Urban driving can be a bit of a scrum, putting car paintwork irksomely at risk of bumps and scuffs caused by tight parking bays and carelessly-opened car doors. It is enough to make you wish a car came with bumpers along the sides as well as at the front and back, to cushion it from the hazards of congested roads.
Coming soon is a wish-granting new model equipped with bump-protectors on all four sides. The Citroen C4 Cactus marks an interesting return for the French company to its traditional reputation for innovative quirkiness. Due here from October, the C4 Cactus has scuff-guards over the wheel arches and distinctive ‘Airbump’ pads on doors. These bubble-design pads comprise pockets of air encased in a tough thermoplastic polyurethane outer skin.
The car is built in Madrid, and a specialist company based near the Spanish coast south of Barcelona manufactures the heavily-patented Airbumps. They have a very practical purpose, but they also give the car a distinctive character and make it look like a rugged and funky urban warrior.
Citroen has taken a clean sweep to the design of the interior, too. The seats have a sofa-like feel that is less austere than the seating in many similarly-priced cars. The dashboard is lower-slung than usual, so the passenger airbag is, unusually, located in the roof. The instruments are digital and most of the controls are located around a central, tablet-style touchscreen display.
The engine choice is 1.2 petrol with 75, 82 or 110 bhp power output and 1.6 BlueHDi diesel with 92 or 100 bhp. The most frugal version is the C4 Cactus BlueHDI 100 diesel with 87 g/km CO2 emissions that qualify it for a free tax disc and benefit-in-kind company car taxation at 14 per cent. Transmission is via either a five-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed electronic automated manual that does away with the clutch pedal. There are three trim levels; Touch, Feel and Flair.
The C4 Cactus is a five-door, five-seater with boot space that stretches from a standard 358 litres to 1,170 litres with the rear seats folded. The car is a chummy and civilised drive. It is less involving than, say, a VW Golf or Ford Focus, but poised and comfortable, with decent handling and good ride comfort. It has a sure-footed feel through the bends and doesn’t roll much on tight corners.
Prices start from £12,990 for petrol versions and from £15,390 for the diesels. A range-topping Flair e-Hdi 92 ETG Auto is £18,190.