Citroën Delivers “Simply Chic” in the C4 Cactus

It’s official!  Citroën yesterday introduced the Citroën C4 Cactus, a model that the company hopes will appeal to a new generation of buyers.  Citroën has managed to once again infuse a less-is-more mentality with a stylistic offering that does not compromise on the something it has excelled at in the past with models like the 2CV.  And we even see a faint hint of Méhari though in a far more sophisticated and contemporary design.

Striking design
There’s barely a crease on the rounded bodywork, while the slim and simple headlights are lifted from the new C4 Picasso.  Exterior flourishes like Citroën’s ‘floating roof and C-pillar treatment of its latest model offerings are present and adds roof rails that look like horizontally mounted spoilers.   The C4 Cactus be offered in ten different exterior colours, with four hues for the ‘Airbump’ panels and three interior ‘themes’.

The C4 Cactus is very close to the Cactus concept which was the showpiece in Citroën’s booth at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show.  The Cactus was a evolutionary revision to the 2007 C-Cactus that first introduced the new back-to-basics design philosophy.  Set to formally debut at the Geneva Auto Show in March and go on sale this summer, it keeps the same floating roof, split front lights and plastic body panels from the show car.

Citroën touts that the simplistic approach of the C4 is the dawn of a whole new era for the brand that is supposed to diffuse through all future C-line products, creating a much clearer line between them and the more elaborately designed and premium-feeling DS models.  It is also hoped that by differentiating its offerings, there will be more room for Peugeot to establish itself in the mainstream market.  However the big question on many minds is; Can Citroën carve out enough volume in a niche market to survive, let alone Peugeot trying to capitalize on getting a decent share of the mainstream?

The C4 Cactus won’t be a budget model, though, according to Citroën CEO Frederic Banzet: “We’re not aiming for low cost, but the price will be competitive.  We are trying to replicate what we did in our history.”  Take that to mean what you will…

For the Cactus, that means offering C-segment styling and space with B-segment running costs.  It shares the same 2.6m wheelbase as the C4, but it’s actually based on the smaller chassis that underpins the DS3.  The roof rails and chunky body give it a big car look, but the Cactus is shorter than hatchbacks like the VW Golf.   Thanks to clever packaging and extensive use of lightweight materials the Cactus is a 200kgs lighter than a standard C4.

With dimensions of 4.21m long, 1.75m wide and 1.53m tall, the Cactus concept is slightly shorter than a C4 and the same height as a DS3, but features a raised floor pan for a slimmer profile and a semi-crossover stance.

Efficient power train
With big weight savings, fuel economy is said to be outstanding.  Power comes from a new three-cylinder block that in the gas version is either turbocharged or naturally-aspirated, making 109bhp and 81bhp respectively.  Two 1.6-litre diesel versions will be offered delivering 91 and 99bhp each. The most efficient diesel, emitting as little as 82g/km, will return an amazing 91.1mpg.

C4 Cactus: inside
The Cactus is just as cutting-edge inside too, with a number of innovative touches that are designed to make it comfier and easier to live with than a normal hatchback.  A greater feeling of space inside has been achieved by locating the passenger airbag into the roof thus allowing the dash to be mounted lower.  Two digital displays have replaced the traditional dials and dash buttons, with a seven-inch touchscreen in the center console controlling all major functions.   The infotainment system features several apps including live traffic updates.

Gear selection in automatic models is via a set of three buttons (‘D’, ‘R’ and ‘N’) instead of a conventional gear selector.  Simple  buttons, along with paddles behind the wheel, control the 6 speed gearbox.  Citroën says it has improved the throttle response and changing times of the gearbox, and also made it less susceptible to creeping in traffic and at low speed.  Even so, manual transmissions are predicted to make up the majority of Cactus sales.

On higher spec models a full-length glass roof will be optionally available, which uses the same glass technology as high-end sunglasses to block UV radiation and control the temperature in the cabin thus removing the need for an inside blind.

With a 358-litre trunk and decent rear legroom, it also boasts better practicality than compact crossovers like the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur – both of which Citroën sees as key rivals for the Cactus.

Contract pricing
How you purchase a Cactus will be revolutionary as well.  Citroën is planning to let buyers choose a monthly price plan similar to a mobile phone contract, with insurance, finance and other costs all rolled into a single monthly payment.   A pay-per-mile plan is also said to be offered – although at this stage they were not clear on its details.

See the Citroën press launch gala for the C4 Cactus here:

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