A quirky Citroen is always appreciated, and C4 Cactus is just that.
Built on a stretched and widened C3 platform (not C4), Cactus is a funky five-seat crossover that has great street presence. Andre Citroen's father was Dutch, so it was fitting that we went to Citroen's launch centre in Amsterdam to test a car the great man would have definitely approved of.
The five-seater's curved body is disarmingly friendly and modern looking, too. At under a tonne in weight, it is some 200kg lighter than a C4 hatchback. Lighter petrol and diesel engines also feature to reduce fuel consumption and CO2.
On the outside the 'Airbump' interchangeable plastic door panels stand out instantly and are another first for the PSA brand. Let's not forget invention was something Andre Citroen was renowned for. The great man gave us front-wheel drive with 'Traction Avant' and the synchromesh gearbox, hence the double chevron Citroen badge.
The air-filled 'bumps' are designed to help prevent shopping trolley or car-park damage. There are four Airbump colour choices (black, grey, dune and chocolate) and while the idea was formed with practicality in mind, they also add a unique style to the front-wheel drive machine.
C4 Cactus has a lot of nice styling touches like the flush, rear pop-open windows. The fuel-filler cap is nicely shaped into the large wheel arch and up front the famous double chevron Citroen badge is beautifully integrated into the curved bonnet. Various exterior colour combinations and highlights - such as contrasting side mirrors - also feature and contribute to Cactus making a strong on-street statement.
Inside, the attention to styling continues with a luggage theme. The door handles are formed straps and thanks to the innovation of the front passenger airbag being mounted in the roof (and not the dash), the glove box can be further sculpted and, in some specifications, look trunk-like. The roof airbag deploys across the whole windscreen.
Yes, there are some inevitable hard plastics to be found as Cactus will come in at an attractive price. Three grades will be sold in Ireland (five in Europe).
Another nice touch is the optional huge glass roof that has excellent thermal qualities. The 358-litre boot is average for its class and lacks an adjustable floor or clever storage systems like Nissan Qashqai's dividing floor. There is a space-saver spare wheel for the Ireland market.
On the road the car rides in an acceptable but unremarkable way. Behind the wheel you are not encouraged to drive with gusto or take the twisty route home, but somehow you don't feel short-changed because the styling and design make you smile. Cactus adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
C4 Cactus is not perfect and could be improved if the steering was geared for a sharper response and the manual gearbox could have a shorter throw and more precise feel. The automatic version is in no way sporty and the shift timing takes a bit of getting used to, but you do get a bench front seat, which is pretty cool. The auto or robotised manual gearbox features 'Easy Push'. There is no gear shifter, simply three large buttons: D, R and P. Paddle shifts feature on the steering wheel but, to be honest, this version is suited for those who find themselves in traffic - a lot!
C4 Cactus is a fun yet practical car, much along the lines of KIA Soul and MINI Countryman. Citroen has yet to announce official pricing, but we understand circa €20,000 will be the entry point.