The sub-compact SUV market is already jam-packed with options. But Citroen is hoping that this, the C4 Cactus, is the one you've been waiting for...
Due to land in Australia in early 2016, the quirky looking and oddly-named Citroen C4 Cactus adds yet another model to the ever growing segment. But this one's different. Let’s check it out.
Australian buyers will have the option of a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol or a 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel. The petrol is exclusively paired to a five-speed manual, the diesel exclusively a six-speed semi-automatic.
Jumping into the manual first and initial impressions are pretty good. Catch the little 1.2-litre off boost and you can be left wanting for a little bit more power but once you’re on the move it’s actually pretty flexible and it’s got enough torque to see you head up onto the motorway without too many dramas.
The steering’s very light but so are all the other controls. The five-speed manual is a bit of a pleasure to use, the clutch is quite light as well and so is the throttle.
The ride’s very comfortable, most of the time, though the odd bump can see it jarring a little bit. The 17-inch wheels are standard, and they will be on the Australian-specification car.
Up front in the cabin there is a feeling of space. You’ve got a seven-inch touchscreen that takes care of all your major controls, and you’ve got a digital speedo in front of the driver to look at. Unfortunately there’s no tacho, which feels a little amiss to be honest.
Behind me there’s plenty of legroom and really good headroom, even with the panoramic glass roof. Behind that, there’s a 358-litre boot, which isn’t too bad and about mid-pack for the class.
Petrol done, let’s see how the diesel goes.
Well jumping out of the white petrol and into bright yellow diesel, there’s a couple of key differences. We get this bench-style seat, thanks to an aircraft-style manual handbrake - even though there’s still only room up here for two.
The seven-inch touchscreen remains, but sitting beneath that are three buttons that control the automatic gearbox. You’ve got a button for Drive, for Reverse and for Neutral. You’ve also got these paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
Like the petrol though, the diesel rides on the same 17-inch alloy wheels and overall the ride comfort’s very good. In the diesel, there is a bit more engine noise, and there is a slight vibration that can be felt through the accelerator pedal.
But while the combination of the three-cylinder turbo and a five-speed manual transmission makes for a bit of a fun drive, unfortunately, the diesel mixed with the auto is less so.
The automatic gearbox is nowhere near as engaging, which takes a bit of the fun out of driving the Cactus around. But worse than that, it’s actually just a little bit jerky and it doesn’t respond that well to throttle inputs, kind of getting caught out fairly easily.
At every shift, you tend to lurch forward. Once you’re at a cruise you notice it less and it’s less of an issue but around town or low-speed driving, when there’s a few more gear changes, it can be pretty frustrating.
Overall though, the Citroen C4 Cactus is a pretty interesting and exciting car to have around. It still looks like a concept car and it goes pretty bloody well. We can’t wait to have it on Australian roads and see what it’s like back home. But for that circa-$25k-$30k bracket, it should be pretty competitive and is sure to mix things up a little bit.
Initially planned to debut locally in 2015, the first Citroen C4 Cactuses won’t start arriving into Australia until about February, with prices expected to start around $25,000.
How will it handle Australian conditions, well we’ll have to wait and see to find out, but if you're a small SUV, the funky Cactus might be just the thing to quench your thirst.