The Cactus is Citroen’s fun and funky answer to the compact SUV segment. While the Cactus offers much strength in great packaging, refinement and style, its dated underpinnings, impractical features and lack of a decent automatic let it down. We liked the petrol manual offering, but the diesel semi-automatic had us feeling like passengers of a 16-year-old learning to drive manual. And as for the choice of name – which Citroen said represents the SUV’s efficient use of fuel (like a Cactus and water) – and prickle-like protective airbumps, the French weren’t to know what Cactus really means in Australian slang.
Suspension. Despite the auto’s jerky drive, the suspension is still as compliant and supple as the manual and glides over pesky speed humps.
Compared to the Cactus’s competitors, its boot size is relatively large. It’s certainly larger than it looks. 358-litres is plenty of room for a pram.
If you love people staring at you as you drive past, then the Cactus will be right up your alley. Its edgy looks (both inside and out) sure make this French-car stand out from the crowd.
Despite its lack of transmission and fuel combinations, the Cactus comes with plenty of options for those who like to customise. 21 colour combos for the body and airbumps, then there’s roof-rails and wheels.
There are plenty of gimmicky features on the Cactus and you’ll either love them or hate them. But despite the strange design choices on some of the interiors, somehow the French have made it work. It’s sophisticated and elegant.
Fuel efficiency is one of the Cactus’s biggest strengths – that’s what the name is meant to represent, after all. Just like a cactus in the desert is known for its ability to retain water, the diesel Cactus is the same; clocking a class-leading 3.6L/100km for fuel consumption.
The Citroen Cactus is missing some crucial technology, at the sacrifice of its safety. Awarded only four stars in the EuroNCAP, the Cactus loses out for the omissions of automatic emergency braking and other safety tech featured in some of its competitors.
It’s the gearbox that really sets the automatic apart from its manual, petrol-drinking sibling. Like riding in the car with a L-plater learning to drive manual, the jerky semi-automatic transmission will have you bouncing to and fro. Team that with the lag of a diesel and it can get a bit frustrating around the city. The lack of a petrol option is also disappointing.
Because it was released in Europe two years before we got it in Australia, the Cactus sits on the old underpinnings of the previous-gen Peugeot 208 and would be almost due for an update. This, matched with the spasmodic auto ‘box, means the mechanical offering isn’t up to expectations.