TTAC (well, mostly this writer) has been enthusiastic about low cost cars, which are sold in Europe and emerging markets as a kind of no-frills, back-to-basics type of motoring for people who might previously have been able to only afford a knackered used car or something with two wheels. But Citroen – whose parent company PSA has been conspicuously absent from this space – is about introduce a new kind of low-cost car: one that has more emphasis on style, and an even more intense focus on low cost of ownership.
The C4 Cactus, above, is based on the standard Citroen C4. But rather than attempting to compete with higher content C-Segment cars like the VW Golf, the new “C-Line” (of which the Cactus is part of) has been designed for the realities of motoring in urban areas and other less than ideal conditions. Those off-colored bumpy surfaces are actually rubber, and meant to prevent against door dings and scrapes, while the bumpers have what appear to be rubber surfaces as well. In cities like Paris, this is a huge deal – parking by touch is common, and cars get damaged as a result. The rubber surfaces aim to eliminate the need for pricey bodywork. Inside, the same ethos carries over, with stylish but hard-wearing surfaces and upholstery. Check out that gear selector too. Very simple, but very elegant. How French.
CUV critics, take note. The standard C4 has a regular ride height, but Europeans have become crossover crazy, and the raised ride height will pay dividends in traffic, allowing drivers a better perspective, while adding the requisite style quotient to compete with the Dacia Duster and more upscale rivals like the Rental Captur and Opel Mokka. Powertrains haven’t been announced, but there should be plenty of diesels.
With the Cactus, Citroen is hoping to create an automotive version of a “frugalista” product like Zara clothing – something with sufficient cachet that it can be considered cool, but at a price point that is attractive to mainstream buyers. Perhaps it will precipitate a swing away from the recent “premium” craze. Maybe not, but we can hope.