2016 Citroen Cactus long-term car review, part one

By Alex Inwood, 17 Dec 2016 Car Reviews

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2016 Citroen Cactus

Forget the prickly name, our Citroen Cactus long-term test car is smoothing relations as Alex Inwood discovers there's a lot to like about the first properly bonkers Citroen in ages.

The thing that annoys my wife most isn’t my laziness (that’s what she calls it, at least; I call it relaxing) or my reluctance to mow the grass. It’s not even my tendency to leave dirty laundry on the floor. It’s how I park. Or to be more exact, it’s where I park.

I’m quite fussy about where I leave a car, especially in underground shopping centre car parks. My biggest pet peeve is emerging from the shops to discover someone has opened a door onto our car, or clipped it with a trolley. It’s infuriating.

So, to avoid this, I park as far away from other cars as possible, preferably next to a cement pole. This drives the wife bonkers. “Are you sure this spot is okay?” she asks innocently, before storming off in a huff. Sometimes she’s so mad she refuses to speak during the 2km hike to Coles.

Happily, though, we haven’t had an episode like this in weeks because my new long-termer – this bright yellow Citroen Cactus – is largely impervious to such parking mishaps thanks to the ‘airbumps’ fitted to its flanks. These act like giant strips of bubble wrap, so instead of skulking around a car park’s far reaches, the Citroen’s body armour means I now aim for pole position instead. And where I once rejected parking spots if they showed even the smallest potential risk, anywhere will do for the Cactus.

Does that spot look a little tight? No worries. Oh no, that one’s next to the trolley return shoot. Who cares. Honestly, it’s changed my whole outlook on life. Instead of glaring at trolley-wielding shoppers and mentally shouting, “Stay away from my car, you morons!”, I find myself hoping they’ll lose control and ram the Cactus just to see what happens.

2016 Citroen Cactus

I even know what I’m going to say when they do. “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry!” they’ll screech, mortified. “It’s okay, you careless duffer,” I’ll reply, “that’s what these bumps are for.” And then I’ll ram the Cactus again just to prove the point.

The Citroen has improved my life in other ways, too. I no longer need to visit petrol stations twice a week, for instance. Regular readers will know my previous long-termer was an HSV Clubsport LSA wagon that, while excellent in almost every way, didn’t so much drink fuel as guzzle it. The Citroen, on the other hand, seems to have a bottomless tank.

My Cactus has the 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, paired with a five-speed manual transmission, and so far it’s been so frugal that

I’ve only fuelled it once over an entire month. And don’t confuse this efficiency with languid performance; the 81kW/205Nm three-pot is a peach.

And then there’s the design. Some of my friends hate it, but to my eye the Cactus looks brilliant with its quirky round edges and concept-car DRLs. I love the cabin, too, especially the supremely comfortable lounge-like front seats.

However, there have been annoyances, even at this early stage.

There’s no tilt adjustment on the steering wheel, for example, so the driving position feels a little off. And the reversing camera takes twice as long as it should to engage.

And I’m already starting to resent the clumsiness of the central touchscreen that controls everything from phone connectivity to the climate control.

Yet none of these foibles have dulled the Cactus’s initial shine. As the first properly bonkers Citroen in ages, it dares to be different. And I like that. So does the wife.

This article was originally published in Wheels magazine December 2016.