Back in 1949 a motorcycle racer called Harold Daniell circulated at quite a rate around the famous Isle of Man road circuit. He was on a works Norton motorcycle that had been fitted with a frame designed by Rex McCandless, a cantankerous, self-taught engineer from Hillsborough, Co. Down, a fellow motorcycle racer along with his brother Cromie.
The demands of the 37-mile circuit and the power of the factory, Norton previously gave the riders some serious religious experiences, including the legendary Geoff Duke and Artie Bell, as the motorcycle behaved like a garden gate and endeavoured to twist itself into knots on what was then and still is now, the most demanding race circuit in the world.
Harold Daniell, himself a Senior TT winner, arrived back to the Norton pit area and when asked about how the McCandless framed machine behaved is reported to have said “It was so comfortable it was like riding on a Featherbed.” The genius of Rex McCandless’s frame design, whereon its development he experimented with Citroen shocks on the rear, went on to be copied and used by motorcycles into the 1970’s, - Featherbed Norton’s transforming motorcycling around the world.
Fast forward to Citroen’s Koping outlet on Dublin’s Naas Road and Louise Murphy, Marketing Director of Citroen and DS Ireland, is positively ebullient aside the latest offering from Citroen, their very identifiable C4 Cactus. First strolling onto our streets in 2014, complete with its innovative Airbump panels, the Cactus added a fresh approach to the B-segment. In this, its new incarnation, the word ‘Comfort’ was written large and uttered frequently – this new C4 Cactus has cosy intentions.
New Cactus C4 Info:
Style: C-segment Sub-Compact Crossover
Engine: 1.2 PureTech – 3-cylinder petrol
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: Front-wheel drive,
CO2 Emissions: 104g/km
Road Tax Band: A3
Annual Road Tax: €190
Boot Space: 358 litres, 1,170 litres with seats folded
Introductory Price: €19,995 (1.2 litre Touch)
Test Car Price: €24,495 (1.2 litre Flair)
Width: 1,979mm (including mirrors)
Some of the C-Segment competitionRenault Megane, Ford Focus, VW Golf, Toyota Auris, Peugeot 308, KIA cee’d, Opel Astra, Hyundai i30, Dacia Sandero, SEAT Leon
Now in 2018, the C4 Cactus has grown up slightly, moving into the very competitive C-segment, the new C3 Aircross well able to fight its corner on the C4’s departure. The visual changes to the new C4 Cactus are easy to see, the Airbumps have moved south on the doors, the rear Airbump no longer in situ, and the propulsion options remain the same as before, with the emphasis on comfort.
Anyone who has had the experience of driving some of the early Citroen’s may have misgivings on some of their mechanical complications, but will never complain on the ride quality provided, from their deux chevaux, to the still stunningly desirable DS19 – these guys know a thing about comfort.
I like the front styling of the Cactus, its tiered light application a breakaway from the conventional – and it works commendably well. It’s great when the design team are let off the leash and the bosses run with their manifestation.
Customers can choose from 9 exterior colours and four Colour Packs, which provide 31 different exterior colour combinations to personalise their new C4 Cactus.
12 driver assistance systems on the Cactus include: Active Safety Brake, Grip Control and Lane Departure Warning.
Definitely different on the inside, the new C4 Cactus follows its exterior in delivering its own persona. There is room for four adults, five if they know each other well enough. The driver sits in front of a rectangular screen showing speed, no rev counter, with the centre console giving access to their Mirror Screen functionality - Apple CarPlay/Android and the cars information systems, with enough cubbies and shelves to house/lose a myriad of stuff.
The front passenger side has a decent size glove box on top of the dash, the Cactus once more carrying its passenger airbag up in the roof, which means it dispenses with the vanity mirror in the sun visor. The overall interior styling is uncluttered and very functional, particularly for families. Leather pull straps for the doors and rear side windows that flip out add to the Cactus’s persona.
This new C4 Cactus introduces the world to Citroen’s Advanced Comfort seats, an integral part of their overall intent to provide the new owner and their passengers with featherbed indulgence. On my 250 kilometre launch drive, I can testify to their tactility and cossetting – Citroen should consider providing fluffy slippers to consolidate the experience.
On the Road
From my conversation with Louise to sitting into the new C4 Cactus, the expectation was there, as was the necessary sprinkle of cynicism that goes with the turf. Along with my co-pilot we left Dublin’s Bluebell and headed to the lunchtime rendezvous point at the wonderfully refurbished Kilkee Castle outside Athy.
My test car was powered by the 110bhp, 3-cylinder, petrol turbo engine and immediately on accelerating into the traffic flow you could feel the effect of the new suspension system straight away, Citroen’s new Progressive Hydraulic Cushions at work, significantly damping out the road ripples and imperfections.
Those with more in their mirrors than in front of them may remember Citroen’s unique, complicated and wonderfully quirky ‘air-cushion,’ Paul Mages designed, hydro-pneumatic suspension system created for their DS. Two years ago I drove a stunning DS convertible along the Cote D’Azur, the car behaving as if new, my time with it all too short – now and then we get the oportunity to sample history rather than read about it – a great privilege.
Back to 2018 - this latest system should not be confused with the hydro-pneumatic suspension of old, the damping system on the new C4 Cactus using rebound and compression voodoo in their shock absorbers.
Citroen DS Suspension – a little history
So as you know, the DS suspension featured an engine-driven pump, pushing high-pressure mineral oil liquid to inert gassed ‘spheres’ with self-levelling struts at each wheel. A spring-less system, this eliminated metal-to-metal harshness in the DS’s suspension. The same system powered the brakes and the steering and even changed the gears.
Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions as on C4 Cactus
A conventional suspension system is comprised of shock absorbers, springs and mechanical stops, Citroën's new system adds two progressive hydraulic cushions - one for rebound (the rate at which to and one for compression - at the top and bottom of each suspension unit.
In cases of slight compression and rebound, the springs and shock absorbers work together to control vertical movement without needing the hydraulic cushions. However, the new cushions provide the vehicle with greater freedom to deliver a ‘magic carpet’ ride, creating the impression that the car is flying over any bumps and dips in the road.
In cases of more significant compression and rebound, the springs and shock absorbers work together with the hydraulic cushions at the ends of the suspension travel. These new cushions gradually slow the movement, rather than having abrupt stops at the extremes of compression and rebound. Unlike a conventional mechanical stop, which absorbs the energy then partially returns it, the hydraulic cushion absorbs and dissipates the energy.
The end result of this covert technology makes the C4 Cactus ride feel soft and unsporty, with its compliant suspension designed to absorb, yet not transmit any harshness into the cabin. Passengers will love the Cactus. It does roll a bit on the corners, but holds the chosen line with great tenacity even when aggravated. So don’t fret, unless you are seriously over-eager, the Cactus will follow your road orders to the letter.
With is seating and suspension tuned to supplying all within a drive experience of cushioned compliance, this 2018 C4 Cactus achieves its goals commendably. Its easy personality will fit into your circle of friends with similar ease to that which it wafts you to your destination. Rex would approve. Now, where’s me slippers?
2018 Citroen Cactus C4 Engines and Transmissions
Three 3-cylinder, 1.2 litre PureTech, turbo-petrol engines:
110bhp – CO2 104g/km – Band A3 – Annual Road Tax €190 – 5-speed manual
110bhp – CO2 119g/km – Band A4 – Annual Road Tax €200 – 6-speed Auto
130bhp – CO2 110g/km – Band A3 – Annual Road Tax €190 – 6-speed manual
BlueHDi 100 S&S diesel,
100bhp – CO2 94g/km – Band A2 – Annual Road Tax €180 – 5-speed manual
All engines meet Euro 6.1