Citroen C4 Cactus

Flair BlueHDi 100

Citroen C4 Cactus, front static
Citroen C4 Cactus, side static
Citroen C4 Cactus, front static (2)
Citroen C4 Cactus, rear static
Citroen C4 Cactus, dashboard
Citroen C4 Cactus, boot
Citroen C4 Cactus, rear seats
Citroen C4 Cactus, front seats
Citroen C4 Cactus, door detail

A TRIO of 200 mile round trips to deepest London let me draw a couple of conclusions - one of them blindingly obvious, the other not so.

First; don't drive into London unless there really is no alternative. No matter when you approach the city that never sleeps, it will be traffic chaos. Take the train instead.

Second; do the trips in a Citroen C4 Cactus and the pain of a three hour grid lock will be comfortably lessened by the way it seems to use hardly any fuel.

Good to know there's some payback for the misery of a capital drive - I salute those poor commuters who do this every day and stay (relatively) sane.

At journeys' end, and with more than 800 test miles under its radials, the Cactus had averaged 64.1mpg. At one stage the trip computer nudged towards 70mpg but the relentless stop & surge of one traffic light after another eventually took its toll.

But, hey, enough of the practicalities; this is one car that's surely bought for much more than the fuel it saves. Like its looks, for instance.

Some cars are shaped to draw a reaction from onlookers, and the C4 Cactus is near the top of today's bunch (a space also occupied by the Kia Soul) and you will either admire Citroen's boldness, or ask 'please can you park it round the corner.'

Add the £250 worth of blue lagoon paint of the test car and you'll have a car that pulls nearly as many looks as the golden Lamborghinis that travelled as slowly as the Cactus in London but used rather more fuel.

Of course, it's the padded rubber Airbumps on front, back and side of the Cactus that add the final flourish. Designed to take the knocks of a supermarket car park (even if the very edges of the body remain vulnerable paint) they make the car as distinctive as almost anything on sale today.

Inside, the stand out looks are toned down a bit, but there's still an obvious desire to make things different. That means doors with pulls rather handles, big flat looking seats and a dashboard that sacrifices style to practicality, with a top hinged glovebox that means there is no room for a passenger air vent where it does the most good.

Citroen must also have concluded that a Cactus driver would need very little information about what's going on under the bonnet. So you're faced with a big digital speed reading, a small bar gauge for remaining fuel and nothing else.

Burrow past the looks and you have a pretty standard medium-sized hatchback that offers decent space front and rear and a boot big enough for a family weekend away.

The C4 Cactus range starts at £12,990 and tops out at a heady £20,495 and all of them share suspension that worries more about comfort than race track ability, which you may well feel is a good thing.

You'll be less admiring of a gearchange that felt as though there was development work left to do and back door windows that don't wind down but merely hinge open a little at the rear.

FAST FACTS

Citroen C4 Cactus Flair BlueHDi 100

Price: £18,820

Mechanical: 99bhp, 1,560cc, 5cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 114mph

0-62mph: 10.6 seconds

Combined MPG: 78.5

Insurance Group: 18

C02 emissions: 95g/km

Bik rating: 16%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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