By on June 24, 2014

Most car advertisements tout the abundance of features that the car offers: big engines, advanced electronics and sexy styling. Not this one.

The Citroen C4 Cactus is, in my opinion, one of the coolest cars on sale today. Yes, it does not make much power, its looks are, well, polarizing (I happen to love it) and it is deliberately spartan.

Sounds a lot like Steve’s famous base model “strippers”, right? Well, this thing is, for lack of a better word, quite chic. A Cactus is cheap in the way that Zara clothing or Ikea furniture is cheap. A base Versa with crank windows is cheap in all the wrong ways.

As many people pointed out, the sheer value of new cars on sale today in the United States means that strippers will never see much success in the market. As commenter Paul wrote

I acknowledge stripper does not equal base, but look at the options list on a totally base Accord LX Sedan with a manual:

Interior Features
Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control with Air-Filtration System
i-MID with 8-Inch High-Resolution WVGA (800×480) Screen and Customizable Feature Settings
Rearview Camera with Guidelines
Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink®4
SMS Text Message Function5
Power Windows with Auto-Up/Down Driver’s Window
Cruise Control
Illuminated Steering Wheel-Mounted Cruise, Audio, Phone and i-MID Controls
Tilt and Telescopic Steering Column
Map Lights
Fold-Down Rear Seatback with Center Armrest
160-Watt AM/FM/CD Audio System with 4 Speakers
Pandora® Compatibility6
Bluetooth® Streaming Audio4
USB Audio Interface7
MP3/Auxiliary Input Jack
Exterior Temperature Indicator

Thats not a bad list at all.

All this for just $21,995. Phenomenal value by any measure. A base Cactus, on the other hand, starts at $22,000 USD (just under 13,000 GBP). Even a base Nissan Juke in Europe, which retails for similar money, comes with a 1.6L engine making just 94 horsepower.

The point I’m trying to make is that in America, where cars are so comparatively cheap, something like the Cactus would be a non-starter. But in the rest of the world, where cars, as well as parking, fuel, insurance and other associated costs are much higher, it’s easy to see why the answer to today’s questions might be “less is more”.

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31 Comments on “Editorial: The Car That Answers Today’s Questions?...”

  • avatar

    Nav, moonroof, backup sensors, heated/ventilated seats.

    Why pay for a “stripper” when someone can buy a “lightly used” former-$45,000 car?

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      You’re talking about a 5+ year old, out-of-warranty status car. That’s right around the time they become really expensive to maintain, and depreciation rates are speeding-up. The first owner lost >50% in 5 years ($45k to $20k), but the next owner will lose >80% in the next five.

      It’s a fun hobby, but I wouldn’t recommend it if money’s an issue.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree with you, but it is in theory possible do find a half decent used car in this price range which won’t break you. Infiniti, Volvo and Lincoln come to mind. Btw standard retained valuations are about 60% in two years, not 50% in five. Excepting a few brands, its more like 40% or less in five, then it slows down. Check your standard zero down 2 year less contract and look what the buyout price/percentage happens to be and it gives you a better idea.

        • 0 avatar

          Pre-owned Lincolns are a bargain. They lose so much value that they can be cheaper than their Ford siblings. I find them to be nicer on the inside and you can take them to a Ford dealership.

          • 0 avatar

            Not can be, are cheaper (at least in the case of Zephyr). I’ve posted the valuations before, I find it hilarious I could pick up a 6cyl Lincoln for less than a 4cyl Ford in similar trims.

          • 0 avatar

            My MKT with the Ecoboost V6 was cheaper than a Flex Limited with the non Ecoboost V6.

    • 0 avatar

      Why do you have to buy a used car to get all of that? Most compacts will get you all of those options (cooled seats are a tougher find) for around the price of a Cactus.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      I don’t like looking like a status-whore. Ergo, used premium sedans are out.

      • 0 avatar

        “I don’t like looking like a status-whore. Ergo, used premium sedans are out. ”

        Correction, my friend.

        New (compact) premium sedans are for status *whores*.

        Used (full-size) premium sedans are for status *pimps*.

        The only real question is:
        How strong is your mechanical pimp hand?
        (and your patience for overpriced spare parts).

    • 0 avatar

      I’m afraid the only real answer to that question is that they are deathly afraid of not being covered by the warranty.

      • 0 avatar

        Depending on the car, those fears can be justified.

        I’m never owning an out-of-warranty VW again, that’s for damn sure.

        I’ve owned several out of warranty Fords, Toyotas, and a Honda – and I will do that again!

  • avatar

    “A base Cactus, on the other hand, starts at $22,000 USD (just under 13,000 GBP).”

    Car prices in the US are certainly lower, but it should be noted that sticker prices in Europe include the sales tax (VAT) and fees, whereas MSRPs in the US (and Canada) do not.

    In any case, Citroen is taking a bit of a flyer with the Cactus. It’s not normal by European standards, either; it has retro styling and a lower curb weight than vehicles of similar size (which should theoretically help to mitigate the limited power.) We’ll see how well it sells, but I would consider it to be a risk taken by a company that is struggling, much as Ford was when it took a chance in launching the first Taurus.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The Cactus would work here just like the Fiat 500 works here. People will gladly pay for a downmarket car that makes them happy. The problem with entry-level cars in the US isn’t that they are cheap, it’s that they are depressing. You feel like a failure just standing near them.

    Citroen did something brilliant with the Cactus: they didn’t make it small. They realized that an extra $100 of steel to stretch the wheelbase was worth it. GM/Ford would never do that, they always draw inside the box.

    • 0 avatar

      absolutely right. IMO the Cactus would be a hit here. Cheap and Chic…and utilitarian, and spacious. When was the last time the US market saw a combo like that??? Some people would say original xB or Fit, but I reckon the Cactus has those beat in spades when it comes to the “Chic” part. The original PT Cruiser was an awful car but a huge hit at first–this kind of reminds me of that.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I think the term for this is “value engineered.” I think that there are some basic differences between the European market and the U.S./Canadian market, apart from the regulatory schemes. Inter-city distances in Europe are much less than in the United States, and Europe has a high-quality inter-city rail transport system that complements air travel. So, it may be that Europeans use their cars for more “local” driving and don’t expect to use them for 700-mile road trips as do Americans. With the cost of air travel going up and the customer experience about as low as it can get, inter-city travel by car, slow as it is, is a viable option for lots of folks. Outside of the Boston-Washington corridor, rail service is pathetic: on-time record is lousy, trains are slow and the cost is surprisingly high.

    So what works on a broader scale in Europe may only be a niche car in the U.S. and Canada.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    I hate cross-overs and SUVs, and have a life-long policy never to buy one. Yet like Derek, I really want one of these. If they brought it to Canada, and offered a split-folding rear seat, then I’d be in a Citroen dealership this weekend trying to find a way to get one in my drive way.

    It is 80% of the way to the perfect family car. And about 5-10% further down that way than anyone else.

  • avatar

    I’d rather have that base Accord LX with a manual. Not nearly as chic but more satisfying to drive and more comfortable.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Why more comfortable? French cars traditionally have the most comfortable suspensions. This one has good ground clearance and decent sidewall height which bode well.

  • avatar

    Th French woman’s voice at the end made my morning.

    Or the Moroccan-woman-raised-in-Lyon-and-very-attentive-in-acting-school’s voice… whatever… sekksy.

  • avatar

    Put some woodgrain on the doors instead of that ribbed-for-her-pleasure crap, and you’ve got a Midwestern sales smash in the making!

  • avatar

    Watched the ad again and in the multi-panel that YouTube displays at the end is the perfect commentary on this car:

    “The very best of KennyG”

    God *does* exist and She has a sense of humor.

  • avatar

    I hate to say it because I’m not a fan of the French at all, but the interior of this car is the most brilliant one I’ve ever seen. It’s that good. The forward visibility must be a real treat and it doesn’t have yet another rehash of the same dashboards cars have had since the dawn of mass production automobiles.

    The exterior is more than a little weird to me, but other than that it is a breath of fresh air and may have even been the result of independent thought. Shocking.

  • avatar

    Take a drive in a new Cactus and discover a world where you’re surrounded by pricks.

  • avatar

    another hipster-mobile …

  • avatar

    You can un-hipster this car by going to Pep Boys for seat covers, mud flaps, decals and pinstriping, and fuzzy dice. Ain’t America great?

  • avatar

    That was an entertaining commercial. FTR, I happen to like Zara clothes but don’t own enough of them to make a judgement on their long term quality. Ikea seems to be hit and miss, I have a sturdy Ikea kitchen table which recently turned ten, but the “chic” little wooden chairs I bought to go with it didn’t make it past six (actually two of the four broke in three years).

    Regarding Cactus, this seems to do almost everything right where something like Juke does almost everything wrong in my eyes. Although Wikipedia is sketchy on power details, French Wikipedia lists things as:

    1.2 VTi 75/82 hp
    1.2 THP 110 hp (2015) Diesel 1.6 e-HDi 92 bhp 1.6 BlueHDi 100 hp (2015) HybridAir (2016”

    Ikea chic or not, $21K USD for a 75hp car is a non starter for me, feels like a huge penalty. The Diesel option sounds more appropriate. I realize this is not intended for US consumption, but if that were to change I implore Citron to learn from FCA’s mistake with the Dart launch and offer a 2.0Lish gas motor.

    This website notes diesel mileage of 76mpg (presumably Imperial) but conveniently forgets the gas motor mileage. Probably because its terrible. So have a potentially awful driving experience in your little underpowered car oh and btw have some poor mileage too (vs a conventional I4 2.0L). The US EPA rates the MY13 “Smart” car at 34mpg city with its 1.0L gas motor (which requires premium btw). My MY02 Saturn has been consistently delivering 25mpg even with ethanol-ed down gas and 28 or more mixed. This despite the fact the Saturn is physically larger and weighs 648lbs more. Seems like diminished returns the smaller the gas motor, but hey what do I know. Diesel is a whole other ball game.

    “The Cactus’ engine options aren’t only light but according to the manufacturer, the 99 bhp 1.6 liter diesel is capable of delivering mileage figures of 3.1L/100 km (76 mpg) and emissions of 82 gm of CO2/km. A 110 bhp turbo-charged 3-cylinder gas engine making 109 bhp will be available along with a choice of a 5-speed manual gearbox or Citroen’s ETG auto-box.”

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