Thursday, 13 August 2015

The C4 Cactus is far from perfect - but at least you remember it

EVERYONE has a favourite Citroen. Whether you ask your mum or your best mate – or even your best mate’s mum – I reckon anyone with even an ounce of car awareness can reel off at least one of the French firm’s offerings.

It might be a rustic old 2CV or a swoopy DS. Perhaps it’s that Saxo VTS you once cheekily handbrake-turned in an empty car park, or the BX your slightly wacky relatives used to run around in. The fact you can probably recall at least one means Citroens are memorable – imagine if I’d asked you to name your favourite Kia instead. Struggling a bit?

Yet the legacy of those great cars is a manufacturer that’s forever trying to overcome a bit of an identity crisis – which is why for every wonderfully weird Xantia there’s usually a crushingly boring Xsara that almost seems to say “Sorry, we got a bit carried away earlier”. Every brief bit of brilliance seems to get hauled in with a succession of me-too models nobody remembers.

Take the C4. I loved the original, with its steering wheel boss that just floated in the upright position no matter which way you turned and the Honda CRX-esque proportions and sharp snout of the three-door model, but I can’t even remember what the current model looks like.

Which is probably why the spin-off appears to have wheels stolen from the set of Space 1999 and two giant Dairy Milks glued to its sides. The C4 Cactus is wilfully weird.

There is a genuine reason for it having those squishy, moulded blobs – park up in a tight space at the supermarket and you won’t return to find a Range Rover Evoque’s door has left a dent in yours. It also looks great despite the bonkers detailing, packs a phenomenal amount of legroom and headroom into a small(ish) space and it’s easy to drive.

The interior is as wonderfully avant-garde as the exterior – particularly the way the glovebox has been made to look like a trendy briefcase. I’m not so keen on its other trendy feature – the decision to operate every conceivable control through an iPad-esque screen. Not only does it rob the rest of the cabin of buttons and switches but it’s so fiddly, complicated and irresponsive it was actually distracting to use.

That’s before I get to the Blade Runner-esque digital dash readout that doesn’t have a rev counter, the boot lip that’s a bit too high up for heaving heavy bags of shopping and the over-assisted, feel-free steering – but I’ll forgive the irritating foibles because I like the Cactus.

In a motoring landscape where generic hatchbacks with badges like EcoBland plastered across their rumps the Cactus is a breath of fresh air. It might not be my favourite Citroen, but it’s a car you can’t forget in a hurry.

1 comment:

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