If there's one thing that Nissan has taught us with the Qashqai, it's that there's a growing demand for 4×4 style road-biased cars with the running costs of an everyday family runabout. Yes, the crossover may be a relatively new style of car, but some manufacturers are looking to put their own individual and sometimes quirky stamp on it; a bit like Citroen with this, the C4 Cactus.
From the outside it certainly stands out on the looks department. Its curvaceous profile, those squinting headlamps and the giant rubbery panels on the side, called 'airbump', which protect it from discourteous drivers in tight parking spaces, give it something of a quirky nature – which is what Citroen became famous for back in the '60s. One thing's for sure; you certainly won't lose it in Sainsbury's car park.
Inside, the dash is nicely designed. It's all very clean and clutter free, if a little cheap to touch, but the big bug-bear is that everything is controlled via the seven-inch touch-screen infotainment system. It's very fiddly to use and distracting if you're trying to change the temperature and use a sat nav whilst on the move.
The seating position is relatively low by crossover standards, but the seat can be raised using the ratchet lever. The down side, though, is the steering wheel only adjusts for height, not reach, so it does make finding that perfect driving position a little compromised.
Visibility is also a bit compromised in the interest of styling; the pillars are a little on the thick side and make reverse parking just that bit trickier.
Space isn't something to worry about, as up front there's ample head and leg room and in the back there's plenty of room for three people. One thing you may be a bit surprised to find, though, is that there aren't any electric adjustable windows. The other thing is that the Citroen Cactus doesn't feature split folding rear seats, so it's not what you'd call versatile. With all seats in place it offers 358 litres of space, which expands to 1,170 litres when you fold them down. The load lip is pretty high though, so if you're lifting larger, heavier items, it may prove tricky.
Engine wise, there's a mix of low capacity petrol and diesel options. The range-topping 1.6 litre Blue HDI won't set pulses alight though. It'll do 0-60 in over 10 seconds and keep going to a top speed of just 114 miles per hour. Where it will make you happy, though, is at the pumps: It'll do an average fuel economy of over 80mpg while emitting just 87 grams per kilometre of c02 – that makes it road tax exempt.
As you'd expect for a car more focused on economy, it's more of a relaxed cruiser than a warm hatch wannabe. The suspension is supple enough to iron out potholes and imperfections in the road, but the big problem is it means that there's plenty of lean through the bends. The five speed gear box also doesn't do it any favours and the steering is a bit vague.
March 17, 2016