Sunday 18 August 2019

Love is in the AIR

New Citroen has quirkiness in spades, and it's bubble-wrapped too, writes Philip Hedderman

Citroen are back doing what they do best - making cars that you'll love or loathe in equal measure.

And they certainly didn't hold back with the 'prickly' Cactus, which definitely has the Marmite effect.

Yep, we're talking 2CV-territory here, only this time round every single detail was planned with military precision. For starters, the new C4 may look like a cross-over, but it is in fact a C-Segment offering.

To the uninitiated out there, that basically means this quirky hatchback will go head-to-head with the likes of the Golf, Focus and Corolla.

Quite a smart move, I think you'll agree, as today's more-discerning customer wants a bit of individuality.

Almost identical to the concept unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, it's unique selling point is the "revolutionary Airbump technology" (plastic air pockets in the doors and bumpers that absorb minor thumps), but to be fair it has a lot more going for it than this little gimmick.

First and foremost, the Cactus is leaner, meaner and a whole lot greener that its predecessor.

Because it shed a whopping 200kg, the running costs have been reduced by 20pc, meaning a staggering 76mpg (3.1 litres/100km) and hybrid-like emissions of only 82g/km.

But there's no getting away from the audacious design which, if nothing else, has that stand-out-from-the-crowd appeal.

It seems the French car giant has moved to bridge the gap between its C range and the luxury DS badge.

What we have then is a car that's all things to all men . . . or women, judging by the colour schemes and retro cabin styling.

Fussy yummy mummies can choose four panel shades (black, grey, dune and chocolate) to complement no fewer than 10 body colours including a mega-trendy purple for all the fashionistas.

Inside it looks like a Parisian penthouse - chic but minimalistic.

First to grab you is the bench-like front seat, or sofa seats, giving the interior a real 60s feel - the brainchild of an Irishman who has worked on many high-profile projects over the years.

The retro cockpit has also been completely decluttered, with the dash dominated by a 7-inch iPad-style touchscreen housing all the controls for air con, media, phone, navigation, cruise control and reversing camera.

Even the automatic gearbox has been stripped out and replaced with three buttons - D,R and N.

A full-length panoramic glass roof not only reduces weight but gives the cabin an airy feel, and there is ample room for three adults in the rear.

Boot capacity is decent enough with 358 litres, but the pop-out windows in the rear may be a problem for some, and I wouldn't be too fussed about the leather strap-style door handles.

Irish customers can choose from three trim levels - Touch, Feel and Flair - with two petrol (75 and 82bhp) and one diesel (100bhp).

Drive-wise, we only got a quick spin, and although lively enough, the woolly gearbox was evident from the off, and I managed to slip it into fifth twice in the space of a couple of minutes.

That said, it was comfortable, sturdy and, above all, attention-grabbing.

But the biggest lure has to be the price, which at €17,795 for the entry-level car won't leave you feeling all prickly.

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