CITROEN will enhance its C4 Cactus crossover this month by adding a long-awaited petrol automatic to the range, cutting the diesel and bringing out a monotone special edition to reignite interest in one of the small SUV segment’s more intriguing offerings.
Citroen took a gamble on the C4 Cactus in early 2016 when it launched the unconventional quasi-SUV into the Australian market – an environment not only wary of cars that buck the status quo, but also one that doesn’t show much love for French automobiles.
It didn’t help that the range at launch was hobbled by the lack of a petrol automatic variant – a configuration that accounts for the lion’s share of sales in virtually every small car line-up. Granted there was an automatic in the Cactus range, but it was mated to a 1.6-litre turbo diesel and took the form of a recalcitrant and unlikeable six-speed robotised manual gearbox.
And then there was the pricing, which hovered just below the $27,000 mark for the 1.2-litre petrol manual and $10 shy of $30,000 for the diesel automatic. Considering the rear windows only popped out and didn’t roll down, and that rivals like the Nissan Juke and Mazda CX-3 were priced more affordably, the Cactus was fighting uphill from the beginning.
But the July arrival of a petrol-burning auto variant offers some kind of salvation. Pricing is still under a tight lid until the middle of the month, but the fact the C4 Cactus’ 1.2-litre “PureTech 110” turbo triple will finally come with the option of a conventional automatic is bound to improve its showroom appeal.
That gearbox is the six-speed EAT6 torque-converter auto sourced from Japanese company Aisin, that serves across many models in the Peugeot-Citroen empire, among them the Peugeot 208, 2008 crossover and 308 hatch.
Speaking to Wheels, Peugeot Citroen spokesperson Jemma White said the new six-speed auto “features a new-generation converter developed by Aisin, for fast, smooth gear changes delivering outstanding driveability.”
“The new transmission and petrol engine will have a positive effect on the appeal of the vehicle,” she continued.
And there’s certainly room for the Cactus to improve its fortunes. Year to date, Citroen has only shifted 32 of its quirky Cactus, less than a third of what had sold by this time last year and only two sales ahead of the unloved Ssangyong Korando.
All told, just 258 examples of the Cactus have found buyers since its arrival in 2016.
However, while Citroen rejigs the Cactus to give it a mid-life leg-up, it won’t result in the car losing its distinctive – and somewhat polarising – “Airbump” body armour.
The armadillo-like plastic cladding on the Cactus’ bumpers and door panels is designed to make it immune to door dings and shopping trolley mishaps, and is a key point of difference for the Cactus. Recent supports suggested the vehicular bubble wrap could get nixed in favour of a more conventional smooth-sided body, but Airbumps will at least continue for the next model year.
That said, a OneTone special edition will also be offered in the 2018 Cactus range starting this month, bringing monotone colour schemes that minimise the visual impact of those unique Airbumps.
With three colour combos available (white, black and grey), the OneTone Cacti should fly under the radar – though why you’d buy one of Australia’s most stylistically-adventurous cars just to blend into the background is beyond us…