Citroen C4 Cactus 2018 exclusive 1.2t puretech

2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Exclusive long-term review: Farewell

Rating: 6.9
$26,990 $28,490 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
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  • ANCAP Rating
Love or hate its looks, the Cactus is a fun little thing to punt around town. It's really showing its age, however, and lacks the connectivity and tech befitting of its premium price tag.
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The time has come when we sadly have to say goodbye to our Citroen C4 Cactus, or 'Smurfette' as I lovingly named it.

Over the past few months we've covered well over 6000 kilometres in the little French crossover, including the daily stint from home to work, and even an interstate trip.

As you may have read in our previous long-term updates, the Cactus is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of drivability, technology, and practicality.

You have to remember the vehicle we have here first went on sale in Australia in 2016, before active safety and driver assistance technologies were a must-have at this end of the market – but we'll get to that in a bit.

One of the most talked-about topics regarding the C4 Cactus is its looks. It certainly polarises.

Just from my own experience, I had very mixed responses from friends and family regarding Smurfette's aesthetic, with some praising the quirkiness and originality of the bold design, while others said it's just plain ugly.

Personally, I really like the way it stands out, especially in the bright Baltic Blue paint our tester is specified with.

Combined with the contrasting AirBumps and black alloy wheels ($1000), our C4 Cactus really does stand out in a world of generic and familiar car designs. It's nice to have something different.

Inside is a similar story. The dashboard design and layout is similarly quirky, though more conventional than the exterior.

Up front you have a free-standing tablet-style 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a retro-styled LCD driver's cluster that does without conventional gauges.

Our tester was optioned with the leatherette/cloth upholstery ($1600) and fixed panoramic roof ($1250), with the former bringing grey-coloured accents to the dashboard and door inserts.

The Cactus' cabin generally presents well, however several elements really do feel rather dated.

The soft-touch dashboard is nice, as are the yielding arm rests in the doors, however, the rest of the interior is pretty much completely finished in hard, scratchy plastics that do little to give the Cactus a premium European feel.

Other ageing bits include the infotainment unit, which looks nice at first glance but is slow to respond to touch inputs and lacks modern tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Further, all the controls for the air-conditioning are only accessible through the screen, which can be frustrating to use on the move if, for example, you want to turn on the recirculation function.

The 7.0-inch display does feature DAB+ digital radio, though, along with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming – however we experienced plenty of bugs with a phone not pairing properly or music not playing through the speakers properly.

Practicality is decent in terms of overall space, there's good room up front and in the back for humans, while the 358L boot area is competitive with most small hatchbacks. Fold the second row down and that expands to 1170L, though the large hump at the base of the seat back isn't as practical for sliding longer items over, and there's no adjustable boot floor to compensate for this.

The single (and shallow) cup holder up front doesn't allow for tall cups to be stored in the front, though the massive door bins can swallow large bottles and other items.

Rear passengers also get a letterbox-style cubby in the doors to hold phones and wallets, while the pop-out rear windows are a bit of retro-cool in addition to being a weight-saving measure.

However, some rear passengers who accompanied me during various journeys did complain about not being able to roll down the windows like most modern cars.

Under the bonnet is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine making 81kW at 5500rpm and 205Nm at 1500rpm, sent to the front wheels via a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission sourced from Japan's Aisin. A six-speed manual can be had as standard, too.

With a kerb weight of 1125 kilograms, there's not a whole lot of heft for the three-pot engine to lug around. Power delivery is enthusiastic and linear, meaning the Cactus gets away from the lights nice and quickly without the typical feeling of lag normally associated with turbocharged engines.

Citroen officially claims a 0-100 time of 10.7 seconds, and while that may sound rather slow we'd argue it certainly feels quicker and would be more competitive with higher-output engines from 0-60km/h which is likely what this vehicle will spend most of its time doing.

We did notice the six-speed auto had a habit of slurring the changes from first to second and then second to third, which felt rather jerky and unrefined.

Several CarAdvice staff also lamented at the idle stop/start function, which like the transmission could feel jerky and unintuitive.

At highway speeds the Cactus settled into a nice cruising state, though the transmission wouldn't hit sixth gear until the speedo was over 100km/h, so occasionally it would shift back to fifth and kick up the engine revs if you ever dropped below triple figures.

As for fuel consumption, Smurfette returned an indicated readout of 7.4L/100km over the life of our loan, as we didn't reset the trip computer during our time spent with the Cactus.

We'd argue that's not a bad real-world figure considering how much time the Cactus spent in stop/start urban traffic, combined with some extended freeway stints – such as Mandy's trip to her parents' place in New South Wales. It's still a bit higher than Citroen's official 5.1L/100km claim, however.

In terms of ride and handling, the Cactus is definitely more tuned for comfort rather than corner-carving ability, which is fine considering its urban focus.

The ride isn't as soft and cushy as some other Citroen models, though it was certainly supple enough for Melbourne's pothole- and tram track-ridden roads, something a lot of European vehicles fail to achieve.

Noise suppression was rather good as well, with occupants well protected from road and wind noise, even at high speeds. The three-cylinder engine could get a little vocal under load, though the characterful thrum that's a signature of three-pot units certainly wasn't a pain.

One major downfall was the complete lack of active safety and driver assistance technologies available on the current version of the Cactus sold in Australia.

With the facelifted model unconfirmed for Australia, the current Cactus lacks any form of active safety tech, namely autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, or blind-spot monitoring, which is pretty sub-par considering the list price of our tester is beyond $30k.

There's no adaptive cruise control on offer, either. If you want a Cactus with those technologies, you better hope Citroen's local division brings the new model to our shores.

It's worth noting the C4 Cactus remains unrated by ANCAP despite launching several years ago, though it does wear a four-star Euro NCAP rating that it achieved in 2014, with the most amount of points lost in the Safety Assist area of assessment.

All Cactus models are covered by Citroen Australia's five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and capped-price servicing program.

The first five visits will cost you $358, $469, $507, $473 and $363 respectively, with scheduled maintenance required every 15,000km or 12 months. That works out to $2170 for the first 60 months or 75,000km, which is more affordable than some European rivals, but can't match the Koreans in the segment.

All up it's hard to recommend the C4 Cactus in its current form. Considering the vehicle as tested costs over $30,000 before on-road costs and lacks any form of active safety systems, it's very far behind the pack.

On top of that the infotainment is dated, there's too many hard surfaces in the cabin, and it's not quite as fuel efficient as its claims.

When it was new a few years ago the C4 Cactus was more competitive, and offered a standout (if very polarising) design that set it apart from the then-current set of small passenger cars and crossovers.

Don't get me wrong, I think Smurfette is a charming and fun little car to punt around town, but if it was my money I'd almost definitely be looking elsewhere, keeping in mind there are plenty of near new examples floating around the classifieds for around $20k.

Au revoir, Smurfette

2018 Citroen C4 Cactus Exclusive

  • Price: $28,490 ($32,630 as tested)
  • Odometer reading: 7530km
  • Total distance travelled: 6629km
  • Fuel consumption (indicated): 7.4L/100km