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Yes, I know you are
wondering why you see an SUV here. Is AutoZine abandoning its anti-SUV
rule? Well, let me first ask you what an SUV is, or a crossover for
that matter. If you define the car as SUV or crossover just because it
looks tough, and ignore the fact that it actually weighs less than a
conventional family hatch of the same class, the fact that it is no
taller than a Ford Focus at 1480 mm, and the fact that it is more
frugal than most, then yes, maybe I was eating my words.
No, the Citroen Cactus is not an SUV or crossover. It just looks like
one, but underneath its sheet metal is actually a very environmental
friendly concept. I am very impressed with its idea. This is a true
Citroen that we are always expecting (but usually failed) to see. It is
designed and engineered with unconventional thinking. On the outside,
it breaks the mould of all the current automotive design practices. The
smoothly rounded front end does away the conventional grille and
emphasizes only the double chevron logo. The main headlights are
located beneath the daytime running lights and surrounded by tough
rubberized portion, which is scratch resistant and can be easily
replaced after minor collision. Likewise, the door sides are protected
by large pieces of air-filled rubber pads (dubbed "Airbump"). The aim
is to reduce the cost of ownership over the entire life time.
The Cactus is about the right size. At 4.16 m long, 1.73 m wide, 1.48 m
tall and runs a 2.6 m wheelbase, it is marginally smaller than a
Volkswagen Golf but still falls in the C-segment. However, it is built
on the smaller platform of Peugeot 208 rather than the EMP2 platform of
C4 Picasso. Lightweight is an essential part of its design and
engineering. In base form it weighs only 965 kg, some 200 kg less than
the lightest Golf, whose MQB platform is already known for lightweight!
Part of this weight saving comes at the price of convenience. For
example, it employs a one-piece folding rear bench seat to save 6
kg. Another 11 kg is trimmed by fitting the rear doors with
pop-out windows, saving the power winding mechanism. This also allows
the rear doors to accommodate extra storage cubbies. An aluminum bonnet
and crash beams and an all-alloy 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine also saves
considerable weight. Because the Cactus is designed for not very
powerful engines, its transmission, axles, suspensions and brakes could
be sized to cut weight. Or put it this way, a B-segment platform
supersized to the border of C-segment has an inherent advantage in
weight. It just lacks the potential to offer more powerful versions,
but that doesn't care to Cactus.
The interior design is equally a radical rethink of current practices.
Citroen found out by installing the front passenger airbag to the roof,
just behind the header, it can reduce the size of the dashboard and
free up the space in front of the passenger. The interior design is
very modern, furniture like. As in BMW i3, the main instrument is a
minimalist LCD screen standing freely above the dash structure. The
same goes for the infotainment screen. There is no conventional
instrument pod or center console. The dashboard has only 12 buttons, as
most functions have been incorporated into the touchscreen. The simple
door panel is visually enhanced with a leather door pull like luxury
baggages. Most plastics are hard ones, but that doesn't hurt the
unusual appeal of this cabin.
Like many Japanese Kei-cars, the front seats can be converted to bench
seat with the extra cushions in place. It intends not to sit an extra
passenger but to create a sofa-like relaxing environment. It is soft
and comfy, if not too suitable for long journeys. The driving position
is not as high as its crossover looks suggested, but the seating
position is generally faultless, although the steering wheel lacks
reach adjustment. There is plenty of room up front. At the rear,
legroom is good but head room is too tight for 6-footers to fit in.
You won't expect this car to be good to drive, but it does surprise in
a number of areas. First is the engine. PSA's new Puretech 1.2-liter
3-cylinder Turbo motor is unusually advanced. It has an all-alloy
construction, direct fuel injection, dual-VVT and a balance shaft. The
flexible cam timing of dual-VVT system allows it to run Atkinson cycle
under certain part-load conditions to save fuel, or implement
scavenging effect at full load to enhance output. 110 horsepower and
151 lbft of torque from just 1500 rpm give the car good performance and
flexibility, while refinement is excellent. The Puretech 3-pot is also
available in cheaper naturally aspirated, port-injected form, which
offers 82 hp and 87 lbft of torque at 2750 rpm. Thanks to the low kerb
weight and good torque spread it still offers enough performance for
everyday use, and the combined fuel economy of 71 mpg is eye-popping
for a petrol car of this size. This makes the pricier 1.6 HDI diesel
superfluous. Compare to the good engines, the imprecise 5-speed manual
and jerky 6-speed automated manual gearbox are weak points.
Surprisingly, the low-cost, comfort-oriented chassis is not that bad to
drive. While it is by no means a rival to Focus or Golf, it suppresses
body roll reasonably well, grips hard in corners and tracks straight on
motorway. The electric power steering gives decent feel. The
lightweight 3-cylinder motor makes the car feel light and eager to
steer. The soft suspension does a reasonable job of ironing out rough
surfaces, although big bumps could thump through the less-than-rigid
chassis into the cabin. The lack of sound insulation also fails to
filter out tire roar and wind noise generated by the roof rails. Those
are the inevitable drawbacks of building on a supermini platform.
However, the C4 Cactus is still a surprisingly appealing package. It
looks special, feels upmarket inside and, most important, it is cheap
to buy and run without feeling cheap. This sounds very much like a
modern 2CV. It might set a template for all future Citroens.
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| C4 Cactus 2018 facelift
biggest selling point has been abandoned by stupid guys in the name of
getting wider audiences...
original C4 Cactus, especially in light yellow, was one of the most
eye-catching cars on the street. It was extremely funky and unusual,
not just the famous anti-scratch “airbumps” on its sides but simply
every detail, no matter exterior or interior. In the enthusiast circle
it was an icon. However, it might be too radical for the wider car
buying public. In 2016, Citroen sold just over 80,000 copies of the
Cactus, far fewer than the aging C4, which shifted more than 260,000
units. Market positioning of the two models were largely overlapped. In
order to simplify the range and direct more resources to the rising SUV
segments, Citroen decided to terminate the production of C4 at the end
of last year and let the C4 Cactus to take care of its residual
customers. To that end, the Cactus gets a facelift and has its styling
turned more conventional.
In this facelift, the hardpoints of the car are left untouched, of
course, so the Cactus is still a high-riding, crossover-style hatchback
completed with cost-saving pop-out rear side windows. However, nearly
all sheet metals have been altered. The front end has added a
conventional upper grille accompanied with traditional double-chevron
logo. Headlights, foglamps and bumper design are all heavily revised.
While these changes don’t lack of style, they make the car
indistinguishable from the seas of compact SUV-crossover, including the
smaller C3. More problematic, Citroen has nearly wiped off the side
airbumps, substantially reducing their area and moving them down to the
door sill level. Do they still fulfill the function of anti-scratch? I
doubt. At the rear, the tailgate has lost its large black section and
becomes conventional. Sadly, the Cactus is no longer Cactus. Its
biggest selling point has been abandoned by stupid guys in the name of
pleasing wider audiences.
Mechanical changes are not many. Under the bonnet still see the
1.2-liter PureTech 3-cylinder engine in the form of naturally
aspiration (82hp) or turbocharging (110hp), although the most powerful,
130hp, version of the latter is finally available to the car. It is a
good small engine, being smooth, willing, quiet and frugal. Although
the car gets some weight, it still easily undercuts a conventional
C-segment hatchback by 150kg, so performance is quite respectable.
suspension gives it big Citroen refinement.
The car gains weight because it has added extra sound insulation and,
except the 82hp model, a new kind of tricky suspension called PHC
(Progressive Hydraulic Cushion). It is no Hydractive or Airmatic, but
for this class it is quite sophisticated – 2 hydraulic dampers are
added to each shock absorber, one at each end, to replace conventional
rubber bumpstops. It enables the car to ride over large bumps and
undulations more smoothly. Meanwhile, thanks to those hydraulic
bumpstops, softer springs and dampers can be adopted thus long-distance
ride comfort is improved as well. On the road, this gives the small
Citroen an unusual sense of big-car refinement. We won’t call it “magic
carpet”, but considering the car’s flyweight and its B-segment-based
platform (derived from Peugeot 208, remember), it was surprisingly
absorbent. Like all the good old Citroens, it rolls noticeably in
corner, but ultimately it will settle on its hydraulic bumpstops and
rarely affect handling. That said, the Cactus is not a car to be
hustled. Its higher center of gravity and its light, slow and numb
steering do not encourage spirited drives.
Update to the interior is limited. Most notable is the new front seats,
which gets thicker and high-density foams proved to be more supportive
and comfortable over long distances. The cabin still looks stylish and
modern, although the touchscreen infotainment system and the plastic
materials are far from standard-setting.
All in all, the updated car is more comfortable and refined than
before, but it loses a big chunk of style and, now priced directly
against the true C-segment rivals like Golf, Astra, Megane, Focus etc.,
I suppose the mainstream route could be too bumpy for its new
suspension to handle.