Welcome report: Citroen Cactus

Blackball Media

Three weeks in, and it's so far so good when it comes to our newest addition to the fleet...

I won't lie to you, I'm actually rather pleased to be in charge of KP65LWH for the next 12 months – and I say that fully aware that, given enough elbowing for the keys, I could probably have nabbed our boosty Focus ST instead.

There's a couple of reasons I didn't though. Firstly, my wallet gets squeezed enough without introducing a thirsty hot hatch into the mix, and secondly, I've got a bit of a soft spot for Citroen.
I'm not going to go into a reflective monologue about how wonderful the DS was, don't worry, but I think it's fair to say that the brand is finally starting to find its mojo again after years of discount-driven sales – and cars like the Cactus are critical to its growth.

So, on to the car itself then. Ours is a top spec 'Flair' model with Peugeot-Citroen's perennial 1.6-litre diesel under the bonnet, offering up a smidge under 100bhp in this guise.

And it's a manual, rather than Citroen's (ahem) questionable EGS automatic, although curiously in this day and age it's only a five-speed 'box – time will tell whether that becomes an annoyance or not.

In terms of kit, our Cactus wants for nothing. Sat nav, Bluetooth, climate control, cruise control and a reversing camera are all bundled in with this trim, and Citroen has specced a rather natty panoramic roof too. Happy days.

Three weeks in, things are so far so good – thanks to the busy run-up to our Used Car Awards, the Cactus and I have racked up nearly 2,000 motorway miles already, and I have to say it proves a strangely compelling prospect for a long journey. That typically French combination of soft suspension and sofa-like front seats mean that the Cactus floats up and down motorways with barely an intrusion to the cabin, and thanks to Citroen's weight-saving endeavours, the 1.6 diesel feels powerful enough even for the fast lane.

Refinement seems pretty good for what's effectively a big supermini, too (the Cactus is actually based on the C3, believe it or not). Though to be honest, I've been using our car's posher stereo with beefier amp to drown out most of the noise anyway. Speaking of which, I'm more than relieved to see that Citroen has finally got its act together when it comes to designing an infotainment system.

It's miles better than the ancient set-up in the DS3, and don't even get me started on the hell that awaits you in the Peugeot 208.

It's a good job things have improved too, given that the Cactus's one also takes care of things like climate control and various important settings – clearing the dash of ugly buttons.
That's really what the Cactus is about: there's a lot of design for design's sake, which I'm more than on board with.

Did Citroen need to make the glovebox look like some designer luggage, or pen some matching grab handles for the doors? Of course not, but I'm glad they did.

Personally I'm not convinced about those plastic Airbumps on the outside, but at least they're distinctive. It's things like that which transform the Cactus from a slab-sided French hatchback to a desirable, head-turning bit of design – we'll soon see if the rest of the car lives up to the looks.

The knowledge:

Model: Citroen C4 Cactus Flair 1.6 BlueHDI 100
Price: £18,765
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel
Power: 97bhp
Max speed: 114mph
0-62mph: 10.7 seconds
Emissions: 89g/km
Mpg: 83.1mpg
Mileage this month: 1,742
This month's highlight:
Finding that the Cactus doubles as a comfy motorway cruiser.
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