The lightweight, trolley-proof, front-wheel-drive Citroen C4 Cactus compact SUV from the French brand set chins wagging two years ago when it was revealed ahead of the 2014 Geneva motor show, and it could have the same effect in Australia now that it has, at last, touched down.
Trolley-proof? That's what those big dark sections on the doors and bumpers are for. They're called AirBumps, and they have been design to make the car withstand minor bumps from shopping carts as well as other shoppers' doors.
The Citroen C4 Cactus will be offered in one specification level with a choice of two drivetrains – a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol version with a five-speed manual gearbox, or a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel with a six-speed semi-automatic transmission.
Yes, there is no conventional petrol auto – Citroen’s local arm says there is no such drivetrain offered as part of the current line-up anywhere in the world.
That said, 85 per cent of all Cactus buyers so far are opting for the diesel auto. That could be because it’s the only automatic, or because there’s only a small premium to pay – the petrol manual starts at $26,990 plus on-road costs, while the diesel auto is a $29,990 plus on-roads proposition.
Citroen’s head of marketing in Australia, Dimitri Andretidis, said at the launch of the new model that this is a car that pushes the boundaries in the booming small SUV segment.
“It’s an original vehicle that meets a specific challenge: to bring customers more of what really matters and do away with the superfluous,” he said.
According to the company, the small SUV segment has boomed by more than 800 per cent in the past decade, and indeed the numbers in 2015 were impressive – almost 100,000 small SUVs were sold.
So, will the C4 Cactus claim a chunk of that big pie? Not necessarily.
“The Cactus isn’t for everyone, but it is a worthy addition to the Australian market, and the strongest indication of where Citroen will take its design and vehicle offerings in the future,” Andretidis admitted.
The company isn’t talking sales numbers. But it did say that the Cactus will be its volume seller, which shouldn’t be hard considering the brand’s biggest mover last year was the Berlingo van, with just 298 sales. The brand’s overall total in 2015 was 1106, a drop of 15.4 per cent on the previous year.
Will a seemingly funny name change the game for the brand, then? According to Andreatidis, the moniker is an apt one.
“Why Cactus? The funny name paves way for serious intent,” he said.
“While to Australians, ‘cactus’ means one thing, to the rest of the world it means a plant that survives on little resources, protects itself from the outside world, and grows just about anywhere.”
The car’s design is going to be one of its biggest talking points, and the company admits that it’s hard to label what sort of person finds the car appealing.
“This car transcends any box and proper demographics. Our youngest customers are in their 20s, and our oldest customers are in their 60s,” Andreatidis said.
“Take the iPhone for example – this cleanly designed device became the most must-have communication item for the 2000s… Why? Because it was simple to use and it just looked great.”
Buyers are split evenly in terms of gender, and there’s a mix of new and existing Citroen customers who have, so far, signed on the dotted line.
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