Review | 2018 Citroën C4 Cactus with "Progressive Hydraulic Cushions"

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Citroën has updated its popular C4 Cactus with not only a facelift, but a new generation of hydraulic suspension technology, improved seats and other features of the Citroën Advanced Comfort (CAC) program. A good reason for us to put the new generation of Citroën’s hate-it-or-love-it car to the test.

Author: Francis Plukker

Photography: Sim Van Gyseghem

First impressions

When we walked up to the new C4 Cactus, the first thing we noticed is that the Cactus has grown up: the nose has a more aggressive styling, gone is the plastic insert on the boot, the design of the taillights has been updated and the distinctive air bumps of the first generation aren’t completely gone, but have been moved to the bottom of the doors. This gives the new C4 Cactus a more mainstream appeal, but perhaps also takes away a bit of its playfulness and uniqueness.

Focus on comfort

Citroën has really focussed on comfort with the new C4 Cactus. To achieve this, they have used three innovative techniques. The first is structural bonding, increasing the rigidity of the car around 20 percent on average and in doing so reducing the force of the energy that’s created by imperfect road surfaces and transferred to the car’s body.

The second innovation to increase comfort are the seats, these are made to adapt to the body shape of each individual person and gain their original shape from one person to the other. The seats also have better lumbar support than those in the previous model.

Perhaps the comfiest hatchback currently available

The final and most important innovation are the Progressive Hydraulic Cushions. The new Cactus is the first Citroën to use this new suspension technology which adds two progressive hydraulic cushions to the conventional suspension system of shock absorbers, springs, and mechanical stops. They’re designed to slow down the suspension’s reactions to big compressions, so that the ride is smoother, and you’re not jolted around in your seat when you hit unevenness in the road.

Driving the new C4 Cactus

Driving the new C4 Cactus, you immediately notice that the interior is impressively well insulated against driving noises for its segment and, coupled with all the above-mentioned features, the new Cactus offers a very smooth and calm ride. Bumps and tougher sections of road will still be noticeable but it’s one of the comfier - perhaps even the comfiest - hatchbacks currently on sale. That being said, it doesn’t quite have the “magic carpet ride” older hydro-pneumatically suspended Citroëns had. Because of this, the Cactus handles a bit of sportier driving quite well. While it isn’t a GTI in disguise by any means, it will take a sudden direction change or sporty driving quite happily and composed. The Cactus feels agile thanks to its kerb weight of just over a tonne. The steering is light and doesn’t have very much feel in it but is on par with that of most cars these days. The 6-speed manual transmission coupled to the PureTech 130 has a good feeling to it.

The nose has a more aggressive styling than the previous generatio

Inside the car

When we got in the car, the first thing we noticed was that the interior still has a minimalistic design but now feels a bit more luxurious with a choice of three trim levels. While the dashboard layout is the same, there are new materials to make it a bit plusher, and the large optional glass roof adds to the feel of luxury. There are plenty of cubby holes, including a purpose-made slot for your smartphone in the dashboard.

The seating position in the front is very comfortable and roomy, leg and head room in the back is a bit less, especially if the optional glass roof has been specified. It has a boot of 358 litres which can be turned into 1,170 litres with the seats folded down. An improvement over the previous model is that the rear seats can now be individually folded down. We found the loading lip of the boot a little high though.

The gauges and driving information are still displayed via a digital cockpit, unfortunately still without a rev counter, just like its predecessor. The infotainment and functions like climate control are all controlled via a prominently placed 7” display.

The infotainment system of our tested ‘Shine’ trim level is very comprehensive, boasting native navigation, speech control and DAB+ radio. All trim level infotainment systems feature Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink connections, which is a plus in our book. The music coming from the 6-speaker audio system sounds very good, especially for this car segment.

The new Cactus can be equipped with 12 driver assistance features including active city braking.

Conclusion

We thought that the first generation C4 Cactus was a typical Citroën product, deliberately less sporty and aggressive and with unique hate-it-or-love-it looks (which we were a fan of by the way). With the new Cactus, Citroën toned down the quirky styling a bit but also refined the car. The Cactus may have lost a bit of its quirkiness, but it still boasts more character than many of its rivals. The interior looks nice and the refinement is on a good level. The space in the back seat and the high loading lip could be improved upon. Also we would like to see proper roll down rear windows instead of the pop-out windows it currently is equipped with, although we get why Citroën ditched them as it saves about 11kg.

The ride is composed and comfortable, it’s very refined and there’s little that the Cactus does badly. We are a fan of the new hydraulic suspension system that gives great comfort, but isn't too soft to allow for some sporty driving as well. Apart from the Cactus, the new C5 Aircross SUV is also equipped with the new Progressive Hydraulic Cushions. We expect Citroën to add this technology to more of its cars in the future.

Prices of the Citroën C4 Cactus in the Netherlands start at €21.990. Our tested model is the New Cactus PureTech 130 S&S Shine with a retail price of €28.300.

We’d like to thank Visscher Autogroep Culemborg for supplying the test vehicle.

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