Citroën C4 Cactus Blue HDI 100 Flair
Citroën C4 Cactus Blue HDI 100 Flair

Citroën C4 Cactus road test: It's a lot less prickly than you might imagine

French manufacturer leading plastic-fantastic charge with soft bubble pads

Jamie Merrill@Jamie_Merrill
Tuesday 14 October 2014 15:09

Citroën C4 Cactus Blue HDI 100 Flair
Price: £15,900
Engine capacity: 1.6-litre diesel
Power Output (BHP@rpm): 99 @ 3,750
Top Speed (mph): 114
Fuel economy (mpg): 83.1
CO2 emissions (g/km): 87

When I was at primary school I remember thinking it was odd that my dad had glued little plastic patches on the doors of the family’s Vauxhall Cavalier.

He got them from Halfords and I think the idea was that they’d stop flung-open car doors damaging the Cavalier’s paintwork. I suppose it was the automotive equivalent of coating your sofa in plastic. Looking back it’s almost certain that the little plastic defenders were just as much about protecting the car from my less-than-careful style of opening doors.

Twenty-five odd years later and car makers have finally caught on to the benefits of these little devices. And it is French car maker Citroën that is leading the plastic-fantastic charge with soft bubble pads on the flanks of its new C4 Cactus model. Thankfully I’ve got more careful with car doors of late, but these nifty “Airbumps” will be a godsend if you have to park in a tight city space.

They may look slightly odd and they’ll certainly get you lots of glances as people look, look again and then wonder if you are driving some kind of jazzy moon buggy. However, despite all the colourful cladding and wheel-arch protectors this isn’t an off-roading buggy, in fact, it isn’t even offered with four-wheel drive.

Citroën C4 Cactus Blue HDI 100 Flair

What it is though, is city-friendly car that combines funky design with an affordable price tag starting as just over £12k for the entry-level model. The last time Citroën did that properly was when it created the legendary 2CV and we all know how well that went.

In the old Deux Chevaux you could take out the rear seats to make room for sheep and reportedly cross a ploughed field with a basket of eggs and not break any of them. Sadly, these farmer-friendly design feature didn’t make it into the Cactus but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its quirks. From its sofa-style front seats and thick suitcase-style door handles to its bubbly doors and an pleasingly simple digital display, the Cactus breaks a number of traditional car design conventions.

I’m not in the business of predicting future classics, but what I will say is that the Cactus is one of the most interesting cars to go on sale this year. Even if it is 20 years behind my dad’s DIY car improvements.

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