Citroen C4 Cactus

Rip Curl - 10,000

mile Road Test

Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, front, action, beach
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, side, action, beach
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, rear, beach
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, side
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, side, beach
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, front, road
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, rear, road
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, interior
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, display screen
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, rear seats
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, instrument panel
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, boot
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, cup holder and Grip Control switch
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, rear seatbelts
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, armrest
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, airbump
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, dashboard
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, Rip Curl decal, front
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, glove box
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, glove box, open
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, door pull
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, rear door pockets
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, Rip Curl decal, rear
Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl, rear window

CARS with a quirk are what Citroen does best and the C4 Cactus is a fine example.

It's the car with the bumps - two protective panels fixed to the sides of the car to guard against nasty knocks.

The Airbumps make the Cactus look like no other car on the road at the moment and while not the most decorative of features, they serve a purpose.

Yet Citroen is daring to be different in more ways than one with the Cactus and has teamed up with surf fashion brand Rip Curl.

What began as a special edition is now a mainstream model and the Cactus Rip Curl is more than just about fancy features.

It is fitted with Citroen's electronic Grip Control traction system that gives the Cactus the go-anywhere ability its SUV-style looks deserve.

With added protection around the wheel arches, along the sills and sturdy bumpers it is a vehicle that can handle the rough and tumble of everyday motoring with ease.

Having put the C4 Cactus Rip Curl to the test over more than 10,000 miles of very mixed motoring, it has proved to be a splendid performer - but not without some vagaries.

This version was a 100ps 1.6 BlueHDi diesel costing £19,750 although the Rip Curl treatment is available with a 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine for some £700 less.

Those prices put it at the top end of the Cactus rand and it comes loaded with features including leather upholstery, sat nav and air conditioning.

Then there is the Rip Curl treatment which not only adds the Grip Control but also a panoramic glass roof, Rip Curl decals front and rear and orange highlights inside which can be found around the front door audio speakers, in the floor mat stitching and even orange coloured seat belts.

The styling tweaks also include white roof rails and white door mirror caps, all setting off the car's silver paint job which Citroen calls Arctic Steel.

As with any Cactus there is a lot of detail in the style ranging from leather and metal covering the nicely chunky handbrake, classy door pulls and an unusual flip top glove box on the top of the dash.

Inside the glove box is an additional connectivity socket and the whole arrangement is made possible by fitting the front airbags in the roof instead of behind the dashboard - a clever solution that frees up space.

An oblong digital instrument panel replaces conventional dials and while the information is stripped down to the basics such as speed and fuel without a rev counter there's a full array of warning lights hidden away which will display only when necessary.

Most of the car's functions are controlled either from buttons on the steering wheel or from the tablet-style display in the centre of the dash.

The only ‘real' switches are for the heated windows, the central door locks and hazard warning lights.

A family-friendly touch is automatic child locks controlled via a switch to the right of the steering wheel while there's a 12-volt outlet and USB port in the centre console as well as the jack point hidden away in the glove box.

Then there is the quirky stuff - some of which can take some getting used to.

There are no interior lights in the back, there's only one vanity mirror and that's on the driver's side, the door pockets are relatively shallow and the rear windows are pop-outs and then by not very much.

The Grip Control master switch is sited above the cup holder and gets in the way of anything larger than a drinks can and the fold-down armrest between the front seats is best left up as it impedes the hand brake.

Worst of all is the six different touches on the screen that are needed just to switch on or off the sat nav voice instructions.

After thousands of miles on the road, that's the one that was the most annoying and in desperate need of a software overhaul.

Other than that the connectivity is up to scratch and includes the facility for Citroen's Multicity information service which shows the likes of nearby hotels, restaurants and filling stations.

When it comes to comfort there are no complaints and the Cactus is roomy all round. A long journey won't fatigue and boot space of 358 litres is good enough, enhanced by rear seats which fold on a 70/30 split.

Its forte is out on the road and overall fuel consumption was 56.4mpg - very impressive given that much of the mileage was at motorway speeds.

That may be well off the official 80.7mpg Citroen claims with emissions of 95g/km but given that the average speed notched up in some 14,000 miles was close to 45mph that sort of fuel return is excellent - and there is nothing lacking in acceleration even at cruising speeds.

Service intervals are 12 months or 16,000 miles and will be indicated by a warning on the dash, as will the diesel engine's AdBlue status.

The Cactus carries 17 litres of the AdBlue emissions additive and during our evaluation the top up warning appearing at 12,500 miles.

Refilling is a bit of a chore with the AdBlue tank under the boot floor and the filler cap accessible only with the spare wheel removed - an operation possibly best left to the mechanics at service time.

However, let's put that down to being yet another of the unusual features that make the Cactus a car with many facets - mostly good but some no quite so.

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