddly squared-off rear lights and cheap-looking plastics. On the other hand, though the C4 Cactus has uniquely French style befitting of the almost-forgotten reputation Citroen acquired between the 1950s and 1990s. Surely that’s a good thing.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort:★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

2017 Citroën C4 Cactus

Other than a few token concessions to material quality, like a two-tone leather-covered steering wheel on mid- and high-grade cars, the general feel of the interior is geared towards the practical rather than the luxurious. Most of the plastic surfaces are hard and thin, to save weight and cost, although taking advantage of one of the dashboard colour options can entirely lift the ambience.

It’s therefore a surprise to see a very effective widescreen media interface fixed to the dashboard as part of a simple standalone console. The screen is standard on all models, and is a definite highlight in an otherwise quirky but cheap-feeling cabin.

Soft seats betray the C4 Cactus’ bias towards short, low-speed journeys. They lack the outright support for long trips, particularly for your lower back, but squash down invitingly at first and prove more or less ideal for 10-mile hops across town.

Practicality

The Cactus is built to be practical above all else. The Airbump panels on the sides prevent car-park dings from trolleys, neighbouring doors being opened too far or inconsiderate shoppers who might drag bags or clothing along the side of it. It’s a unique feature that could save hundreds of pounds in minor paintwork repairs over the life of a finance deal.

Inside, the theme continues with plastics that should be able to take a reasonable beating while still cleaning up well enough, plus a top-mounted 8.5-litre glovebox that’s brilliant for easy storage of even your larger bits and pieces. This is possible on the Cactus thanks to the passenger airbag being moved to within the roof lining.

Care is needed when parallel parking in top-spec models thanks to diamond-cut 17-inch alloy wheels that are vulnerable to kerbs and expensive to refurbish if damaged. But otherwise, the Cactus scores a lot of points for practicality.

Boot space

Min: 358 litres
 Max: 1,170 litres

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Citroën C4 Cactus

For a car that revels in its own light weight and simplicity, condensing all the primary functions into a single digital interface makes perfect sense. The media playback, air conditioning, Bluetooth, general settings and sat-nav, where installed, are all controlled with an intuitive touchscreen much like a smartphone. Speaking of which, a USB port is standard.

To keep costs down, the headlights are traditional halogen types, but it’s nice to see convenient technology like cruise control fitted as standard across the range. Rear parking sensors are only standard on the top Flair trim grade, as well as that grade’s three special spin-off editions. All four also have a reversing camera and sat-nav, but disappointingly Bluetooth is only standard on the mid-range Feel upwards.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling:★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ (5/10)

2017 Citroën C4 Cactus

The C4 Cactus is not a driver’s car. None of the available engines deliver much power and all run out of steam too soon on the open road. It is surprisingly quiet and refined around town, with cosseting suspension, chunky tyres and soft seats providing plenty of comfort. When the speeds rise, though, the five-speed gearboxes installed as part of four of the five drivetrains can’t keep engine speeds down and the car can feel strained.

Shifting gears is hardly a memorable experience, with a long throw and slightly wobbly, imprecise action at the lever. It’s a similar story with the light steering, feedback from which is vague at the best of times. It rolls noticeably when pushed hard through bends, but the soft suspension does a good job of maintaining grip on all road surfaces

Initial acceleration away from traffic lights is good thanks to the Cactus’s light weight and torque-rich engines. The 110-horsepower petrols and all diesels are also turbocharged, helping the Cactus spring away from rest with impressive willingness, and making it good for darting around town.

Recommended engine: 1.2 PureTech 110

0-62 MPH

9.3 seconds

Fuel economy

65.7 mpg

Emissions

9100g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Citroën C4 Cactus

Official Euro NCAP safety tests give the Cactus four out of five stars, penalising it slightly for its lack of autonomous emergency braking and lane-keeping assistant. The lack of a knee airbag for the driver also counts against it, but there are still six airbags laid out in a standard front, side and curtain arrangement.

Anti-lock brakes are ably assisted by systems that apply maximum pedal pressure in an emergency stop and spread the brake force to the wheels with the most grip, ensuring the fastest stop possible in most weathers. A speed limiter is standard for those who wish to use it, and stability control is there for when you need it.

In the rear are two Isofix mounting points for child seats. Sensors are installed at every seat to give an audible warning if anyone unbuckles a belt during a trip. Notably absent are any of the latest innovations, such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warnings, rear cross-traffic alert and so on.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Citroën C4 Cactus

Colours

Citroen offers an absolutely fantastic range of colours to suit just about any taste, from mustardy Hello Yellow to a range of £250 flat shades including Tapenade Grey, Sport Red, Jelly Red and Baltic Blue.

Four metallic options are even pricier, at £495, and span silvery Arctic Steel, Shark Grey, Obsidian Black and Deep Purple, with one final option in the shape of pearlescent Pearl White. It’s the most expensive choice, at £730.

The design of the car relies on contrast between the Airbump strips, which can be specified in several colours, and the paint. Arctic Steel works well, and so do both reds, while Baltic Blue is a little drab. The one annoying mark against the wide range of colours here is that there is only one free option.

Trim Levels

The range has three core models, badged Touch, Feel and Flair in ascending order of price and equipment level. Touch is quite basic, but has a bizarre mix of good points and bad, like the crisp seven-inch touchscreen versus the 15in steel wheels, or the standard cruise control and speed limiter versus the lack of air conditioning.

Moving up to Feel brings Bluetooth compatibility, a two-tone leather steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels, upgrades to the exterior aesthetics and hill-start assist, barring the entry-level petrol version. Feel also adds a 60:40 split folding rear bench seat where the Touch model’s is one-piece.

Flair is the best-equipped of the three main models, with 17in diamond-cut alloys, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera, satellite navigation, automatic lights and windscreen wipers, privacy glass and climate control.

There are three special models, all derived from the Flair trim grade. The first and simplest is the Flair Edition, which just adds half-leather seats and a panoramic glass roof.

The second is the rugged-styled Rip Curl, which adds bespoke graphics, bumper protectors at both ends, a panoramic glass roof and a system called Grip Control, which is a special traction control mode that works wonders on loose-surfaced or otherwise slippery inclines, pulling the car up slopes it otherwise couldn’t manage.

Finally, the trim grade called ‘W’ is a colour-themed special model, with Pearl White paint, white roof bars and mirrors, white alloy wheels and Airbumps in the ‘Dune’ colour, a light beige-tinted grey.

Size and Dimensions

The C4 Cactus is smaller than it looks, but wider than a Nissan Juke by some margin. That gives more space for passengers but means it’s a tighter fit in garages. It’s all relative, though, and the Cactus should have no trouble negotiating urban streets or car parks.

Length

4157 mm

Width

1729 mm

Height

1530 mm

Max towing weight without brake

From 400kg (1.2 Puretech 110 Auto) - 580kg (1.6 BlueHDI 100 Auto)

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy:★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Citroën C4 Cactus

All the engines are frugal enough to live with happily, but while the petrols are slightly more enjoyable and won’t suffer from diesel particulate filter issues under prolonged urban use, the diesels deliver more miles per gallon. It’s worth sticking to petrol power if the vast majority of your mileage is at low speed.

Being so light helps the Cactus record some astonishing economy figures in official tests, with the most efficient diesel recording 91.1mpg on the combined cycle. It’s extremely difficult to get anywhere close to that in the real world, but the right driver should be able to average a true 70mpg over a mix of roads, which is still amazing.

Running costs are also low, with simple engineering needing only simple maintenance. Insurance is relatively cheap and, as for emissions, most of the engines produce less than 100g/km of CO2.

Reliability and servicing

The Cactus was recalled in December 2016 over concerns that the bonnet could open while the car was being driven, affecting cars built from May 2014 to September 2016. A fix was carried out, and newer cars won’t be affected. Servicing is cheap, too, thanks to simple mechanicals.

Minor

12 months or up to 16,000 miles (variable) – £160 est.

Major

24 months or up to 32,000 miles – £180 est.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing:★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

2017 Citroën C4 Cactus

The headline price for the C4 Cactus range is misleading. Just £13,260 buys the entry-level car with a combination of Touch trim and PureTech 75 power. To jump up to the cheapest Feel-spec car costs a whopping £2,525, while our favourite Flair model with the PureTech 110 engine costs £18,360.

This still seems good value. For that price you get a lot of genuinely useful features in a package designed for urban life. The kids will probably like the way it looks, if not the absence of wind-down rear windows (the glass pops out at the rear for ventilation), and you can worry about it much less than just about any other car when you park it.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

Cost Conscious

PureTech 75 Touch – at an amazingly low price for this much space and hard-wearing practicality, this model is focused on utility and practicality

Company car buyer

BlueHDI 100 EGT6 Flair: navigation, very low fuel costs and cheap benefit-in-kind taxation make this the best company Cactus

New Parents

PureTech 110 Flair – child seat mounts, parking sensors and a versatile, efficient petrol engine make this a good choice for the new parent

Rivals

Nissan Juke

Extremely popular and often heavily-discounted small crossover is a solid all-rounder.

Renault Captur

Blessed with a huge boot and svelte styling, the Captur is also available in a range of appealing colours and trim grades.

Suzuki Ignis

Smaller and less practical than the Cactus but at least as characterful and more fun to drive for more of the time.

Mazda CX-3

Great looks and great to drive, with solid interior design and quality, plus a good level of standard kit.

Audi Q2

A comparatively expensive alternative, but better built with higher-quality materials and equally excellent engines.

What others say

What Car?

“The Citroen C4 Cactus has its foibles, but it’s a fine choice if you want SUV styling in a good-value, compact package. Consider it the French brand’s effort to go back to basics.”

Car Buyer

“While it looks tough, the Cactus is strictly front-wheel drive and has been on a diet compared to the standard Citroen C4 hatchback, a weight saving that seriously boosts fuel economy.”

 

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2017 Citroën C4 Cactus