In an increasingly regulated and sometimes vanilla world, a point of difference can be refreshing. Cue the Cactus, as unlikely a car name as you are ever likely to hear.
Brought to you by Citroen, the French brand synonymous with innovation, the Cactus is a compact, two-wheel-drive SUV based on the C4 small car platform.
It introduces Citroen’s patented Airbump protection – replacement plastic panelling fitted to the vehicle’s sides to protect against the likes of errant shopping trolleys – along with a roof-mounted airbag and windscreen washers that squirt from the ends of the wipers.
In keeping with the funkiness, buyers have a myriad of personalisation choices. Our test car came with optional two-tone leather/cloth trim ($1600), premium paint ($800), and splashes of white to the purple and black exterior ($500).
Standard equipment includes a 7˝ multi-function touchscreen, sat nav, auto climate control, auto rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, rear park sensors, rear view camera, cruise control, DAB+ radio and 17˝ alloys.
However, notable omissions include auto down function on the driver’s window, rear window wind down function (push out only), second row air-con vents, tachometer, and steering reach adjustment.
The seats are accommodating and boot capacity is 358 litres.
However, compared with the other choice in the Cactus range – a 1.2-litre, 81kW/205Nm turbo-petrol three-cylinder with five-speed manual transmission – the combination of 1.6-litre, 68kW/230Nm turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine and push-button, six-speed semi-auto makes for a disappointing and disjointed drive.
Upshifts are slow and slurred, to the point where the car bogs down as if the hand brake is being slowly applied. In stop/start driving around town,
this is extremely frustrating.
Shown a twisty back road, there’s an absence of dynamic ability, too, with plenty of body roll and shortage of front end grip. Get-up-and-go is also lacking, with the diesel being about two seconds slower accelerating from 0-100km/h.
No complaint about the Cactus’ ride quality, though. It glides over road surface imperfections and handles the bomb craters well, too.
Highway cruising – when the transmission is not toing and froing – is where the diesel/semi-auto is most comfortable and most effective. On such a 320km run, fuel consumption worked out at 4.6 litres/100km, just 1.0 higher than the ADR combined figure.
If substance matters, then it’s likely this is not the car for you. However, if style brings a smile, then best check the quirky Citroen out.