Citroen C4 Cactus 1.6 Blue HDI 100 (2016) long-term test review

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Innovative, or just quirky for the sake of it?

Month 11 running a Citroen Cactus: rummaging around the instrument binnacle

Despite having long championed the analogue wrist watch (digital versions don’t work because you actually view a clock to establish what time it isn’t), the Cactus has quietly won me over to the merits of the (ugly) digital speedometer. And an ideal automotive combination is, it strikes me, an analogue rev counter whirring away around a digital speedo.

Sadly, the Cactus spurns provision of the former in favour of… well, acres of blank binnacle black hole. In truth, however, this is not a powerplant that rewards revving, so no harm done.

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Month 10 running a Citroen Cactus: the dying of the light

Two winter illumination issues. Firstly, the reversing light is tea-light-powerful pants. I’m having to master left-foot braking merely to up the lumen quotient, the resultant manoeuvre feeling somewhat akin to backing into brothel alley.

Secondly, we’ve noticed that the door-linked interior lighting has been bean-countered down to just one measly overhead lamp of an efficacy on a par with the novelty torch from a cheap Christmas cracker. Who’d have thought it possible to lose an entire Labrador in the footwell?

By Anthony ffrench-Constant


Month 9 running a Citroen C4 Cactus: our screenwash reservoir runneth over

The Cactus’s screen-washer system has been chugging water like a Chicken Korma-cautious visitor to the 2015 World Championship Chili Cookoff – this year held in Reno, Nevada, where the inhabitants briefly forfeit racing P51s round pylons in favour of racing piecemeal for the Portaloo.

Odd. I had assumed a system which introduces water to the screen via the wiper arms themselves to be more frugal than one which takes a run-up from the bonnet.
Either, then, a notably petite camel in Day-Glo orange waterwings has furtively claimed squatter’s rights in the reservoir, or the latter has all the capacity of a blunt-eared bat’s bladder…

One litre of overpriced screen washer fluid later, I had my answer; optimistically wobbling a large watering-can over the filler nozzle, I’d barely emptied the spout alone before the pipework frothed into overflow, leaving the mixture so concentrated I wouldn’t be surprised to see the wipers melt like boiled liquorice within the week.

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Citroen Cactus screenwash


Month 8 running a Citroen C4 Cactus: her ups, her downs, her smiles, her frowns…

Not, to my eye, that the Van der Graaf Cactus is going to promote a sudden upsurge in the fortunes of any ship yard near you in the immediate future, but, to paraphrase Rex Harrison’s resolutely un-sung sentiments in My Fair Lady, ‘I’ve grown… accustomed to its face.’

I’m unsure whether or not it’s down to designer Mike Lloyd’s determination to eschew all convex surfacing but, if you can get beyond the horse-pee-yellow couture, there is something indefinably yet fundamentally pleasing about the Cactus’s appearance. As with the first Bangle 7-series, it has, I suspect, much to do with delicious proportion desperate to throw off the shackles of hit-and-miss detailing. If only, for instance, the ‘Air Bump’ panel was less appliqué and more integrated in appearance.

Sadly, life on board does continue to elicit rather more exasperation than enthusiasm; the piecemeal exile of switchgear in favour of a catchall touchscreen, for example, a particularly deceitful purse-string-driven flattery which we fell for only as long as it took to discover that old-fashioned knobs and knockers are infinitely faster, easier and, let’s face it, more pleasing to get to grips with on the move.

Citroën is, of course, far from the only culprit in the context of this burgeoning, bung-it-all-on-the-wiring-loom fad. But it has here proved all too clearly that if you are going to ask your customers to embrace this approach to instrumentation, you’ve really got to get it absolutely, incredibly right.

By Anthony ffrench-Constant


Month 7 running a Citroen C4 Cactus: by name, and by nature

This just in from the missus: Back now. Good thing to have done. My arse hurts from the Cactus.

Said freshly texted titbit renders two insightful snippets of information; firstly, the Cactus has now achieved such global renown that it merits its own emoticon and, secondly, it’s still an absurdly uncomfortable conveyance during a journey of any length whatsoever. We’d celebrate average fuel consumption edging 55mpg far more vociferously were but one of those miles to prove even vaguely comfortable.

By Anthony ffrench-Constant


Month 6 running a Cactus: does cheap = cheerful?

Another week, another award for the Cactus; the Motor Trader Awards 2015 now dubbing it ‘New Car of the Year’ and lauding it as ‘a welcome move for customers and dealers alike’.

Hmmm. I’ve always considered those two groups to be mutually exclusive in the ‘welcome’ stakes. Surely, if the dealer’s making a stout profit then either the car’s too expensive, or the money’s all been taken out at production level to maximise the margins? In the case of the undeniably affordable Cactus, surely only the latter can explain why the content of said Spongebob casing is so regrettably underwhelming.

Though I admire immensely Mark Lloyd’s chutzpah in creating the Cactus, six months of living with the thing makes it all-too evident that the former suffered mightily at the hands of the bean-counters throughout what must have been a gruesome gestation; every potential innovation ruthlessly demoted to mere quirk via the castrating ‘clack’ of the abacus.

How else are we to explain an intriguing bodyshell Air-Bump concept relegated to mere appliqué door bubble-wrap status; the ergonomic cystitis that is a lack of steering reach adjustment; a seat designed to fit a body still 100 years hence down the path of human evolution (small pockets of the USA excepted); an all-powerful touchscreen that’s so recalcitrant to the touch; a non-matching, throwaway instrument binnacle offering a breadth of information on a par with the Speaking Clock; the raft of attendant compromises inherent in merely hoiking the glovebox up the dashboard; non-winding rear windows in a family car?

In truth, despite a prolonged dry spell of late, I have yet to see much of a proliferation of Cacti in Mudfordshire. But I gather they are flying off the shelves, so perhaps the bean-counters are right. In this More Bigger Snacks Now age wherein we are cajoled into replacing our cars more frequently than the average student changes his pants, perhaps parting with Manhattan simply because those beads are just so irresistibly shiny is the accepted norm.

All of which leaves me struggling to persuade my children that saving their pocket money to afford something more expensive but on a higher plane of quality, functionality and longevity is, in fact, a Jolly Good Idea.

[“source -pcworld”]