By on February 5, 2014


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.

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39 Comments on “Citroen C4 Cactus Ushers In A New Kind Of Low Cost Car...”

  • avatar

    Nice article but my first thought seeing the jump was “gawd”.

  • avatar

    a few observations

    i love the design of the dash… looks like single piece moulding and the lack of hvac controls (all in the touchscreen), the lack of gearstick and the simple D/R/N buttons (it does have paddles), the single screen dash looks great

    now heres the bad news… in the west i believe this car doesnt have a place

    a simple CUV like this is $20-$25k

    why would as established brand bring out a $15k CUV when its just going to cannabalise sales of their normal $25k CUV?

    if you’re chinese and have nothing the canabalise thats another thing but PSA isnt chinese (yet)

    • 0 avatar

      Because, in Western Europe, people aren’t buying the $25k CUV. They want the $15k CUV but the Dacia is too lowbrow for them. Think of it as shopping at H&M rather than a nondescript High Street store (or JCPenny in the US). Same price point, the quality is not great either way, but H&M is far more stylish.

    • 0 avatar

      Because it’s better to cannibalize yourself rather than let your competitors do it. Duster, man, Duster.

      • 0 avatar

        i wish what you say is true

        where i am the cheapest toy CUV is the Peugeot 2008 which is $21k but pretty much $25k once at your doorstep

        there’s a rubbish Chinese CUV that looks like a Gen 1 RAV4 that is $16,990

        Western Europe is a such a big place and I suppose England is a the best model with their £9,000 Duster but we have a strong dealer network here that wants to establish the status quo as “we need a $20k CUV to make any money” and no one will break that embargo of sorts besides the Chinese and maybe the Malaysians

  • avatar

    Looks like a poor man’s Evoque.

  • avatar

    I see a price point much higher then $15,000 for C4 Cactus. Where did that figure come from, Derek.

    But I am with you on simple cheap cars/pick-ups.

    All I need is good brakes, better then average handling, decent looks and utility, decent performance and MPG, Cruise control, Sunroof, Remote locks, and a decent seat. All else falls into the ‘want’ category. All of that can be had in a rebuilt E30, to bad a Touring wasn’t available in the US, but there is the
    E36 Touring.

    Regarding E30 Touring; Just had a thought that a Euro model might now be available through the simplified US import ’25’ year rule, and a quick search resulted in finding one one-Bay, and it is close by on the West coast.

    • 0 avatar

      It came from nowhere. I was just replying to TonyJZX’s comment as an example of why someone might opt for the lower priced Cactus over the Citroen AirCross. It’s cheaper AND a different selling proposition (funky and rugged versus faux premium).

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Cheap cars do not have expensive looking light units or fancy door panels. A cheap car here is some you buy around $12,000 (Mitsubishi Mirage et al) and it comes with all sorts of breakable things like air con but cheap light fittings which can bought on line for a few bucks. To qualify as cheap as it gets older,it still has to be maintainable because it’s design was basic,and didn’t include frippery. There have been examples of this throughout automotive history great one came from Citroen themselves…the 2 CV.. but cheapies don’t have cruise control, ABS, blah blah because then they aren’t cheap anymore and when that sort of stuff breaks after 3 years or just out of warranty they are junked . Putting paid to the fallacy that they are cheap cars.
    $15,000 isn’t cheap car in 2014,it is priced in the lower part of the midprice range in Australia. I think it’s time the Citroen marketing team got out from behind their desks.

    • 0 avatar

      For myself, cheap, is a price point under $10,000. This would allow a lot more people, especially young people, into the new car market. I think Chevy just had and ad for a car at $9,999. Not to long ago you could by Versa’s for under 10g’s.

      But another thought asks me…do we really want more ICE equipped vehicles on the road?

      Ron, you make a good point on factoring in product reliability over the long term to codify the cheap car.

      These days, cars are a lot more reliable, as the market demands it and the reality of the WWW makes any quality issues well known, if not over blown.

      Chevy ‘Spark’ $9,999$9,999!!-Medford-OR/30479100

      • 0 avatar

        There is very little market for sub $10k penalty boxes when cars are so reliable and long lasting that a $10k used car will give you far more for the money. $10k is a 2-3yo Impala or Dodge Avenger. And most Americans buy cars by the pound.

      • 0 avatar

        krhodes1 has it right. Moreover, the $10,000 car is like a $100,000 house in Los Angeles: a quaint memory, never to be seen again. Ten grand is the inflation-adjusted price of a Yugo.

        Again, krhodes1 has it right: Americans buy the biggest car they can afford. Consumers Reports did a review of entry level econoboxes several years ago, and finished their article with a list of 2-3 year old more upscale cars that could be had for the same price.

    • 0 avatar

      Ron B., there is no point in critiquing the price when it hasn’t yet been announced. And when it is, one has to evaluate it in the context of the markets where it will be sold. Your criticism of Citroen’s marketing team is, at best, premature.

  • avatar
    Tom Szechy

    “the raised ride height will pay dividends in traffic, allowing drivers a better perspective”

    I’m sorry but this is so retarded (referring to the trend, not the article of course).

    • 0 avatar

      Especially when the increased ride height is accompanied by a flattened greenhouse so the net effect is not increased visibility and perspective but merely compressed occupants.

      Love the Rubbermaid body panels, though.

      BTW, I wonder if “Rubbermaid” could’ve been seen as a double entendre back in 1920 when the company was founded.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, increased ride height helps visibility of more than over other cars. There are so many signs, shrubberies, etc., on corners around here that an extra foot of height would be greatly appreciated.

    • 0 avatar

      Eh, I see it as an unfortunate arms race from the crossoverification of the market. It’s getting to the point where you need a raised ride height to get a better perspective, around all the other damn crossovers.

      I understand it (and this C4 Cactus is actually sort of cool), but they can pry a normal ride height from my cold, dead hands.

    • 0 avatar

      I was going to say, no it won’t, because everybody else is doing it too: The first few who get a higher car get to see over all the other cars, but when most people are in higher cars, they’re all blocking each other’s view just like before.

      OK, “the raised ride height will pay dividends in traffic, allowing drivers a better perspective” even for the last ones, but only in the sense that they won’t be sitting a lot LOWER than everybody else any more. (So what’s next: “High-riders”, “Donks”, cars on stilts…?)

      Net effect, after everyone is in SUVs/CUVs/Donks: Zero change in relative visibility. But fuel consumption is higher for everybody, because of bad aerodynamics.

      An utterly retarded trend, indeed.

  • avatar

    I wonder how those side panels are going to weather over time? It’s not going to be so stylish if those soft surfaces turn a grubby gray.

    • 0 avatar

      I think it’s better quality than that yellow stuff GM used and painted over in the ’70s. The color should hold up, but the plastic panels of Saturns did just as good a job of resisting dings and looked normal. I think Steven Lang pointed out once that the plastic bodies of old Saturns held up really well and still looked good after cleaning them up.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking that. And what happens when you have friction on something rubber (eg. an eraser) it changes to the color underneath, and there is then a rough surface with little filings attached. The nicks and scrapes will be just as obvious as with paint, except you can’t paint it because it’s rubber.

      I think it’ll end up weathered and discolored like on old Volvos of the mid 90s (and up through the XC70 in 04 or so). And Audis of the 80s.

  • avatar

    I think this is a cool idea, I love the simplicity of the interior.

    • 0 avatar
      This Is Dawg

      Me too. Those seats and what I assume is brake handle look great. I’m not sold on the exterior color scheme, but overall it looks like a solid idea to me.

  • avatar

    Love it. This could singularly revive the fortunes of Citroen.

  • avatar

    I saw this thumbnail yesterday somewhere and thought Citroen had better concentrate more on making a product that sells than a weird one. Reading this, the Cactus should sell. Not that I know anything about the company– I’m in Kentucky and haven’t seen a Citroen in years. In a selfish mode, I enjoy seeing their concept cars, and the company has historically introduced so many innovations I hope it does well and sticks around with enough cash to not just survive but be brilliant.
    If Europe is following the high rides of the US, this should appeal like a newborn from a Cherokee/Edge mating. Having just moved from Old Louisville where I parallel parked for a decade, I’d say add more rubber.
    Out of 30 vehicles, I’ve only purchased one that wasn’t used. But figuring how many parents and first car buyers there is that only want new and under warranty, yet affordable, this really opens the door for a vehicle with style. The Duster looks as dated as an old Ford Escape, and the concept I’ve seen for the future model appears to be going for flash over function. This should be a winner.

  • avatar

    It has Jeep Cherokee “eyebrow” lights.

    • 0 avatar
      Tom Szechy

      Actually, the 2014 Cherokee and Citroen’s new design language have a lot in common. Have a look at the Citroen Technospace concept:
      …which is basically the concept version of the C4 Picasso people mover family. The new Cherokee was introduced around the same time…

  • avatar

    I really love the interior. I’m not big on computers in cars, but for some reason everything looks right here. The outside isn’t terrible, but I’m not sure how those big rubber pieces are really going to protect the front or back. Still nothing like a pair of giant chrome bumpers hanging off a car for that.

    Get rid of the bumpy sides, put a small turbo 3cyl engine in it with a manual, and sell it for under $15k; I’d buy it…. not as if it would be sold here though.

  • avatar

    What’s a Rental Captur!?

  • avatar

    I like this idea, and I think the styling is spot on. I highlighted my concerns with executing the rubber long-term above. Another thought is about the expansion/contraction in hot/cold which rubber does. Might make for some very rattl-y doors on bumpy roads.

    But I’d for sure drive a car that said CACTUS on the C-pillar and rear. I even like it in white/brown*. The wheels are awesome too.

    *Just like the C30 looked best in white/brown.

  • avatar

    PSA has no problems designing exiting cars. What they need is volume. This C4 Cactus is one clever proposition, one that I would enjoy quite a lot.

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