Wednesday 17 October 2018

C4 Cactus makes me so prickly

For all its style and history, Citroen is being let down by sloppy quirkiness, writes Campbell Spray

NOT RECOMMENDED: The C4 Cactus is economical, but is unlikely to hold its value well
NOT RECOMMENDED: The C4 Cactus is economical, but is unlikely to hold its value well

One of my local pubs in a landmark building, which often features in morning traffic bulletins, has had a massive refurbishment which is pretty classy.

One element that it was pushing was a roof terrace and it excited me. In my mind's eye I would traipse up a few storeys and have views all over Dublin as I sipped my pint of Kinnegar Rustbucket.

Reality was something different. You only had to go one storey up to find the terrace, which was little more than a very plush smoking area facing the back of the building. The only views were of walls and roof extensions. I was disappointed, but the pint was still good and you never know other things might make up for the lack of real terrace on the roof.

It is a bit like that with the C4 Cactus, the latest Citroen, I was testing. I had been looking forward to the drive and the car does look good. But within almost seconds of beginning our usual Sunday morning test route, problems arose.

If you can't get the little things right, then God help you on the big projects. I wrote last week about how Peugeot has really got things right on much of its range, especially the 2008, 3008 and 5008. However, I also alluded to the fact that for all its style and history, Citroen, the marque's sister in the PSA Group, is being let down by sloppy quirkiness.

And so it came to pass with the C4 Cactus. There was no vanity mirror for my partner; the cup holders didn't seem able to take two decent-sized coffees; the back windows only popped out a couple of inches - this is meant to be a compact family car not a coupe; and the boot, while it is a good size, had a massive lip which will cause a lot of strain, especially with older drivers. When the rear seats fold down there isn't a flat floor. More importantly, the automatic gearbox on the test car was far from smooth and runs away with itself in a jerky fashion.

All this is a real pity as there are many other fine things about the car, not least the price starting at a pint under €20k, the very good suspension system and some nice three-cylinder petrol engines.

It also is pretty comfortable, especially for those in the front, although those pop-out rear windows will annoy all rear passengers and dogs. There is also a spare wheel under the boot floor, although many will really struggle to get it out.

In fact Comfort is the byword Citroen has put at the heart of the new C4 Cactus, even calling it an Advanced Comfort programme for the seats and suspension.

The Cactus tries to walk a tightrope between the current crossover trend and the compact class dominated by cars such as the Ford Focus, VW Golf and Hyundai i30. It mainly does it with style changes to its face and the interior upgrade, which as stated before, it gets some right and some very wrong. Most of the Airbumps have gone from the doors and the car does look to have a more serious intent.

It fairly bustles along, is economical and has a few pleasant touches. However, I don't think it will hold its value well. My British colleagues tell me that you can get massive discounts when buying new. It is not a car I can recommend. It will annoy you too much. However, I will keep my hopes up that the next Citroen I test will get everything right.

Sunday Independent

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