Paris 2014: Citroen C4 Cactus
While not a new debut, the Citroen C4 Cactus is the most interesting new car on sale today – a deliberate reaction against the increasing bloat and complexity of the contemporary automobile.
The regular Citroen C4 looks like any other European C-segment hatchback. The Cactus is designed to be low in weight, power and running costs, while high in style and practicality. But it’s not a hair-shirt exercise in bland frugality either. It is cheap and chic, like H&M or Zara clothing, not cheap and nasty like budget cars used to be.
Although the most powerful Cactus is a 110 horsepower diesel 4-cylinder, it also weighs an amazing 440 lbs less than a Citroen C4 – some 2248 lbs, which is less than a second-generation Mazda Miata. Fuel economy on the European cycle is 60 mpg, while CO2 figures for the most powerful gas version (a 1.2L 3-cylinder turbo) barely crack 100 grams per kilometer. Although it is nominally a crossover, the Cactus benefits from higher ground clearance and seating heights to aid visibility in tight, urban European driving environments. The innovative Airbump panels on the doors also protect against dings and scrapes in tight parking lots.
The Cactus is, by all accounts, not a thrilling drive, and it doesn’t have the generous feature content that most North American buyers are accustomed to. But it represents a “back to the land” ethos of motoring, without looking like it was designed by someone with a masochistic bent towards asceticism. I think it’s one of the most intriguing vehicles on sale today. My biggest complaint is that I can’t buy one.
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