Car Reviews

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Citroen's car of contrasts: back to basics and the future

Eddie Cunningham

Published 02/07/2014 | 02:30

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The Citroen Cactus

THIS is a car of sharp contrasts – good and bad.

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Parts of it remind me of a chic but cheap converted New York apartment that makes a virtue of bare concrete walls and minimalist décor.

Other elements are really cute and warm.

For example, you can have old-fashioned leather straps for door handles.

Yet there's a 7ins touchscreen to control audio, heating, ventilation, phone, connectivity, air con and driving aids.

But in some versions they have replaced wind-up rear windows with front-hinged yokes that don't really work.

At the same time they use hi-tech special protection 'pads', along its flanks and bumpers, to keep scrapes and dent damage (and repair costs) to a minimum. This Airbump technology means the panels absorb impact and don't need maintenance. They come in four colours. Ingenious.

Yet the suspension could hardly absorb any bumps on my varied drive. It was quite poor. They need to attend to the dampers. And the steering was too basic in feel and feedback.

But I like the fact you can have a bench-seat in the front on some versions. The rear bench will take three in comfort. It doesn't split; it folds and tilts as a single piece. It was so comfortable and by golly there was a lot of room.

They have a lot of hard – dare I say cheap? – plastic on the tops of the door panels. Yet below them in mine was a purple fabric trim (lovely and soft). It all adds to the car's quixotic and contrasting nature.

I can see how it would be fun, if you buy into the vibe.

My test version (the 120 PureTech petrol with Purple Pack) was not nearly as sparse or spartan as I anticipated.

Frugality comes by way of the engines too: virtually all – petrol and diesel – are under the 100g/km emissions level.

Some facts: At 965kg it is 200kg lighter than the C4 hatchback and about the same as a Ford Fiesta. It is 4,160mm long, 1,480mm tall and 1,730mm wide; the wheelbase is 2600mm. It generates plenty of interior and boot space.

Key rivals will include the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur.

The PureTech petrol was good and gutsy with the 5spd box.

There are 5spd and 6spd transmissions (and a semi-automatic version of both).

When you sit in you notice the dashboard is lower, there is a large glove compartment and a digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel with plenty of switches on it.

The touchscreen worked and didn't work. Some of the logos and graphics I found to be a bit bizarre.

And, as I said, the drive was disappointing. There was a lot of bodyroll and wind and tyre noise.

They say it won't be bargain basement Dacia cheap. There are stark contrasts between the different models in terms of trim so entry price needs to be low enough to attract those who love their quirky Citroens.

Otherwise what's the point really?

Engine line-up, spec and pricing have yet to be decided. It gets here in the last week of September.

I have mixed feelings about it. I'm quite fond of the car but didn't like the drive so much. As I said, it's a car of contrasts.

Indo Motoring

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